Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bicycle Plan debate: "Rob Anderson hates cyclists"

Suisan Salman wrote:
You are clearly a small and weak person who wants attention and for some bizarre reason think you're going to accomplish something by making the city listen to you and jump through some hoops, costing all of us time and money. Reality is that getting around this city on a bike is not as easy as it should be. I'm tired of hearing your quoted numbers. 400 whatever thousand cars means nothing, how many of them are commuting intra-city every day? I also don't believe the 1-2%. I'd say it's closer to 5% in many areas for those who live and work in the city, and it will only get higher---just watch for the next survey. And finally, even if this did only benefit 1-2%, you're the pot calling the kettle black by forcing the city into a costly lawsuit that only benefits TWO people---your lawyer and your ego. That's about 0.00025% of the city's population, little monkey. By the way, I'm not a "bike zealot." I ride a couple times a month. I also have countless friends who'd ride more often if there were more bike lanes. Welcome to reality!

Rob Anderson wrote:
The SFCTA says 1% of city residents commute by bike. The 2000 Census said the number was 1.9%. You can't just pull a number out of your ass and expect anyone to take you seriously. What "survey" are you referring to? The 452,813 number you are understandably tired of is the DMV's count of the registered vehicles in SF---373,115 cars, 62,127 trucks, and 17,571 motorcycles/motorbikes. These vehicles are registered to people who live in the city limits, not commuters. Two Superior Court judges have agreed with us about both the law and the facts. Why do you think that is so?

Suisan Salman wrote:
uh huh... and how many of those 400,000 cars commute from SF to downtown SF, that's what I was asking. And the answer is not very many. In fact I'm willing to bet there are as many people (from nearby SF) riding bikes downtown as there are driving cars downtown. It doesn't really matter anyway, you've succeeded in making the bike coalition a lot more determined and they'll be doubly successful next year. Ride on champ.

Rob Anderson wrote:
You ask a question and provide a non-answer---"not very many." Could you be more specific? Of course you can't, because you don't know what you are talking about. Information on "modal" share---who uses the streets of the city and how---is available, for example, in the San Francisco County Transportation Authority's Countywide Transportation Plan of July 2004. You can get a copy at 100 Van Ness on the 26th floor, where the SFCTA has its lavish offices---your transit dollars at work! The SFCTA figures that the city's transportation system "carried" 4.5 million trips a day, most of them by car. Only 30% of those trips were "regional," that is, originating outside the city, which leaves around 3 million internal trips a day in SF: 62% by auto, 17% by transit, 20% by walking, and less than 1% by bike. And bicycles only account for 1% of all internal city trips (see page 39 in the Countywide Transportation Plan). Transit accounts for 16% of all trips, and, interestingly, 28% of all trips are by walking. Yes, the facts do matter, since "reality"---remember that, Suizie?---is reflected in the facts. Good public policy should also be based on the facts, as best we can determine them. The Bicycle Plan was/is not based on these transit facts; it's based on a fantasy ideology that I call BikeThink, a subset of GroupThink.

For your information, the SF Bicycle Coalition is not a public agency. They have indeed been successful in implementing their delusional agenda in SF, but they may have reached the pinnacle of their influence last year, when they got the BOS to unanimously make the Bicycle Plan part of the General Plan with no debate and no dissent.

Mike Anderson wrote:
Rob, as a SFBC member I must admit you have made a valid argument that has stood up in court. No organization should be of the belief that it is above the law. That being said, I am still saddened that your lawsuit has affected a Plan that has been changing the way people behave in a very positive way. As the SFBC says, if we "build" it (bike lanes), they will come. While I don't have a legitimate study to back the numbers, I am amazed at the increased numbers of bicycle riders throughout the city, and especially on busy streets such as Valencia, Folsom and Howard! These bicyclists are examples to the "99%ers", that maybe it's time for them to rethink their fossil fuel burning, pollution inducing form of transportation. You keep calling fellow bicyclists zealots. 

Personally, I find it hard not to be zealous about the health of our planet these days. The status quo of relying on oil is rapidly destroying our planet. You talk about how the bicyclist are inconveniencing the 99%ers. While this may be true, the 99%ers who drive are polluting the air I breathe every morning as i commute by bike each day. This is an assault to the health of 100% of the citizens. I've read in the past that you are afraid of biking in SF. Well maybe one day, with the Bike Plan fully implemented and with hopefully fewer cars on the road, maybe even you will try it as one of the most efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly forms of transportation. And finally, I would love to see a study on how the businesses are doing on Valencia street since the bike lanes were striped there. Are their studies showing that bike lanes have hurt small business?

Rob Anderson wrote:
There are important, unexamined assumptions in your comment, Mike. The first is that by making it more difficult for motorists to drive in the city---taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes---you will encourage them to abandon their cars and trucks and take up cycling. This is pure fantasy. Of course pollution from motor vehicles is a huge problem, but the notion that Americans are going to abandon cars, trucks, and motorcycles is ridiculous to anyone not blinded by the BikeThink ideology. In fact, as you know, there's been rapid progress on engines that either don't burn fossil fuels at all or burn a lot less. Americans and the auto industry will of course turn to this new technology, not abandon motor vehicles in favor of bicycles. The notion that cyclists in the city are not just choosing to ride a bike in the city but also fighting global warming is the sort of thing that fuels, so to speak, the self-righteousness and often obnoxious behavior on city streets. What will be your argument when the world adopts motor vehicle engines that don't burn fossil fuel?

Of course cycling in the city is more dangerous than taking Muni or driving. Like most people, I don't want to risk my life and well-being when I do errands in the city. I admit that my assumption is that cycling is much more dangerous than other means of transport
The Valencia St. bike lanes did not involve taking away street parking for small businesses in that area, and the traffic lanes left seem to be able to handle the traffic

Joel Young wrote:
First off, thank you for explaining your objections to the Bike Plan in great detail on this website. As a SF resident with some sporadic connections to people involved in lobbying and policy making, I probably wouldn't have gotten your perspective. I have a lot of respect for anyone who will stick their neck out in this way and try to explain what they mean. However, it's all well and good to proclaim that all cycling advocates are zealots and then when you get some flames in return, say "See? I told you so!" — but it doesn't mean much. Suisan's (and others') name-calling isn't productive, and neither is yours. I agree with you that there needs to be some respect for established process. After reading over what you've written, I suspect that if the Bike Plan is to succeed, it will need the added rigor and assurances that an environmental review will provide — and that it will probably need some revision. 

I still can't shake the feeling, though, that that's not what this is really about. Let's look at some quotes from your previous posts: "It’s bad policy, bad government, and, in the long run, it’s bad politics, since future political opponents in your districts will rightly use this issue against you if you vote to give this small, arrogant, politically aggressive minority a blank check on city policy by enshrining their dangerous hobby in the city’s General Plan." I'm sorry, "dangerous hobby"? It sure is fun to take a ride through Golden Gate Park, but we're talking about commute alternatives, which are another beast entirely. Sure, biking can potentially be dangerous, which leads me to...... "along with the reckless notion of lane-sharing, where bike riders are encouraged to assert their right to share lanes equally with trucks, buses, and SUVs." 

You haven't explicitly acknowledged that you're not a cyclist, but you did say that your primary commute methods are mass transit and walking. So, assuming that you haven't spent much time on a bicycle in the middle of traffic, I can understand if you hold this misconception that a bicycle "taking a lane" is dangerous. It sure feels scary the first few times you do it, but I can assure you that it's much safer in terms of visibility, showing intent, and generally not getting squeezed into the gutter. More education about this would not only lower the blood pressure of observers such as yourself who seem to think that cyclists are transgressing by acting in their legal best interest, but it would also remove a barrier to commuting by bike. 

Bias can really color the results of a study. You bring up a good point that the Bike Coalition has a vested interest in the results of their studies, and although I have good faith in their efforts, I would be very interested in seeing some independent studies that asked the right questions. Your bias seems to be that cycling advocates (which include many thousands of SFBC members) are selfish ideologues, divorced from reality. From your quoted comments, it appears that your perspective on certain issues is a little less than realistic itself. If you'd like to drop the incendiary rhetoric on matters that you don't know anything about, then maybe you'd get some more reasonable reactions. As it stands, I really have to question what your motives are in hiding behind Process.

Rob Anderson wrote:
"After reading over what you've written, I suspect that if the Bike Plan is to succeed, it will need the added rigor and assurances that an environmental review will provide — and that it will probably need some revision."

Yes, of course. If the Bicycle Plan is so important to so many people, why didn't the city just do the damn EIR so no one could challenge it in court? I think they deliberately tried to do an end-run around CEQA---which is what they did, as Judge Busch makes clear in his decision---because they assumed they could get away with it. After all, who is going to challenge the sacred bicycle here in Progressive Land? We now know the answer to that question. There was probably another reason: the fear that if the whole ambitious Plan was made known to the people of San Francisco---not just posted on the web---they would have faced a lot of political opposition and much of the Plan would have faced "revision," to use your term. The city must now face that problem in a political context in which their integrity and credibility has been undermined by their sneaky, illegal attempt to implement the Plan piecemeal in the city, one street at a time.

"Your bias seems to be that cycling advocates (which include many thousands of SFBC members) are selfish ideologues, divorced from reality." Yes, that more or less represents my opinion of the more militant bike people in SF, since their political behavior---including their comments on this blog---confirms that description.

Questioning the motives of those you are debating is considered a fallacy in beginning philosophy, the last resort of those who can't deal with the opposing argument. And your discussion of "taking a lane" away from buses, trucks, and SUVs while riding a bike is not likely to convince anyone with any sense to take up cycling in the city.

Anonymous wrote:
Rob - saying that only by bringing the process under CEQA review will allow citizens to comment on street changes is disingenuous. Every bike lane that has been built has been reviewed at several levels with public community meetings, public supervisor meetings (Land Use) and BOS meetings. Even the mayor has to sign off on every lane! Every street change has public notices. Every bike project already gets environmental review. Every street change goes through a legal process. (If it didn't the Bike Network would have been implemented by now.) There have plenty of chances for concerned citizens to get involved. This suit has just added yet another level of bureaucracy to San Francisco's stated goal of making this City a better place to ride a bike. Rob, you know this lawsuit isn't going to change anything. The bike plan will get approved in the end. You're just a bitter cyclist hater who needs to move back to Boonville. If you really think you're speaking for all of these thousands of drivers, then where are all of your signatures of support? The Bike Coalition has 6000 members that want better biking conditions. How many members does your CAR group have?

Rob Anderson wrote:
It's good that you mention the BOS Land Use committee, since that is where a lot of the subterfuge goes on. A bike lane is rubber-stamped in a committee meeting and then rushed through on the agenda of the full board. The Market St. lane-grab---between Van Ness and Octavia---is the most flagrant violation of this process. The city gave local merchants notice, and then, when those same merchants raised a stink, the committee just ignored their desperate pleas to save their street parking. And, insult to injury, the whole process was accelerated at the mayor's request to get it done in time for Bike to Work Day! In fact, the segments that were implemented in the manner you describe did not get environmental reviews; they were given "categorical exemptions" under the presumption that bike lanes can't possibly have any effect on the city's environment.

Even if your claim of a pristine process was true---and it isn't---the whole point of the litigation was that the whole Bicycle Plan project needs review at one time, since it is in fact one project. That's what CEQA requires. You can't piecemeal in a major project like this. There is no new bureaucracy created by the court's decision. The Planning Dept. will have to do some kind of EIR on the whole Bicyle Plan before the city can continue implementing it, which will mean a lot of traffic studies of the targeted streets. What the city's neighborhoods need to see is the whole Bicycle Plan under review, instead of having bicycle lanes sprung on them, one street at a time, out of obscure BOS committees. 

You call me "disengenous"[sic] and accuse me of being a "cyclist hater," which is simply untrue, though I think city cyclists are often rude as individuals and arrogant as a political force in the city, as evidenced by Critical Mass and the SFBC. Do I need "signatures of support" to stack up alongside 6000 SFBC members? No, I don't, since I have the facts and the law on my side. Besides, as I never tire of saying, there are 452,813 registered motor vehicles in SF, a number that far outweighs those belonging to the bike cult. The reality is that the SFBC has been exercising political power way out of proportion to its numbers. Like the other commenters, you show no signs of knowing anything about either the litigation or the Bicycle Plan, which is an ambitious, two-volume, 460-page project. Some of it may eventually be implemented, but it is far from the inevitability you seem to think it is.

You may have me confused with one of my relatives with the Boonville reference. Though I've lived in Boonville a few times over the past 30 years, I'm not from there in any real sense.

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