Saturday, September 23, 2006

More debate on the Bicycle Plan

Patrick wrote:
Rob,Great job exposing the FUBU (for us, by us) way that activists in San Francisco use the system to bypass the normal public review process for their pet agendas.

Darren wrote:
Hmm. I find your opinion fascinating that cycling is dangerous. If anything, it is getting safer every year. Please review the facts. Here is a link to the city's collision report for 2004. Consequences are the only thing that shape behavior. Improvements to the cycling environment in the city will naturally encourage more people to cycle. Improvements in the bicycle network have shown this. The price of gas is helping too. I know several people who have started cycling because gas is simply too expensive now. To try to thwart the most efficient mode of transportation is simply foolish. Your position basically amounts to reinforcing the status quo of our automobile-centered society, which has lead us to war in Iraq and global warming. Please explain how either of these things are good. 

If you think that our car-based society cannot change, then you are simply lazy. Change does happen. Look at apartheid. Look at the feminist movement. Change for the better occurred through hard work over long periods of time by dedicated people. Even though the obstacles were formidable, people with enlightened views prevailed. The truth is a powerful ally, and riding a bike is simply the best way to solve our nation's transportation and pollution problems. Naysayers (AKA you) aside.In the end, I feel quite sorry for you because you are on the wrong side of this issue. Make no mistake, you will lose. It is inevitable. You might make improvements take a little longer, but they will occur. Cyclists will not give up. The environment will continue to deteriorate and thus more people will naturally see the necessity of riding a bike, and your silly injunction will be swept into the history’s dustbin of stupid ideas.

Rob Anderson wrote:
It's really all about balance, since cars, trucks, and buses are here to stay (452,813 registered in SF alone, according to the DMV), regardless of the energy source. Fuel-cell and hybrid engines are moving us closer to the day when our dependence on oil will begin to decline. I'm not thwarting anything, but the bike people are clearly taking up more room on our streets---and in our political life---than their numbers justify. Yes, junior, I know all about change, since I was here for the re-birth of the feminist movement in 1970, the Civil Rights Movement, the gay rights movement, etc. I notice you don't even mention the law, as if cyclists are somehow above the law, unlike the rest of us. Taking away traffic lanes and street parking without doing the legally required studies is irresponsible and arrogant. But then so is the bicycle movement.

Jon Stevens wrote:

Shame on you Rob Anderson. You have already caused enough trouble by wasting taxpayer dollars with your frivolous lawsuit. Here you are wasting electricity with your poisonous vitriol. I would like to think that the older we get the wiser we become. Your blog is proof that it doesn't. The perfect ending for you will be underneath the wheel of a car you so blindly defend.

Dennis wrote:
Thank you for your concern about my safety and life. I think you are missing something, however. As an avid cyclist my heart, lungs and muscles are in better condition than at least 90% of the motorists with whom I share the roads. While auto/bike accidents sadly do take lives, the number of fatalities pale in comparison to those who croak from heart disease and other ailments aided by a sedentary life. I’ll choose the statistically small risk for the freedom, enjoyment, and health I get from cycling daily. A lot can be done to make our cities safer for cyclists (and motorists). I can't understand why you, or anyone, would stand in the way of this. Please step back from this in order for those of us who ride, for pleasure, health, and transportation, to continue moving toward the safest environment possible. Relax. Or better yet, fight for a meaningful cause.

Rob Anderson

Like a lot of comments on this subject, this is out of focus. This is not about cars versus bikes in the city; it's, in the first place, about the city following the law. But cyclists as individuals and as a community routinely act as if they are above the law. The whole point of this litigation is to make the city do an EIR before they implement the massive Bicycle Plan, which will change most of the streets in S.F. People in the neighborhoods have a right to know what the city wants to do with their streets before they do it. Now, I think cycling in the city is foolhardy, but that's really a separate issue. I also think that if the court orders the city to do an EIR, the public will finally get a chance to see what's in the Plan and have a healthy debate about it. Is that a bad thing?

Anonymous wrote:

Kudos to you Mr. Andrews! You were right on the mark in suing. Now the bicycle Bolsheviks are going to have to follow procedure! Powered transportation isn't going away, ever. Indeed, increased exhaust emissions will result from slower traffic caused by the expropriation of traffic lanes. The truth about consequences hurts, and that's why these reactionaries are excoriating you. They also detest being outmaneuvered legally. You're correct to point out that not everyone is going to bike to work (and everywhere else). The climate here isn't exactly the best for that, and the topography can be wicked. Bicycling is an activity that can contribute significantly to loss of life expectancy. It's no wonder, what with bicyclists running traffic signals and stop signs, let alone changing lanes unsafely, passing right-turning vehicles on the right and riding against the current of traffic. (I see all of this every day.) The bicycle Bolsheviks (aka the Bicycle Coalition) tacitly approve of this behaviour. 

While I have no objection to having my road taxes used for public transit projects, I'll be damned if I condone the use of them for bike lanes. If the bicyclists want lanes for themselves, they can bloody well poney up the money themselves - yes, that's right, put number plates on bikes and charge them for the tax tab on the plate just as I'm charged for the tax tab on my car's number plate. Perhaps a lawsuit over this sort of thing is in order too. Bikes on Muni trolleys? I think not! I am a motorman, and I can tell you that there is not enough space on the trolleys; they're just not as spacious as BART trains. The best one can hope for is to permit bikes in the Metro between Embarcadero and West Portal stations, and then only during off-peak hours. I enjoy riding my bike whenever I can, and I see no need to whine about sharing the road with motorists - I have more problems with them when I drive my car. Mutual respect is all I expect, and that's more than most of this city's bicyclists will give. You have done good work, keep it up. You have done the legal equivalent of placing a pipe into the front wheel-spokes of an odious organization. The Bicycle Coalition are the 'virulent' anti-automobile extremists who have convinced many of the politicians in city government to join them in their orgy of mental masturbation.

The Mad Motorman of Market Street West.

Rob Anderson wrote:
Thank you, Mr. Motorman, for your support (the name is Anderson, by the way). Yes, I agree that the bike people are as much anti-car as they are pro-bike. But they are more like anarchists than bolsheviks historically. Recall Lenin's description of the anarchists of his day as engaging in "left-wing adventurism and infantile disorder." Is there a better description of Critical Mass than "infantile disorder"?


Ah but WHY is cycling dangerous? If its danger comes from the fact that a bike loses when it comes into contact with 2000 lbs of steel, is it not the 2000 lbs of steel that is really the danger on the streets and needs to be removed, and cyclists, and pedestrians (ya even the guy walking from his parking space) that are the unfortunate victims?

Rob Anderson wrote:
According to Bert Hill, one of the SF Bicycle Coalition's own stalwarts, most cycling accidents have nothing to do with other vehicles (see Mission: Not Impossible, Paul McHugh, San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 17, 2005). In any event, in a city with 373,115 registered cars---not to mention 62,127 trucks and 17,571 motorcycles/motorbikes---are you advocating banning cars from city streets to protect cyclists? If so, at least you are following the SFBC/Bicycle Plan's anti-car logic to its preposterous conclusion.

Anonymous wrote:

Please enlighten me on how you come up with "biking in the city is inherently dangerous.” Is it from personal experience? Did some one else say it and you agreed with them? What defines a "dangerous activity"?Is it number of people killed doing the activity? There are approx 700 to 1,000 cycling related deaths in the US per year. Compare this to other causes of deathInjury-Related DeathsMotor Vehicle 40,982Suicide 30,484Homicide 25,488Falls 12,646Poisonings 7,082Fires/Burns 4,803Drowning 4,186Other 19,984Total 145,655CDC 1992. I have been commuting to work for at least 5 years through the city, and I have never found it to be inherently dangerous. There are dangerous situations and motorists I encounter, but that doesn’t make the act of commuting inherently dangerous. From my personal experience, bike lanes make car drivers more aware of cyclists therefore making cycling safer. I fully support the SFBC effort to improve bicycling in the city and have respect for the political power they have attained. It just goes to show how politics work.

Terry Yassour wrote:
The place where your logic fails is that you think the city broke the law. It did not. It placed the "Categorical" exemption on bike lanes, because it doesn't take a genius to recognize that bike lanes are NOT harmful to the environment. The board did a service to the city by choosing not to waste $250,000 on a needless study, and you are suggesting that not only should they waste that money, but they should waste their time dealing with this asinine attention-grabbing lawsuit. I hope they counter-sue YOU to cover the legal costs, plus the $250,000. Bike lanes are good for everyone. Again, and again, and again (see Valencia/Polk/Baker etc...) bike lanes have increased economic activity, increased people biking, made streets safer and more attractive, sheesh! You want to talk about minorities? How about the 0.001% of people who mindlessly oppose bike lanes?

Rob Anderson

You're wrong on the legal argument. The city claimed a "general rule exemption" under CEQA, not a categorical exemption. The general rule exemption means that the city has to know to a "certainty" going in that the Bicycle Plan can't possibly have a significant impact on the city's environment. And the 400+ page Plan is not just about bike lanes; it's also about, to name a few of the more important items, taking away traffic lanes and street parking on behalf of cyclists. 

Thus there's a direct physical impact to the city's physical environment. Hence, an EIR is required under CEQA. The bike lane on Valencia is different than, for example, the bike lane they just put in on Market between Van Ness and Octavia. There was no parking removed on Valencia to make the bike lane, and there are plenty of lanes left for traffic. The Market St. project required that the city take away a traffic lane and all the street parking in that area, in spite of vigorous protests from local merchants. This is the sort of thing we need to avoid in other neighborhoods. An important part of the EIR process is informing the public about projects before they are implemented. The people in the city's neighborhoods have a right to know what the city and the bike zealots are trying to do to the streets in their neighborhoods.

You said: "I notice you don't even mention the law, as if cyclists are somehow above the law, unlike the rest of us. Taking away traffic lanes and street parking without doing the legally required studies is irresponsible and arrogant. But then so is the bicycle movement." Martin Luther King Jr. said: "Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular— but one must take it because it is right. One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws— an unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law." It is immoral to allow these polluting machines (cars) to own the earth. 

Civil disobedience (e.g. Critical Mass etc) is the best way bring about change and raise consciousness for this issue. The law is so flawed that it gives preference to those who drive polluting machines. Does that sound moral? I feel it is my duty as a person to not drive a car. The only other realistic option is to ride a bike. I think anyone who is enlightened and (keyword) unselfish would agree. The rule of law is fine, but when the law is wrong, the result is tyranny. In this case, tyranny results in pollution, disease and war. Tell me, when you consider these facts, how can you seriously defend your position? It is just absurd.

Rob Anderson

So city cyclists are an oppressed minority? Who's your Martin Luther King? Andy Thornley? The thing about civil disobedience is that it's always very situation-specific---to get public accommodations for black people in the South in 1964, for example, or to refuse to report for military service when there was a draft in the 1960s, etc. There is no specific political goal or point for the monthly Critical Mass orgy of self-indulgence by the cycling community. It's not an act of rebellion, either, since the progressive consensus in SF is that it's cool to deliberately screw up rush hour traffic on Friday to make it difficult for working people to get home. Your self-righteousness is untethered to any sense of political/moral proportion.

Darren wrote:
So you don't think that global warming and the war in Iraq are significant political/moral issues? If that's the case, then what do you find significant? (I'm almost scared to ask.) I'm sorry you can't see the beauty of Critical Mass. It's not an orgy of self-indulgence, it's about raising awareness, and it's obviously successful. If those people are inconvienienced, then they can take BART!! Sorry you can't recognize it as civil disobedience, but then it is becoming very apparent that you aren't very perceptive. You can't even see the moral implications of war in Iraq, global warming, and how they are intrinsically connected to people driving cars. Do you read the paper? Connect the dots. Andy Thornley? No, he's not Martin Luther King, but he certainly bears more resemblance to him than you.

Rob Anderson wrote:
Yes, of course, those are significant issues, but the relationship between those issues and cycling in SF is tenuous at best. It confirms my opinion that cycling in SF is more of a political/lifestyle statement than a serious transportation "mode." Your claim for its international significance confirms that: You aren't just risking life and limb by riding a bike in the city; you are doing it for world peace and to fight global warming! I think it was Chesterton who said of George Bernard Shaw that he saw the whole world as a moral gymnasium in which he could exercise his conscience.

Darren wrote:
I find your moral gymnasium response fascinating considering your view essentially amounts to "Americans are too lazy to change and get out of their cars." Did you ever stop to think that maybe it is just you who is lazy? Moreover, consider that riding a bike is a personal choice that makes a direct impact. Your ideas about government action, hydrogen fuel/electric cars solving the problem are losers, not to mention passive and (again) lazy. If you wait for the government to solve problems, you get global warming and war. I'll take my bike any day. What have you done to make a difference?

Rob Anderson wrote:
No, my view is that cars are a great invention that provide Americans with extraordinary mobility in our geographically immense country. I don't see much need for Americans to change and give up driving, except that obviously the oil trip is at least beginning to come to an end, though I'm assuming that the transition to alternative energy will be long enough that there won't be major social disruption as a result. The idea that somehow bicycles are going to play a major role in the US once that transition is over seems fanciful to me. In the meantime, I'm not waiting for anyone to do anything; I either walk or ride the bus to get where I'm going here in SF.

Anonymous wrote:
Your position is totally untenable, Mr. Anderson. Your disdain for cyclists clearly clouds your ability to think about the issue rationally.I'm, as you might guess, a cyclist. I don't belong to the SFBC, and I've never ridden in a Critical Mass. I started riding my bike to work about a year ago, and it's changed my life significantly. I get to and from the office faster than public transportation allows, and I get exercise and fresh air on a regular basis. Bicycling not only saves me time and money, but it has the added benefit of reducing my environmental footprint and keeps me healthy personally.You state, unwaiveringly, that bicycling in the city is unsafe and "foolhardy," but you cite no evidence to support your statements. You ignore the most salient observation of a previous commenter who compares motor vehicle fatality rates with those of bicyclists, and the city's 2004 collision report that states:"/injury totals have been declining recently, this at the same time that the number of bicycle trips appear to be increasing./"Funny, that. 

It seems obvious to me (and every single person that I've ever ever discussed the issue with) that more people bicycling can only be a good thing. A greater number of bikes on the road raises the awareness of drivers—this fact cannot be disputed. Raised awareness and experience sharing the road with cyclists inevitably makes the roads safer for everyone.I'll admit that there's a lot more to biking for me than just saving time and money. But those reasons alone should be good enough for many people to reduce the amount of driving they do, assuming that the city can be made more friendly and safer for cyclists. And that's the whole point of installing more bike lanes. It's not some cynical plot by the bike lobby to discourage driving, or to provide the liberal elite with speedy passage through the city at the expense of everyone else. It's simply to make the roads safer for those of us who choose to ride a bike in the city, be it for transportation, leisure, sport, or exercise.Our motivations for riding (which you assume to be purely cultural or political in nature, but for many riders are, in fact, quite practical) are irrelevant. 

The fact of the matter is that people are going to ride their bikes whether you like it or not, and the city has a responsibility to make it safe for its citizens to do so—just as much as it does to make sure that pedestrians have sidewalks to walk on, and streets safe enough to drive on.You won't win this war, Mr. Anderson; logic and morality will rule the day, and it's a shame that the city will have spent the time and money that it did to appease your cynical crusade against cycling.

Rob writes:
Good for you and your embrace of cycling as a way of life. But, Anon, you are a small minority in SF and likely to be so for the forseeable future. Thus "installing bike lanes" for, at most, 1.9% of the city's population in a city that has so many drivers---not to mention Muni and emergency vehicles---based only on the hope that more people will take up cycling is a bad policy. Yes, I know traffic fatalities are down, and that is good news. But there are no reliable numbers on non-fatal cycling injuries in the city. And, yes, a lot of people think cycling is good in general---for other people! Of our supervisors, only Chris Daly occasionally rides a bike to work. The others only do it on Bike To Work Day or other ceremonial occasions. If you want to ride a bike in the city, it's okay with me. But it's delusional to think that your rather risky transportation choice represents "logic and morality" or anything more than a goofball, PC ideology. And health? Not only are you risking serious injury, but the carbon monoxide and diesel fumes make any aerobic exercise on city streets problematic. And don't forget that NY Times article last year that warns you cyclists that spending a lot of time on bike can harm your sex lives.

Elliot Hamilton wrote:
Mr Anderson,
I truly hope that you live for a great many years, so that you get to see a greater San Francisco, freed from the reliance upon single-occuptant car use. As a car enthusiast and bicycle rider, and someone who regularly uses all forms of transport---personal, private and public, I'd like to believe you have a point. However, if you are, in fact, the bitter gentleman your opponents claim, then I hope your health is well looked after so you have a long time to reflect upon your choices. 

What about those of us who believe that there is a place for the enjoyment of automobiles, and a place for the enjoyment of bicycles and a place for us to work together to reach our goals, whether those be reaching our daily jobs, or the happiness of our communities? How does your resistance provide balance for the city and its residents? You mention public transport occasionally---how exactly do you see your efforts helping to improve the public transport system for people like yourself? Do you want bicycle riders to feel unsafe in more of the city while positive steps towards the implementation of additional safety measures are implemented? Or do you think the injunctions have not gone far enough? Would you prefer to see more injured and killed cyclists? I see no mention in your demands for 'adequate review' or 'fair process' of any positive agenda. What is the process you demand in aid of, if not argument for the sake of argument? As a young adult, one is usually led to believe that with age experience and (invariably) failure, comes wisdom. In your case, unfortunately, I see little but bitterness and smarm.

Rob writes:
"Smarm"? Wrong word, Elliot. My online dictionary defines smarmy: "1 : revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, or false earnestness 2 : of low sleazy taste or quality." You have to admit that I don't try hard to ingratiate myself with anyone, especially the Bike Nut Community. I've been accused of being angry and bitter before, but that's also wide of the mark. Could you provide some examples from my blog? I think you bike folks are just not used to being criticized; any negative feedback sounds harsh to your tender little ears. I wish everyone in the city could feel safe at all times; I also wish the lion could lie down with the lamb. But it's really a matter of sensible political priorities. If the city's highest priority is the safety of cyclists on busy city streets, we could station a traffic cop at every intersection---or ban motor vehicles from city streets altogether. 

Since the city can't guarantee everyone's safety on the streets, we have to try for a balance between the interests of bikes, cars/trucks, buses, and pedestrians. Since there are 452,813 motor vehicles registered in SF, 1000 Muni vehicles on city streets, and 35,000 motorists commuting into the city every day, the idea that we should completely redesign city streets for cyclists, who are perhaps 1-2% of the city's population, is just goofy. And a "positive agenda"? 

You and the other bike fanatics congratulate yourselves on having a "vision" of the future, but it's really more like a political hallucination. You completely overestimate both the present and future role of bicycles as a means of transportation in the city. It's just not happening, and I think it never really will happen on a significant scale. And public transit? If you take away traffic lanes on busy city streets to make bike lanes, you are going to screw up traffic for everyone, including Muni and emergency vehicles. My vision of the future on the streets of SF: It will look a lot like it does today, but with more buses and, eventually, with motor vehicles that run on something other than fossil fuel.

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At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't bike, I like to walk, but I welcome bike lanes because cars, motorcycles, and trucks are noisy.

Wouldn't it be nicer to have bike lanes so that we have calmer, and less, traffic? It would improve quality of life, esp for those who live near currently noisy streets.

Sure, some bikers are anti-social jerks. But way worse are the motorcyclists and basically anyone with a SUV.

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Wouldn't it be nicer to have bike lanes so that we have calmer, and less, traffic?"

And I have a question for you: Why don't you read what I actually wrote before you post a comment?

At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bike plan doesn't just take away traffic lanes; it creates them.

And since bikes take up a small fraction of the space needed for a car, I really don't see a conflict.

As for taking away parking spots to create bike lanes, why not? A parking spot is a place to merely put something that isn't being used. When it's on the street, however, a filled parking spot prevents that space from being used in other ways. Why not give priority to vehicles that are actually being used (in this case bikes) instead of clogging up the streets with parked cars? Seems like a much better use of space to me.

The market lanes between Van Ness and Octavia have made that stretch much less hazardous for bike riders and this has incited more people to ride. Loading and unloading still happens for the merchants, and people can still hail cabs; transit runs in the center of the street, and there's a huge parking lot on Gough for folks to put their cars in. I think it's a resounding success. I haven't seen anybody closing down shop on that stretch, but I would be interested to hear from the merchants about possible impacts on their businesses, which is, of course a primary consideration (but not greater than public health).


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