Saturday, May 27, 2006

Leah Shahum lectures small business owners

Below is a transcript of the SF Bicycle Coalition's Leah Shahum addressing the Supervisors' Neighborhood Services Committee on April 17 on behalf of a DPT proposal to take away street parking on Market Street between Van Ness Ave. and Octavia Blvd. 

Note that, according to Shahum, the issue is all about safety for cyclists, which presumably trumps all other considerations on the streets of San Francisco, especially the need small businesses have for parking in front of their stores. 

Contrary to Shahum's assertion, the parking in front of these shops was indeed "lost"---it has been moved some distance away to 12th Street, where it is unlikely to be of much use to these businesses. Besides, as she so kindly points out, these businesses don't really have any special right to "reserve" public parking.

Shahum is wrong when she says that there are parking lots nearby people can use instead of the street parking the city is eliminating. The few lots in the area are used by city employees. It's nice to have Shahum's permission, but it is not now "okay" for people to park in the new bike lane to load and unload passengers or material. The signs on that part of Market St. now clearly say "Towaway, No Parking at Any Time." 

People who use these areas for anything but cycling can only do so at their own peril. Shahum's snotty condescension to the owners of the small businesses in that area adds insult to injury: "We understand there is always anxiety due to change. That’s nothing new." (For reactions from local businesses to this latest power grab by the SF Bicycle Coalition look here):

Good afternoon supervisors. My name is Leah Shahum. I’m with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. We strongly support MTA’s proposal here. I’m going to briefly respond to one of the comments that the former speaker mentioned that it’s not parked cars who are hitting bicyclists. Technically no, but the number one cause of injury to bicyclists in San Francisco and most urban areas is the opening of parked car doors into moving cyclists. That’s exactly the problem we’re concerned about here and [inaudible] these parked cars with folks getting in and out swing the door open, the bicyclist is driving in exactly what’s called the door zone. Because they have moving traffic to their left, they have a parked car to their right, riding in the door zone is fairly dangerous. That parked car door swings open, they fly over, it’s the number one cause of injuries. So that’s exactly what we’re talking about is the safety issue.

I don’t need to go into why Market Street is so important. I think that folks have explained that. You should know that this stretch of Market Street has a higher number of collisions than average. I’m going to address some of the concerns the merchants have raised here. We understand there is always anxiety due to change. That’s nothing new.

But it’s important to keep a few truths in mind. Number one, there is no parking lost. It’s a moving of parking. It’s just moving the location. There’s no loss. Number two, the change from unmetered to metered parking in many of the areas will help encourage turnover and more customer availability. That’s not going to help folks who might be feeding the meter all day who work there. But it’s going to help turnover for customers, which, if I’m hearing the merchants correct, that’s the right issue.

Also there are many parking lots in the area. We don’t have a map up here now, but there are many small lots in the area within walking distance. Another issue, metered parking in front of businesses is not reserved for those businesses. Obviously anyone can use that. So to put the image out that they’re losing reserved parking for their customers is not accurate. That’s open parking, public parking and city parking and anyone can use it. If it’s busy, someone still has to move around and look for more parking.

Finally, I think it was mentioned by the MTA staff, it is okay of course if someone is there with a disability, an elderly person, a family of five, loading a couch or a musical instrument, it’s okay to temporarily be in that bike lane to load and unload. That’s okay, everyone understands that’s going to happen. 

Right now I just want to close by letting you know…I mean I did pass these out to you all. I’ll give one to the public record, that there are a dozen merchants, these are business owners and managers on Market Street in this very stretch who support this proposal [TIME BELL] Thank you. We hope you consider their input as well.

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