Thursday, July 13, 2006

Letter to Mayor Newsom: Fire Leah Shahum

Subject: Fire Leah Shahum
Date: Tue, 12 Jul 2005
From: Rob

Mayor Newsom:

As you can see in the message below, Leah Shahum is insulting you again. With all due respect for free speech, you should fire her now from the MTA board. As I'm sure you know, none of the bike fanatics voted for you; they all voted for Gonzalez. And they never will vote for you, because you aren't fashionably leftist enough---and you only ride a bike on Bike to Work Day. People like me who voted for you would like to see Shahum given the boot. You don't have to put up with this nonsense!

Rob Anderson

P.S. Who can I contact in your administration if I have some questions about homelessness?

From: Leah Shahum
Date: July 12, 2006
To: GGP/healthy saturdays list/supporters
Subject: Action Tonight 6pm!

Hi Everybody, I just confirmed w/ someone in the Mayor's Office that Newsom IS planning to attend this event tonight at 6pm at Conservatory of Flowers. It's being thrown by group called Coalition for Park Access (oh the irony!) and is made up of the folks who opposed Healthy Saturdays. WE NEED TO TURN PEOPLE OUT FOR THIS!!!! Let's show the Mayor and all those folks that this idea is not limping away! Can you make it tonight?! Please email me back if yes---and please spread the word to others. Even if you can only go for 15 minutes, it's important to have a presence. Folks are meeting at 5:45pm on sidewalk on JFK Dr. directly in front of Conservatory. We're sending a member w/posters and markers, so please help them out. 

Even if we only have a dozen people there (kids are VERY welcome!!!), it will make an impact by showing we're NOT going away. ALSO, let's organize an impromptu event this Saturday, 7/15, which will highlight the Mayor's lack of action. We can play off of this ridiculous event tonight by having our own silly event that "recognizes" all the Mayor has NOT done for the Park! This also happens to be the 2 month anniversary since his veto! I'm working on a press release now that will highlight that, since his veto, the Mayor has only found time to go to fancy evening parties at the Conservatory (supposedly a public institution...) with the opponents of access who are misleadingly calling themselves proponents of access....while the real proponents of access wait for his supposed compromise that he promised w/the veto. Can folks also get the word out---and attend---an event this Saturday, 7/15 in front of the Conservatory at 11am? Please let me know. This is a PRIME time to shame the Mayor into some action. Please jump back in now!!!!

thx leah

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The bike movement and the historical process

These three messages are from an exchange on a SF cycling message board.

Rob Anderson replies to Katherine Roberts and Greg Hayes (below in italics):
While Greg Hayes supports an open process, and, presumably, CEQA review, his overwritten message illustrates part of the problem some of us have with your movement: SF is "blessed as the birthplace of Critical Mass," it's about "transportation freedom" and "the justice for which we ride" so that "our children can ride in peace with their children..." His rhetoric implies that bike advocates represent a cause much like the civil rights, gay rights, and women's rights movements, which is bound to be offensive to those who fought in those historically significant movements. The very suggestion both trivializes those movements and inflates the historical significance of the bike movement.

I assume Greg is referring to our litigation when he writes that "people who don't like bikes as transportation were able to shut down the entire planning process, costing a fair amount of time and money." After all our discussions, this is a disappointing statement. If people choose to ride bikes in the city, it's fine with me, though I think it's intrinsically a dangerous activity that's unlikely to ever be adopted by a significant number of people in SF as a serious transportation "mode."

More importantly, I think it's just wrong to redesign city streets on behalf of a tiny minority without serious public debate and environmental review. That's the real issue here. Greg says the Bicycle Plan Update is "history." Well, not quite. The Plan is still on the table and it's still being litigated. It's the only plan you have right now. Greg suggests that new "legislation" is needed to make a better process for the next bicycle plan. I disagree. CEQA provides for a public process and public input.

The problem now is that the city tried to do an end-run around that public process with the present Plan. Why did they do that? Because in SF's "progressive" political culture bikes have until now been sacrosanct and above discussion, which is why the Board of Supervisors waved the Framework Doc. through the process---even making it part of the General Plan---unanimously with no debate. Ditto for the Mayor's office. The groupthink on cycling that Marc is talking about has completely dominated the whole issue of cycling in SF until now. Our litigation and the court injunction is an opportunity to have the debate and dialogue that should have taken place years ago, long before the Bicycle Plan emerged from DPT two years ago.

Katherine's "some people are going to get hurt" by change argument will be familiar to history students, echoing Lenin's dictum that "You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs." The very notion that cycling in SF represents "progress" that is the inevitable result of the historical process we're all engaged in is the same kind of overstatement that mars Greg's message. Hurting the small businesses on Market St. to install bike lanes was completely unnecessary, and it may end up hurting your cause more than it helps. But it's the very idea that making it safer for 1% of the city's population should trump everyone else's interests is what's in question here.

Like the Marxists of previous generations, the cycling community evidently assumes that they are in the vanguard of some great, inexorable historical process, and people like me are mere "bumps in the road," in Leah's phrase, in the way of "progress" and "change." I think this is way off the mark politically and historically.

Katherine's reference to "the sack of Golden Gate Park" is also way off the mark. In fact, I still haven't heard a good argument against the city's accepting a free underground parking garage and a free new de Young Museum in the park. What's the downside? The garage is completely invisible from the Concourse. I suspect some members of the cycling community just hate anything that makes it easy and convenient to drive in the city for those who drive the 373,115 cars registered in SF, not to mention the trucks, motorcycles and buses. And not to mention the millions of tourists who visit SF every year, since tourism is our main industry. But this is the discussion that we need to have, along with debates about the changes to specific city streets detailed in the voluminous Bicycle Plan.

Rob Anderson

Katherine Roberts wrote:
Rob, BTW, I am not an SFBC member. And I disagree with you on many key points, specifically about the benefits of bike infrastructure to the entire community. Whenever positive change happens, some people are going to get hurt by it. But if that is your only touchstone, you are always going to be against progress. It is a standard argument against change to focus on the people who will be disadvantaged by it. That is the rationale loggers use to keep clear-cutting old-growth forests, defense contractors use to continue making bombs, or, for that matter, white supremacists in the South used to defend segregated bathrooms. Because I see through it for what it is, it is never an argument that carries a lot of weight for me. I just know that change requires adjustment, and sometimes catastrophic adjustment, and I believe that people are going to have to get used to that idea, because if certain things don't change, we are all going to end up in a lot worse place than we are now. So we really don't have any other choice. As the Bible says, beat your swords into plowshares. That is a lot of what's going on here. I react the same way to people who resist improvements to bicycle infrastructure. The old ways are ending, and we ignore that at our peril. Neglecting to provide for less-polluting, less-fossil-fuel- dependent, and more ecologically-sustainable ways of getting around in the post-automotive era is just postponing the inevitable. I have no patience for people who stand in the way of that necessary shift.

That was why I attempted to block the sack of Golden Gate Park---and I didn't much appreciate your opposition to that attempt either. That said, I also believe that no one is above the law, and if the SFBC and City Attorney were trying to skirt CEQA, then that was stupid. I also agree with Greg Hayes (and you) that more public process was appropriate, and that we should all be questioning the role of private non-profits, including the SFBC, in determining city policy. So I do and don't understand your lawsuit. I hope something good comes out of it, and I hope that "something good" is NOT the dismantling of the already miniscule gestures S.F. is making to improve the lives and safety of those who don't drive. At any rate, thanks for responding.


Greg Hayes wrote:
First, let's all raise a toast to the SFBC. I think most people on this list are members and are interested in promoting the bicycle as everyday transportation. This is a fine goal. Let us all hear the applause.

And now if you will humor me...
Citizen Cyclists,
Our City is blessed as the birthplace of Critical Mass. Our advocacy for the bicycle, is amongst the strongest in our nation. Known throughout the world, San Francisco, is on the forefront of transportation freedom. Let us speak of the justice for which we ride. Let us hear the bells ringing and the whirring of the wheels. Let us see the river of like-minded blinkies twinkling into the night. And may we remember the white bicycles who ride amongst us. And honor the ghosts who came before.
For the streets are our responsibility. As our children can ride in peace with their children, so our presence here is to speak and move freely. Because speaking. But now, how do we move forward? Free, public dialogoue. The experiences of the recent "Bike Plan Update" call for a discussion in the community about how to avoid such problems in the future. Whatever happened, it happened to the extent that people who don't like bikes as transportation were able to shut down the entire planning process, costing a fair amount of time and money.
We can recognize the mistakes and move forward. The streets are for the people and the people are the public. There should be a discussion, a public discussion about what can be done to make the streets safer and more efficient for bicycles. The public bike plan is not a traffic engineering, or bike network document. It is the place for all bicycists and the people of this city at large to speak about the public streets. From whatever viewpoint, it is where we come together and talk about bike transportation in the City.
The "Bike Plan Update" is history. Now, a costly court battle obscures our true goals. But I ask you cylists, How will we avoid such problems in the future? Will legislation be passsed requiring that the Board of Supervisors hear public comment on the next bike plan work plan? Or shall we wait, until public comments are released for the next bike plan, showing concern after concern, idea after idea, to be "outside the scope of work."

Will legislation call for
--The SFBAC to formally approve the next bike plan work plan and all future bike plans

--A mandatory hearing before the Board of Supervisors to hear public comment on the next and all future bike plan work plans.

Every 5 years, the state provides money for the Bike Plan process. Here we have a chance to improve public speech in our community and in the City.

"Let's figure this out together"

Greg Hayes

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