Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Newsom should call the "Healthy Saturdays" bluff

The SF Bicycle Coalition and their allies in SF are poised to make another push to close part of Golden Gate Park to autos on Saturdays. In anticipation of Mayor Newsom's report on the study he promised when he vetoed the park closure ordinance several months ago, the SFBC make an empty threat to go to the ballot if Newsom doesn't toe the progressive line on the issue:

After Newsom killed the legislation, backers of the "Healthy Saturdays" plan contemplated putting the issue on the November ballot, but backed off at the last minute when Newsom said he would work on coming up with a negotiated compromise. And if that doesn't happen Shahum said, there is always next year's fall ballot---which just happens to be when the mayor's race will be decided. The Bicycle Coalition endorses candidates, and getting the group's nod of approval is coveted. "These politicians want to look green, and there are only so many things they can do at the local level," Shahum said.

Mayor Newsom should call their bluff, since city voters already rejected closing the park on Saturdays twice on a single ballot in 2000. (The numbers: Proposition F---which progressives supported---lost 55% to 45%, and Proposition G, which they opposed, lost 62% to 38%. And the anti-car folks have always opposed the underground garage, both before and after city voters passed Proposition J in 1998, 58% to 42%). The mayor needs to remember that these people didn't vote for him in the first place, and they never will. The SFBC and its allies all voted for Gonzalez. He'll be risking nothing by calling their bluff.

In his veto message, Newsom emphasized complaints about people parking in the contiguous neighborhoods when that part of the park is closed to autos on Sundays, which of course is an issue progressives never mention, along with access for families, the elderly, and the handicapped, who are not likely to cycle or rollerblade to the park.

BeyondChron, which rarely strays "beyond" the confines of the leftist ideological box, adds its amen to the current SFBC line:

Unfortunately, for now the Bike Coalition has been forced into a more passive stance due to circumstance. The coalition has had their hands full fighting an injunction against the city's bike plan. According to [Andy]Thornley, the ballot effort seemed like too much of a "stretch of energy and resources" given their current projects, but if some meaningful effort is not conveyed on behalf of the mayor's office by next summer the coalition is "very serious" about going to the ballot.

Woof, woof! Newsom should say, "Go ahead, punk: Make my day and take it to the People!"

Thornley is the same Bicycle Coalition guy the Bay Guardian quoted last year: "We need to take space away from cars." That's what this is really about, the continuing jihad against autos in San Francisco. These are the same people who opposed the new garage in the park, which was a $50 million gift to the city from the city's rich people. They hate anything that makes it convenient to drive in the city.

And there's this: The litigation is against the City of San Francisco, not the SF Bicycle Coalition, which is not a party to the suit, though the Bicycle Plan essentially represents the Coalition's wish-list.

See also this and this.

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At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Tyrell Sayer said...

So.... let me get this straigt. You actually think closing JFK drive to cars on Saturday is a bad idea? What planet do you live on?

At 6:40 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, Tyrell, it seems to come as a shock to you to learn that not everyone thinks that's a good idea. As I said in the post, the mayor was rightly concerned with two things: the contiguous neighborhoods complaining about people parking on their streets and in their driveways when the park is closed to cars on Sundays. And there's the access issue the Healthy Saturdays advocates ignore: people with large families, including young children and elderly people and the handicapped, need to drive into that part of the park to access the Hall of Flowers, for example. The new garage really isn't close enough to JFK to be helpful in accessing that part of the park.

At 10:50 AM, Anonymous James Rozzelle said...

My family lives next to Golden Gate Park in the Inner Richmond. I read about Richmond residents who object to "Sunday spillover parking." I don't know any. I read in the Chron about the "many" Richmond residents who object to Carfree Saturdays. Only one neighborhood household out of the ten with whom I've discussed this issue oppose Carfree Saturdays. (By the way, it's not "Saturday Closure." The park will still be open Saturdays.)

I am sad for the able-bodied, car-dependent people who are not able to imagine getting anywhere without a car. It's really not that hard. We usually don't get in a car on the weekends. We walk or bike with our 5-year old. Based on recent polls the majority of San Francisco residents, support more pedestrian friendly, MUNI friendly, and bike friendly transportation policies.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Are you also "sad" for the old folks, people with more than one child, and handicapped people? And there's an unacknowledged conflict between being "Muni friendly" and being "bike friendly," since if the city takes away traffic lanes to make bike lanes on streets that have Muni lines it will impede both auto traffic and Muni service.

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cars, per vehicle, take up vastly more space and resources than bikes. Bike traffic takes about 1/30th the space of car traffic.

Making small concessions for bicycles makes sense because it yields big results.

We're dealing with limited square footage on the streets; why not devote 5% of that space to bikes instead of 1%, tap into the obvious demand for more bike infrastructure, all the while relieving traffic conditions for motorists. Everybody wins.

"Taking space away from cars" is actually creating space for other things. Don't we want to expand people's choices, rather than restrict them?

At 11:31 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What "big results" are you referring to? If you take "space away from cars"---i.e., take away traffic lanes and street parking---you risk making traffic a lot worse in a city that, according to the DMV, has 452,813 registered motor vehicles. You need to explain exactly how this will relieve "traffic conditions for motorists." The people of SF have evidently already chosen to own/drive cars, and this is not likely to change as the city continues to gentrify.

At 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bike lanes, as an example, make people safer when biking. When asked why people don't consider using bicycles as transportation, "too dangerous" is usually the response.

But every time somebody chooses a bike instead of a car it relieves motor traffic. Once motor traffic is relieved, bicycling becomes much less dangerous and it encourages more bicycling wich relieves more traffic, and so on.

But this is not possible without the initial promotion of bicycles.

If it's true that the bicycle only needs 1/30th the space of the auto, then it's possible that if autos were to relinquish just 1/60th of their space, we would have enough room for HALF of them to jump on bikes.

Bicyclists need very little compared to motorists. Our investments in motor vehicles are completely out of proportion to their utility. Especially when it's to the exclusion of other things. It's time to make some room.

At 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

according to the bike survey:

Market Street at
Van Ness Avenue,
eastbound, 8 am - 9 am





so, let's not get too carried away with that census 2000 1.9% figure (isn't the law of averages to "beware the law of averages"?).

Kind of strange that SF would be no higher than the national average for bike trips, no?

Only half the city's residents have cars. We've got the trolleys going, we've got the buses going, we've got BART, and we've got freeways all over the place. Why do bicyclists and pedestrians have to get the screw?

I thought we were going to "green" the city.

Didn't the president say we needed to get off our oil addiction?

What gives?

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Bike lanes make it marginally safer in a statistical sense, but merely painting in bike lanes doesn't help if the cyclist hits something in the street or is hit by a motor vehicle that doesn't see him/her. The safety problem with cycling is the same as with motorcycles: if anything goes wrong, you have little protection in a fall, especially since so many cyclists in the city insist on not wearing a helmet. Knit caps seem to be the headwear of choice for many young cycling dudes in SF. The notion that someday there will be a tipping point, and masses of people will abandon their cars in favor of bikes is a fantasy. And the tacit assumption behind the "promotion of bicycles" approach is to make it as inconvenient and expensive for auto drivers as possible. The real question is whether this approach in SF is politically sustainable over the long haul, since auto/truck drivers far outnumber cyclists. People drive cars just because they don't want to take Muni or ride a bike. As long as people can afford to drive---and the city's seemingly inexorable gentrification means that more and more people in SF surely can afford cars---they are going to drive. And a corollary of my gentrification argument is that these folks are also going to have garages in which to park their cars.

At 6:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, the danger in bicycling is not that it isn't well-protected, the real danger is the pre-eminence of cars.

90% of bike fatalities are caused by collisions with motor vehicles.
Of those, 60-90% of the time the motorist is at fault.

Ta daa!

And no, painting a bike lane does not change the physics of bike crashes. What it manages to do, though, is tell the potential biker, "hey, you can bike here!" and tell the potential motorist, "hey, watch out for bikes!" People tend to respond to things like that.

The "tipping point" has already been reached, by the way. Masses of people have, in fact, abandoned their cars in favor of bikes. You better milk that 1.9% figure as much as possible, because the 2010 census is going to say "bicycling is on the rise, car use is on the decline." But that doesn't mean it will happen overnight.

Put two and two together. Don't you think it signifies something when we read that bicycle sales are way up and SUV sales are way down? Think about it.

At 1:17 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The preeminence of cars---and trucks, buses, motorcycles---is a fact in SF and every other American city. The 2000 Census is the only large data base we have on the subject of commuting by bike in SF. Hard to predict what the 2010 Census will say, but 1.9% looks about right to me from what I see on the streets. In fact, it may be high, since the 2000 Census was taken at the height of the dotcom boom in SF, and the city has actually lost population since then. Bicycle sales may be up, but that doesn't mean people are using them to commute to work, which is what the 1.9% figure represents. (People once bought a lot of Vegematics, too, but they mostly went unused.) The SF County Transportation Authority puts the number of commuters by bike in SF even lower at 1%. On safety: Does it really matter who's at fault when a cyclist dies in a collision? My point is that, regardless of fault or political purity, cycling is inherently dangerous just for that reason. SUV sales are down, but are auto sales in general? People are still buying cars but smaller cars, especially Japanese cars, just like they did after the 1973 oil embargo. Think about these numbers: According to the DMV, there are 373,115 autos registered in SF, along with 62,127 trucks, and 17,571 motorcycles/motorbikes. Does that sound like your tipping point has arrived?

At 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pre-eminence of cars IS a fact of every American city, but that is in no way an argument in its favor.

I'd say it's the opposite.

Yes, it does matter who is at fault in a collision, but it matters even more the cause of the collision. There's a big difference between putting yourself and others in potential danger (motorist), and just putting yourself in potential danger (biker).

Every time somebody goes by bike instead of car, the streets become safer, less congested, less noisy, etc. The air becomes cleaner and resources are freed up for other uses. What this all amounts to is a higher quality of life, not just for the bicyclist but for others, too.

At 12:42 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The preeminence of cars in American cities is an argument in favor of reality. My point about whose fault it is in collisions is that, regardless of fault, people on bikes have little protection when that happens---no airbags, no protective steel shell, etc. This is just as true when a cyclist has an accident that doesn't involve another vehicle. You may think you are making a large political statement when you get on your bike, but most of us don't want to risk our lives to make a political statement when we go across town. We just want to get where we're going.

At 9:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Reality" is not some static state of affairs that just appeared one day.

The reality of automobiles reflects countless decisions over decades and decades. We didn't just wake up one day with streets packed with cars and trucks. Massive amounts of public and private resources created our automobile dystopia over the last century.

Just becuase people have emphasized the dominance of automobile transportation in the past does not mean, in any way, that it needs to continue on into the future.

If we cant see this basic truth, if we don't redress our mistakes and adapt, then we will continue be powerless victims who insist that that's just "reality".

So it goes.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

My sense is that the automobile is here to stay, regardless of the price of oil or anything else. Americans love their cars, and they are not wrong to do so, because they are a great invention, providing Americans with great mobility over a vast landscape. And I say that as someone who hasn't owned a car in 20 years. What I find laughable is the notion that bicycles are somehow going to play a significant role om replacing cars as the main means of transportation in the US.

At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In urban areas-- yes.

SF is not the suburbs and it's not country livin'.

A bicycle has as much, if not more, utility than a trolley car in this city.

It has much more than an automobile, given the city's density and the space available.

Keep in mind most trips in the US are less than 5 miles.

1.9%, in real numbers, means 16,000 people. But that is only commuter traffic, as I understand it. It does not account for people running errands by bike, for tourists on bikes, for people who are simply riding for fun, for people who are training for sport, or for any of the myraid reasons one might find themselves astride a bicycle in this city.

I regularly ride a bike just to explore the city, for instance.

Cummuting is only a part of the activities carried out on the street.

Just because one doesn't believe in bicycles as a viable means of getting around doesn't mean that countless others aren't getting around that way.

People use bikes in the city, whether Rob thinks it's a good idea or not.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Of course people use bikes in SF. What I'm saying is that bikes will always have utility only for a small minority of the population. To that minority, I say good luck! I find it much safer and more convenient to ride the bus or walk everywhere.

At 6:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then why carry on a crusade against them?

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You misunderstand the balance of power here. The SF Bicycle Coalition and the city are on one side---trying to redesign city streets on behalf of a small minority---with District 5 Diary and an unknown number of like-minded individuals in the city on the other. I/we are fighting nothing more than a rearguard action against the bicycle juggernaut, an essentially crackpot idea whose time, alas, has evidently come. Our only hope is that, if the court orders the city to do a full EIR on the Bicycle Plan, the people of the city will learn enough to oppose the bicycle crusade and its apparently implacable desire to take away traffic lanes and street parking in a city that has 452,813 registered motor vehicles.

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the lawsuit is essentially a political maneuver, then.

At 9:35 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Litigation is almost never a cure-all for what is, essentially, a political problem that will ultimately be decided by the people of San Francisco. If the litigation results in the court ordering the city to do a full EIR, that will help the city's voters arrive at a sensible solution.

At 4:36 PM, Anonymous Ti Chen said...

"If the litigation results in the court ordering the city to do a full EIR, that will help the city's voters arrive at a sensible solution."

No it wont. It'll cost a small fortune in taxpayer money and valuable time. Then they will approve the bike plan anyway.

I think a counter suit might be in order to get those who brought the lawsuit forward to cover the legal fees of this frivolity! I'm not pleased about my tax dollars being wasted this way.

At 9:56 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Your mere assertion doesn't amount to either a statement of fact or even an argument. My impression is that people in the city's neighborhoods do not really understand what's in the Bicycle Plan. Making the city do an EIR on the Plan will give them a chance to have an informed understanding. The real question is, Why didn't the city just do an environmental study in the first place? It's not really about money, since the SFCTA, for example, hands out millions of dollars every year for bicycle and other transit projects. My suspicion is that the bike fanatics and their many enablers in city government understand that the Plan will not meet with universal approval if its contents are understood, which is why they chose to try to slip it through the system with little notice or fanfare. There is no "frivolity" in this litigation. The Bicycle Plan is in fact a major city project that will impact most of the streets in the city. It really needs more study and more public awareness.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Mr. Tender-Nob said...

I realize that it's rather late to chime in, but I agree with Rob Anderson's comments. We live in a democracy. If the the SFBC wants to change policy that affects countless thousands of people, they can put their plans on the ballot and see where the majority sides. My guess is that residents would vote the same way they did twice before -- to reject park closure. That ought to be the end of the issue.

I am all for the use of bicycles where they're appropriate, and using other alternatives to cars. I recently lived for a year in the Netherlands, and it was a joy to be able to cycle anywhere I wanted to go, on safe fiets-pads (dedicated bicycle streets). But San Francisco is perhaps the least sensible city in the US in which to cycle. Our hills, weather, traffic congestion and poor street condition make it far too difficult, inconvenient, unsafe and uncomfortable to ever win over a significant percentage of the population. That's a simple fact that the SFBC and its supporters seem to ignore. Until they can flatten the hills, change the weather and repave the streets (and stripe off bike lanes on every one), they will NEVER get even a significant minority of San Franciscans on bicycles.

At 8:54 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Never too late to agree with me, Tender-Nob! Well-put. And here's another point about the Bike People in SF: They are as much anti-car as they are pro-bike. Making it as difficult and expensive to drive in SF is just as important to the SFBC and its enablers in city government as getting people to ride bikes.


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