Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Pretty lame article, Dan..."


Pretty lame article, Dan. Once a Bike Guy always a Bike Guy? Your piece read like a press release for the SFBC. Odd that a long-time reporter who lives in California doesn't seem to know anything about CEQA. And you may not have known that Dave Snyder is an SFBC guy from way back. Citing him as some kind of independent authority is deceptive. "Each project of the overall bike plan has its own environmental review during which local homeowners and business owners can voice their concerns, they say." That's what they say, but it's a lie. The city is literally rubber-stamping pieces of the bike plan as "categorically exempt." That's not environmental review. Hard to believe that you would have done such a slipshod job if the story was about L.A. You don't cite any of the small businesses you refer to, but I posted the public comments of 24 businesses that protested the Market St. fiasco, where the city took away street parking to make bicycle lanes between Van Ness and Octavia.

Rob Anderson

Dan Wood writes:
Rob, sorry you feel the article is lame and i agree in retrospect that it could benefit from some voices of concern among business owners and/or residents who might lose lanes in front of their homes or businesses. But here are a couple of points. -- the article is ABOUT the progress of the bike coalition over the in presenting how that happened (and that it happened) i spent most my time laying that out. that is not to be construed as a press release for their concerns.--i think your complaints are quite articulate and powerful...and they are high up in the story. That is a compelling argument -- the 2 percent point (and that "we are about to redesign the streets on behalf of that ...") I mention the state law (and therefore that this is not just some crank, there are serious procedural questions involved), and the requirement for environmental review and that when people actually look at what it might mean to their neighborhoods "they will find it over the top." That is a very powerful observation -- and from years in journalism i have found it to be true. (it just happened down here...they wanted to widen the 101 (most traveled freeway in the world) and EVERYone seemed for it. then they held some hearings and it was totally kaboshed when all those who would be affected showed up at the meeting and said, "I don't THINK so!" Perhaps i am realizing this phenomenon is so powerful that i didn't bother to support it enough. (one reason we have a water problem in the south is there is no way to collect the massive winter rains that rush through the la river to the ocean every winter. why do we have no storage? -- despite EVERYone wanting/knowing that water is so important? -- because the political forces of putting storage IN ANY GIVEN PLACE RAISES OVERWHELMING OPPOSITION WHEN THINGS GET SPECIFIC. My guess is if you are right, that will happen up there...

in passing, i did hear over and over that each project in the plan does have a chance for review by the local businesses and residents. (if that is NOT true, then i wish i would have mentioned it... and maybe that is a peg for another story once the plan gets rolling, please let me know.) i dont have a point of view on the bike thing one way or another, and if it appears so in the article, then that is my failure and i apologize. repeating though: the story is about the growth of them as a political force, so the bulk of the piece had to establish that in my book. most of the people i saw and talked to gave me the impression i tried to reflect in the piece. maybe the most powerful was the cop driving behind the parade. he himself had rolled his eyes and had had a fairly negative view of the whole thing years ago...but had said he watched the whole community soften to the idea over the years. and he appeared to have softened as well i'll keep my eye on this. if what you say is true (that people say, "hey, wait a minute, not on MY street etc"), then that will make a compelling story.

stay in touch,
thanks for writing.
give me a call on this, or later when the next wrinkle breaks ...

dan wood

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At 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The CSM article cites the SFBC as a 6,000 member organization. I thought the numbers were closer to 9,000.

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would have made sense to mention that Dave Snyder was the director of the SFBC.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

According to their website, they have 5200 members. But in the internet poll that accompanied the recent Rachel Gordon story in the Chronicle ("Cycling Supporters on a Roll..." Aug. 21), only 1800 people responded. The pro-bike responses out-polled those who were critical of the influence of the SFBC 54% to 46%, which, by my reckoning, means only 972 votes for the SFBC, not a very good turnout for an organization that claims thousands of members.

At 7:11 PM, Anonymous Kai Raouseman said...

"only 972 votes" not a good turnout? That's almost 20% for one random article in the paper. As an SFBC member, I can assure you they made no effort to ask their members to vote in that survey. Ironically, you did! Which is the only reason I found out about it. Thanks for that!

Message to Dan Woon - bravo on a great article! Don't waste your time justifying yourself to Rob!

At 7:50 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The SFBC did in fact alert their email list to the Chronicle poll in an August 21 bulletin that even I received. Anyone who has even thought for a minute about polls understands that the results are often skewed by the questions asked. As I point out, if the question had been, "Is it okay for the city and the SFBC to take away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes in your neighborhood?" the results would have been less favorable to the SFBC. I gave Dan Woon some soundbites he could have used to better effect, like "Bicycles are only a cut above skateboards as serious transportation 'mode' in San Francisco." I tried to tell him how the SFBC has an improper relationship with our city government. As an advocacy group that endorses Critical Mass, it's improper, for example, that DPT hotlinks to the SFBC on its website. And it was improper for the city to contract with the SFBC, an advocacy group, to do "public outreach" for the Bicycle Plan. But I didn't point out to Woon---who is based in L.A.and doesn't really know city politics---that getting Chris Daly to endorse something doesn't butter many parsnips in SF, except for the fringe left.

Good on you, Kai, for reading my blog and finding out about the poll. Judging from the comments I get, I suspect that a lot of my readers are people who disagree with me. The fact that 46% of those polled by the Chronicle actually agreed with me is more remarkable than the SFBC turnout, since I am the only media outlet of any kind in the city that has been critical of the SFBC and the Bicycle Plan. It shows not that they all read my blog, but that a lot of people aren't buying into the SFBC's fantasy vision of the city's transportation future, i.e., that bikes are ever going to play a serious role as a transit "mode" in San Francisco. If, as I hope, the court orders the city to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan, that 46% will grow, when people in the neighborhoods learn what the city and the SFBC really have planned for their streets.

At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

San Francisco IS the fringe left. A sizable proportion of it, anyway.

What's improper about critical mass?


How can you claim that bikes will never be a serious transportation mode when thousands of people have taken to bikes over the last several years and the SFBC'm membership doubles every few years?

Do you understand that we have people moving to the city precisely because they can go by bike here?

When tourists come here-- they ride bikes!

People commute by bike, run errands by bike, and generally get around-- by bike.

Ever been to the mission? They ride bikes there! The haight? Bikes!

Downtown, the park, anywhere and everywhere on Market, the Presidio, the golden gate bridge; bikes are everywhere!

A change is happening, no matter how much we resist it, deny it, or bury our heads in the sand.

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's think about this a second;

commuter bicycle trips in 2000: 1.9%
commuter bicycle trips in 1990: .95%

percent of traffic that is commuter traffic: around 30-50%

SFBC members in 2000: around 3000
SFBC members in 2006: around 6000

Bike trips for the commute doubled in ten years.
SFBC membership, if we can assume it has some correspondence to people who use bikes in the city, doubled in 6 years.
The population of San Francisco has not doubled in that time period, so more people are using bikes.
I suggest these numbers indicate a growth trend in bicycle use.

It must also be pointed out that there are around 400,000 registered autos in SF. But let's not forget that registering bicycles is not required and if SF is anywhere near the rest of the country in bicycle ownership that means there are 200,000 bicycles in this city.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Your numbers are unconvincing. Since the 2000 Census is the source of the 1.9% number, it's unreliable for two reasons: It's an old number, and the dotcom bust and the 9/11 recession happened shortly thereafter, when the city actually lost population. Hence, there really are no reliable numbers. I've been back in SF since 1995, and my impression is that there aren't more cyclists on city streets. Being a member of the SFBC is just another way to get your PC politcal ticket punched here in Progressive Land, not a reliable indication of how many really use bikes as a serious means of transportation.

Let's compare the motor vehicle numbers that you are a little fuzzy about. If you count autos, trucks, and motorcycles/motorbikes, as of Jan. 2006 there were 452,813 motor vehicles registered in SF (373,115 autos, 62,127 trucks, and 17,571 motorcycles/motorbikes). Then you have to add the number of motor vehicles that enter SF on a typical workday, according to the SFCTA: 35,400. Add to that the total number of Muni vehicles: 1000.

True, bikes aren't registered, and there are no doubt a lot of them in SF. But I suspect that most of them are parked more or less permanently in the laundry room or the basement with the treadmill, alongside cartons full of vegematics and fondue sets.

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

B.S.; it's just as likely that a car stays parked in the garage and taken out mostly for weekends. The car owners I know in SF use them precisely for that.

If registration numbers are going to indicate daily drivers, then SFBC numbers are surely going to indicate daily bikers, in all fairness.

Perhaps the bike does sit next to a Fondue set, but you certainly don't see a 6,000-member organization promoting "Fondue for everyday eating", now do you? So you're not making a fair comparison.

The SFBC is a pretty mainstream group, considering the political bent of the city in general; not the lefty badge of courage suggested in your blog. Maybe if it was in Houston or Orange County your "radical" characterization would be palatable.

I'm certain you are right about the flood of car traffic coming in from "other areas", but I don't see why people in the city should be discouraged from using bikes just because the suburbanites don't use them. When we fail to provide bike infrastructure, we discourage bike use; it's just that simple.

So the 'burb warriors want to drive their car into the city for work? That's great! But they have no right to force their transportation priorities on the residents of this city, a large minority of whom are asking for more bike infrastructure.

It's the kind of thing that, if unmanaged, gives us the tragedy of the commons we have at the moment.

Rob, let's set some transportation standards. If the number of bicycle commuters is only 1.9%, then let's give them only 1.9% of the city's budget for commuter travel!

p.s. If there are "no reliable numbers" then you should think about refraining from using them in your arguments.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Speaking of numbers, the SFBC itself claims on its website that it has 5200 members, not 6000. Yes, the SFBC is seen as a "mainstream" group in SF, but my critique points out that the people of SF don't really understand what it stands for politically: The SFBC is as much anti-car as it is pro-bike. Why, for example, did the SFBC oppose the undergound garage in Golden Gate Park? The new garage and remodeled Concourse took 200 parking spaces off the Concourse itself, along with 600 additional parking spaces off park roads. If it isn't anti-car, why on earth would the SFBC oppose that?

The SFBC also endorses Critical Mass on its website, a monthly demo that deliberately flouts traffic laws.

You can spin the numbers any way you want, but they all show that only a small minority of city residents commute via bicycle. The SFCTA itself---which is pro-bike and actually paid for the Bicycle Plan update---says 1% of city residents commute by bike. The 1.9% number is even less reliable when you consider that the city's population was more than 776,000 in 2000 when the last Census took place. It is now less than 740,000. I was here in 2000, and I don't notice any more bikes on the streets since then, though admittedly I'm a biased observer.

What "tragedy of the commons" are you talking about? San Francisco has always been a commuter's city, because this is where the jobs are.

Let's not forget the real issue here: the Bicycle Plan, which wants to take away traffic lanes and street parking in city neighborhoods to make bicycle lanes. Given the vehicle numbers I cited in my previous response, this would be dumb transportation policy. And, just as important, I don't think it's sustainable politically, once city voters figure out what the SFBC and its enablers in city government want to do to streets in their neighborhoods.

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the city is transformed INTO a parking lot, and the city BECOMES nothing BUT a traffic lane for cars, it's pretty hard to argue against putting a 4-foot wide strip for bikes in where it's desperately needed.

It becomes especially ridiculous to argue that reassigning space that's nearly completely monopolized by cars is bad or unbalanced transportation policy.

But it becomes utter folly when some person carries out a crusade of wasteful legal meneuvering to stop improvements for *gasp* bicycles.

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The city is nowhere near becoming a parking lot. In fact, it's not too hard to drive in SF at all. I had to drive in the city the other day, and I was struck once again how easy it is to get around in SF in a car. If you are going to put in "4-foot wide strips for bikes"---a k a bicycle lanes---on many city streets, you are almost always going to have to take away traffic lanes for motor vehicles. And sometimes street parking will have to be eliminated, too, to make bicyle lanes. The Bicycle Plan is a project that will have a direct physical impact on the streets of the city and hence requires an environmental study before it's implemented. If the city is required to do an EIR on the Plan, the city's neighborhoods will also get a chance to learn for the first time what the city and the SFBC have planned for their streets. On the contrary, it seems "ridiculous" and "utter folly" to do anything less than what state law and common sense requires, which is will also, not coincidentally, be good for the city.


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