Monday, August 21, 2006

"Rob, I just want to express my gratitude..."

When I talked to Rachel Gordon the other day about the article on the front page of today's San Francisco Chronicle, she told me she thought it was a personal thing that I had about bikes and people who ride bikes in the city. I tried to convince her otherwise, that there were doubtless many who agreed with me, people who have only lacked a forum to speak up about the issue until now, and, finally, that there will surely be a lot more speaking up about the SF Bicycle Coalition and its unwholesome relationship with our city government if the court orders the city to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan, thus making its contents widely known. (I also made the point that cycling in SF is only one of many issues I have written about on my blog.)

These folks posted messages of support within the past few days:

Comment #1: "Rob, I just want to express my gratitude to you for having the balls to stand up to these relentless people who would shut down our streets to the people they were built for: motorists!"

Comment #2:
"Cyclists are rude and out of hand in this city as a rule. I DO NOT DRIVE. I WALK. And I am constantly dodging cyclists, not cars. They do blow through stop signs and lights regularly. I see it in my 20 minute walk to work everyday, several times. These are not messengers, or exceptions."

Comment #3: "I used to race bicycles and as a result was on the road training daily. I always tried to ride responsibly and share the road, use signals, obey traffic signals, etc. I was nearly run over several times and hit once by drivers not using turn signals nor paying attention so I always use mine and try to be as aware as possible. I have a deep respect for bicyclists. That is, if they have it for me. These days I see more and more bicyclists doing exactly the same things as this reader points out and passive aggressively trying to "own" the road. Just recently I was driving up Fell and got half way into the 2nd lane from the left in order to pass a bicyclist. As I was passing he darted out into the road nearly hitting me at which point he got behind me and started giving me the finger. This idiot was at fault. He wasn't paying attention. I should also mention he wasn't wearing a helmet. People like this rider and the general passive-aggressive nature of Critical Mass are just giving bicyclists as a whole a bad name."

Comment #4: Athos writes: "I used to be pro-bike. I ride my bike in the city regularly, and I also have children that ride in the city at times. However, I've noticed an increasingly aggressive and antagonistic attitude on the part of bike riders and their political lobby. Although riders are supposed to observe traffic laws, I encounter many riders who blow through stop signs if they see the slightest sign of hesitation from a driver who arrived at the sign first and should have the right of way. Because I also ride a bike, I'm particularly careful around bicyclists, but I'm often embarrassed by their behavior. And I'm finding that more and more riders are riding side by side, outside of bike lanes, and won't budge for drivers patiently waiting to pass. 'Share the road.' Right. Let's be realistic---most of us do need to rely on cars most of the time. 

Bicycles may be the answer for some small percentage of the population---and that's terrific---but the more likely answer is improved public transportation. Even so, San Francisco is not a kid friendly city in the first place, and it's often necessary to drive children half way across the city for school and activities due to tight schedules. Driving a car in the city is already difficult. This is one of the reasons many people with kids feel like they have to move out of the city. Bikes are also no solution for the elderly, disabled, or people that have to carry large or heavy goods around. And let's not forget rainy and cold weather. I'm all in favor of bike riders and bikes, but pushing through an overwrought plan that makes it even more difficult to drive a car or operate a business is myopic and doesn't account for the needs of the vast majority of people."

On the other hand, Dave Gates disagrees:
"Indeed, there are certain bike riders (mainly the messengers) who are problems, but put things into perspective a bit - this is simply NOT a car city. giving the right of way to a few bikes is not going to kill you. YOu shoul not be driving in SF unless you need to leave the city or are doing an especially large shopping run. You say "most of us do need to rely on cars most of the time" - that's a flat out lie unless you live in the extreme sunset district. Secondly, you say the bike plan makes it more difficult to drive and run a business? First of all, bike lanes will make running a business easier by giving you loading zones where cars used to be. It will also make streets safer and more attractive which INCREASES business. The only businesses that don't directly benefit from bike lanes are car-repair shops, but do we really want more of those? Secondly, keeping bikes in a lane (most riders obey them) will make traffic more smooth, not more difficult. Better transit is certainly part of the solution but more bikes, better bike lanes (especially exclusive ones) and rewards to business who make bike racks and showers a possibility will do a great service too!"

Rob responds:
SF is "not a car city"? According to the latest DMV numbers, there are 373,115 autos registered in SF, along with 62,127 trucks, and 17,571 motorcycles and motorbikes, for a total of 452,813 motor vehicles registered in the SF city limits. Taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes for the 1.9% of the city's population that commutes by bike---according to the 2000 Census---is only going to make traffic worse for everyone. In fact many---if not most---small businesses in SF depend on customers who arrive by automobile. Ask the merchants on Market St., between Van Ness and Octavia Blvd., about how taking away street parking in front of their businesses has affected their bottom lines. 

And it seems like a lot of cyclists are adopting the attitude that bike messengers supposedly display. My impression, though, is that the bike messengers downtown, while aggressive to the point of recklessness, are not passive aggressive and/or anti-car. They just routinely take chances negotiating downtown traffic in the process of doing the job of being a bike messenger. Many cyclists have apparently adopted what they think is a bike messenger attitude but without the excuse of having a job to do. When cyclists act like jerks on the streets, they seem to think they are rebels who are striking a blow for the liberation of an oppressed class, i.e., people who ride bikes!

Labels: , , , ,


At 7:59 PM, Anonymous jivemeister (hayes valley) said...

"373,115 autos" registered in the city. That's surprisingly high, but ok. My question is how many people only use them to commute out of town? How many people who live and work in the city use their cars every day? That would be a more interesting statistic - most people I know (unless they commute to suburbia) use their cars 2-3 times a week MAX. I agree that this is definitely NOT a "car city".

At 8:06 PM, Anonymous jivemeister (hayes valley) said...

My understanding about Market Street's loss of business is that it had alot more to do with bad planning when BART was dug than anything else. I still don't understand why Market street is 90% horrible porn shops but I seriously doubt parking has ANYTHING to do with it.

NO ONE expects to find parking directly in front of a business anywhere in this city, much less Market Street. I'd love it if cars were banned, but banning the junkies and the porn shops would probably have a better effect on business than anything else!

At 8:17 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You accept that there are 373,115 autos alone in SF---not counting the 62,127 trucks, 17,571 motorcycles, and the 1000 Muni buses/trains---yet you still "agree that this is definitely NOT a car city." Based on what? Did I miss some new information here? There are many cars already in the city already, and there will probably be more all the time, as the city continues to gentrify. It makes more sense to say that this is not a bike city, since only 1.9% of the city's population commutes via bike.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Your understanding about Market St. is limited. I'm not talking about BART, which was built 30 years ago. I'm talking about April and May of this year. There are no porn shops that I know of between Van Ness and Octavia Blvd., which was the example I'm talking about. And you may not believe that Market St. merchants aren't affected by street parking, but you need to check out the URL I provided in the last paragraph to see verbatim transcriptions of what a bunch of merchants said about the loss of parking.

At 10:23 AM, Anonymous jivemeister (hayes valley) said...

Right - the stretch between Van Ness and Octavia does not have porn (fortunately) but it does have its share of vagrants who scare people off. Also, the intersection of Van Ness and Market is probably the most pathetically underdeveloped in the city - it should be a grand place with apartments and shops but instead, it's two faceless buildings, a car dealer, and that god-awful "all star cafe".

Clean up that intersection, and put some nice apartments on the vacant lots (ie-parking lots) and you will have HUGE business benefits.

Those merchants on Market/Octavia have one and ONLY ONE valid complaint - they should be allowed to have a loading zone. Other than that, their opposition to bike lines is totally unfounded and contrary to good business. Clean up the street, put in bike lanes, widen the sidewalks, get rid of the vagrants - those things till make business thrive.

At 10:31 AM, Anonymous jivemeister (hayes valley) said...

The reason I say this city is not a "car city" is because, well, it isn't. No one in their right mind would call this a "car city".

In most of America, you need a car to do everything (or you will literally starve to death). I don't want to get into how problematic this is in terms of national security, economy, health, aesthetics, community etc... but let's be thankful that most of the time, you do NOT need a car here.

Who drives to work here? Practically NO ONE, unless they are going to the suburbs. I can't prove that with a reference, but c'mon ask around a little! Who drives anywhere inside the city other than major shopping trips?

Adding more cars to SF is the worst thing we could can we possibly accomidate them without wrecking the city? That's not a rhetorical question, it's a real problem. Do you have a solution?

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You keep saying that "this city is not a car city," but you ignore the DMV numbers I cite about the number of motor vehicles in SF. "Who drives to work here? Practically NO ONE..." Simply not true, Jive-man. Here's a little research assignment for you: Go to that ugly Van Ness and Market intersection and enter the building at 100 Van Ness. Go to the 26th floor, where the SFCTA is located in lush offices paid for by the taxpayers. Ask the receptionist for the "Countywide Transportation Plan." Actually, you may not have to ask for it, since copies may be on the table in the reception area. When you get this document in your little jive-ass hands, turn to page 39, where you will read that 54.2% of "all trips" made within the city are via auto (and 17.2% by transit, 19.7% via walking, and---brace yourself, Jivester---a mere 0.9% by bike. You are simply wrong, too, Jive-man, about the reality of being in a storefront business; back in ancient days of yore, I had the harrowing experience of being in a storefront business, where nearby street parking was indeed crucial to the well-being and profitability of that operation. Again, I refer you---and interested readers---to the URL in the last paragraph of the post we are discussing, wherein those very merchants discuss the importance of street parking to their businesses. Of course the "progressive" members of the BOS presiding at that meeting gave them the brush, after Leah Shahum and her crackpot bike allies testified arrogantly in favor of taking away the parking to make bike lanes.

At 2:13 PM, Anonymous jivemeister (hayes valley) said...

I was at that hearing and I heard all the speakers. Most of the business owners were nowhere near as well spoken as the bike representatives (you should have posted the whole thing) - they struck me as very uneducated people. Go ahead and accuse me of being a snob! The business owners, however, did indeed make a clear case for a loading zone and that won me over for sure. Why is that not good enough?

Please tell me the last time you found a parking space in front of a store - anywhere in the city - it almost never happens and no one's going out of business because of it. And if they are, that's too bad, but it's not bike lanes that are to blame, it's just plain too many cars in a place that is not designed for them and never will be.

Also "54.2%" is tiny compared to most of america where 99.5% of trips are via the automobile, plus I don't see any stat that says how many of those trips are to places OUTSIDE the city - do they keep stats on that? Again, this is NOT a car city.

At 3:25 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The bike people at the hearing were "well spoken"? Not so, for the most part. Dave Snyder was incoherent and went way over his time limit, while saying virtually nothing. Leah was her usual arrogant self, lecturing the merchants on the need to learn how to accept change, i.e., losing the street parking for their customers. "Uneducated people"? Bullshit! They seemed pretty smart to me, as opposed to the supervisors, who were moronic, when they said anything at all. I remind you in particular of Bevan Dufty's advice to the nightclub owner: Get valet parking for your club! And eat cake while you're at it, pal! In any event, they know their business and their customers better than you, Jive-Turkey master. "54.2% is tiny"? But that's 54% of 4.5 million trips a day carried by the whole city transportation system, which means people are making more than half of all internal trips in SF by car. And for all trips---trips that begin or end outside the city---the percentage is 62.2% of trips by auto. They have these stats in the document I referred to in the previous response, which you are going to pick up 100 Van Ness. No, loading zones are not enough for those businesses. We need to encourage small businesses in the city, and the least we can do is provide some parking---even metered parking, which the city makes money on---for their customers. They don't have loading zones now; the signs say "No Parking, Towaway."

At 3:55 PM, Anonymous jivemeister (hayes valley) said...

They were definitely well spoken, you should post the transcript.

Leah, arrogant? How do you figure? The other guy with the video was also excellent.

The Octavia Bar owner was the arrogant one. Does he really think people drive to his bar? That's barely possible (with or without parking), not to mention irresponsible. It's a neighborhood joint, and if he wants to be a part of the neighborhood he should support it! Otherwise his business will fold, and so be it. Ask the owners of Martunis how they feel about bike lanes! They get a lot more busines than Octavia Lounge, call 'em up and ask.

And yes, in the context of the US at large, 54% is a very small margin. It goes down a lot more when you talk about the dense neighborhoods near market and downtown.

- the jivemeister!


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home