Thursday, December 08, 2005

Back by popular demand: "Bike zealots want your children"

For some reason, people are only now responding to a District 5 Diary post from last April 5. The text of the original post is in italics below.

Anonymous said:

Yes, yes, we cyclists want to steal your children and turn them all into hip-hop listening, graffiti painting, car vandalizing, frothing mouthed cyclists. It's all part of our master plan that we talk about during critical mass.

Anonymous said:

Kids riding bikes? Oh the horror. Much better to have them snacking on twinkies in front of the television.SUVs being "forced" to share the road with cyclists? That's un-American! How can we support our troops if we're not out burning oil? *rolls eyes*

Anonymous said:

This reminds me of a recent posting I read...the writer was arguing for MORE parking downtown, as if there were nowhere to park. There are plenty of places to park, just no FREE places to park. Bikes and transit are appropriate modes of transportation in an urban setting. Families have been living in cities for centuries without cars. Cars are bad for neighborhood streets, they're an environmental disaster, and the amount of city public space given over to them is scandalous. If you want to drive everywhere, move to Fremont, and let the kids ride safely in the city.

Anonymous said:
Just because you are too feeble and uncoordinated to ride a bike doesn't mean it is dangerous. I frankly don't give a crap if bike lanes slow down traffic, because it makes it better for me, and thats the only person I care about.

Rob Anderson responds:
Pushed some buttons, did I? The head on the post is a joke, more or less. The fact that cyclists don't burn fossil fuels doesn't make the activity any safer. Proseltyzing public school kids on the virtues of riding a bike in the city and cycling as a "lifestyle" is over the top, even by bike zealot standards. It's in the San Francisco Bicycle Plan, Framework Doc., Section 5.9., which the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to make part of the General Plan. According to Injury Fact Book website, "140,000 children are treated each year in emergency departments for head injuries sustained while bicycling...In 1999 750 bicyclists died in crashes. More than one-quarter were children ages 5 to 15." It's irresponsible for the city to encourage adults to engage in this dangerous activity, let alone children. I'd really like to know how cyclists can "force" an SUV to share the road with you. I don't know what is or isn't unAmerican, but I know foolishness when I see it.

I don't own a car; I walk and ride Muni everywhere in the city. I think riding a bike in SF is dangerous, but let a thousand transportation "modes" bloom! Since it is in fact so dangerous, only a small minority will ever find it "appropriate" to ride a bike as a serious means of transportation in a city that has more than 464,000 registered motor vehicles. Families haven't lived in cities without cars for more than a century. Cars are here to stay; they take up more room simply because there are more of them: Cars are the first transportation choice for almost everyone who can afford to own one. Taking traffic lanes away from cars, trucks, and buses in SF is simply the triumph of the fantasy that bikes are now---or ever will be---a sensible alternative to cars and buses for a significant number of people. Consider too that the relentless gentrification we're seeing in SF means even more cars, since people with money own cars, and they always have garages and places to park them. You may wish it otherwise, but that's the reality we're facing in SF.

Michael Treece, MD said:

See, this is what puts the lie to your own statistics. The 750 bicyclists killed in 1999 were quite certainly not the victims of the "solo faults" that you cite in the body of your editorial; they were, almost certainly, hit by cars. Driving a car is an intrinsically destructive activity. The driver burns gasoline, creates smog, damages pavement, and puts pedestrians and bicyclists at risk. This is not to argue that driving should not be allowed, but that it must be discouraged (no free parking, automorons!) and regulated. To simply state that more cars are "the reality we face in San Francsico" simply dodges responsibility. After all, a rising murder rate is one of the realities we face in San Francisco--is continuing to fund the SFPD the "triumph of the fantasy" that murder can be stopped? San Franciscans can and should exert their influence to shape the City into what they need it to be. A place with many fewer cars is one such need.

Rob Anderson responds:
These aren't my statistics. I'm citing numbers from an article on cycling in the SF Chronicle, and the source of those numbers was the guy the Bicycle Coalition uses to teach bicycle safety: He says that 45% of cycling injuries are "solo falls," and only 18% involve another vehicle. The gist of the article was that cycling in the city is intrinsically dangerous and how you can best protect yourself against those dangers. Hence, you can't blame cars for most of the injuries to cyclists. This is my impression too when I talk to people I know who have been injured while riding a bike. Yes, of course, cars are bad for the environment, but you can push that argument too far to rationalize anti-car city policies that make traffic much worse than it has to be in the city---taking away traffic lanes to make bike lanes on busy streets and generally trying to make it as difficult as possible to drive and park in the city. What the city needs is a sensible balance for cars/buses, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Cyclists, a small minority in the city, are now taking up way too much room both in the political life and on the streets of the city to satisfy a green ideology that's a fantasy. Since you lose the safety argument out front, what will be your argument when motor vehicles no longer run on fossil fuel?

Neurologists on head injuries to children from riding bikes.

The Bike Zealots Want Your Children
Anyone who doubts my contention that the bike people are exercising undue influence on San Francisco politics needs to read the San Francisco Bicycle Plan, which the Planning Commission has unanimously voted to make part of the General Plan without any CEQA review by giving it a general exemption. The California Environmental Quality Act requires that only projects that have no possibility of having a significant impact on the environment qualify for such exemptions.The Planning Commission did this even though a moment's reflection---and a cursory reading of the document---indicates that the Bicycle Plan proposes many physical changes in the city's environment: in lane markings, eliminating traffic lanes, eliminating parking, mandating changes in parking for both bikes and cars/trucks, lane sharing between bikes and cars (thus slowing traffic), allowing cyclists to bring bikes onto Muni buses, altering streets in the city in favor of cyclists, etc. But reflection is not one of the Planning Commission's strong suits, since it essentially operates as a rubber stamp for the Planning Dept.

Over and above the physical changes to the streets and buildings of the city advocated in the Bicycle Plan, one of its most sinister aspects, once it becomes part of the General Plan, is how it compels every department in city government to do its bidding, including indoctrinating children in the public schools in the desirability of riding a bike in the city, even though it's an intrinsically dangerous activity for adults, let alone children. In "Section 5: Education and Enforcement" and "Bicycle Education for Children, Youth and Adults," the Plan mandates that the city "develop bicycle-safety curricula for use in the San Francisco Unified School District and San Francisco public colleges." But that's disingenuous, since the bike zealots have more in mind than just teaching the city's children about bicycle safety. Under "Children and Youth," we learn their real, rather disquieting, agenda:

"Bicycling and walking are the only independent transportation modes available to children. Bicycling allows children to explore their neighborhood, get exercise, and gain a valuable skill that is useful for a lifetime. Before the age of nine, most children do not have the maturity and developmental skills required to ride a bicycle in urban traffic situations...In addition to technical skill and traffic laws, bicycle safety education for children should promote bicycling as an enjoyable transportation method with positive lifestyle, health, and environmental benefits. Programs and practices that will make bicycling to school easier and safer, such as the Safe Routes to Schools Program, should also be promoted."

Mere buses are not "independent transportation modes," presumably because kids are not at the wheel and in control. (Hey, kids, want to be free and independent of adults and have fun? Ride a bike in the city on the same streets as cars, trucks, buses, and SUVs!) In short, it's soon going to be part of the city's General Plan---with the force of law---to have the public schools indoctrinate children over the age of nine in riding a bike in the city as a "positive lifestyle." Hence, not only is the Planning Dept. dominated by bike zealots, but other city departments must soon follow their lead---including the Department of Parking and Traffic, the Police Department, and the San Francisco Unified School District. The Bicycle Plan devotes a number of pages to analyzing "collisions" that bike riders have with motor vehicles. Even their own data show that many adult cyclists routinely engage in unsafe/illegal behavior on city streets. But there's a big lie underlying their extensive "collision" analysis: the bike zealots know that most injuries---45%---happen to cyclists in "solo falls," and only 18% involve another vehicle. This is according to the Bicycle Coalition's own expert, Bert Hill, who teaches classes in bicycle safety (see "Mission Not Impossible," by Paul McHugh, Feb. 17, 2005, SF Chronicle). Funny, but I can't find that information in the Bicycle Plan. It's evidently not enough for adult cyclists to foolishly put themselves in danger by riding a bike in the city; they also want the city's children to risk life and limb by doing the same as part of a "positive lifestyle."

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