Sunday, January 21, 2007

Traffic and the Bicycle Plan in SF: A Dialogue

These comments and my replies are in response to an earlier post on traffic in San Francisco.

Anonymous wrote:
It's a simple policy matter: do we want to ENcourage bicycling or DIScourage it?

Rob wrote:
Or you can put it this way: How far should the city go with a policy that is actually punitive toward motorists on behalf of a tiny minority (1-2%)? Do we really want to create traffic jams on city streets based on nothing more than the hope that motorists will turn to bicycles in frustration? The numbers here show me that is a fantasy. I think it's fair to say that basing city traffic policy on a fantasy is a bad idea.

Paul Tay
Should the transportation policy focus on moving people or moving bikes and motor vehicles? Pave the whole joint til it's one great big parking lot.

Rob wrote:

You're not doing any analysis, Paul. The pavement is already here, as is all the traffic. The question the city faces is, How do we reasonably apportion our street space to the different available means of transportation? In light of the numbers in the above post, it's foolish to take away traffic lanes to make bike lanes without doing some serious study and analysis, including traffic studies. That's what the recent court decision against the city's Bicycle Plan was about. And don't forget that "motor vehicles" in the city include Muni---we're a transit first city, not a bikes first city---and emergency vehicles. If you screw up traffic for motor vehicles in general, you also screw up traffic for Muni and emergency vehicles.

Punitive? So if motorists get 95% of the roadway instead of 99%, that's being PUNITIVE? Give it up.

Paul Tay
Ya know, Rob, bicyclists don't really need the bike lanes. It doesn't take much to create traffic jams using bicyclists as human shields, a la Critical Mass. Even one cyclist is a weapon of mass DISRUPTION. One cyclist can significantly degrade a roadway's level of service in a heartbeat. Ask Santa. He's got the whole non-violent civil disobedience down to a science. It's really no problem for one cyclist to convert a motor travel lane into a virtual bike lane.

Rob wrote:

At least you're an honest bike nut, Paul. You admit your juvenile impulse to disrupt traffic, which tells us that cycling really has nothing to do with fossil fuels or saving the planet.

Anonymous wrote:
I think it's about giving people options. A lot of folks just don't feel comfortable riding a bike without a sanctioned public way. It is worth putting this infrastructure in place; the polling data show that more people would ride if they felt safer doing so. There is no guesswork about it. Put the lanes in and people will use them. The city has a legal comittment to bicycles. I'm not against an EIR per se, but the suit does strike me as a bit of a political maneuver wrapped up in legalistic pretenses.
"they paved paradise--put in a parking lot"

Rob wrote:

"No guesswork about it"? So the city should take away traffic lanes and street parking on the premise that people will flock to the bike lanes on bikes? The city has a legal commitment to a Transit First policy, not to a Bikes First policy. If you insist on screwing up traffic for motorists, you also screw it up for Muni."A political maneuver wrapped up in legalistic pretenses"? Why do I get the impression that you know nothing at all about the litigation surrounding the Bicycle Plan? What makes you bike nuts think you can pontificate about a subject about which you really know nothing? I know: BikeThink, the ideology of bikes, like all ideologies, provides you with all the answers out front, so you don't have to actually do any homework before spouting off. Why do you think two Superior Court judges agreed with us about the Bicycle Plan? Were/are they both anti-bike?

Thanks for the Joni Mitchell quote; that goes real deep. Actually, the pavement is already here. The question is how to apportion the use of that pavement among the various means of transportation in the city. The numbers I presented in the post above show that it's just stupid to revamp city streets on behalf of a tiny minority and their political fantasy without first doing some serious traffic and environmental studies. It also happens to be illegal, something that never seems to bother the bike nut community, which isn't surprising, given the way so many of them conduct themselves on city streets.

Anonymous wrote:
Like I've said before: If bicycles make up only 2% of commuter trips, then give them only 2% of the transportation budget for commuters.

Rob wrote:

No matter how often you say it, it's still irrelevant. This is not about money. The issue with the Bicycle Plan is actual space on city streets---traffic lanes and street parking versus bike lanes.

Chuomo Fosset wrote:

So what percentage of city streets are taken up by bike lanes? I'm sure it's less than 1% right now. Plus, who ever said traffic lanes, or even parking has to be disturbed. You've got a bizarre vendetta man, I don't know where it comes from but it's really sad.

Anonymous wrote:

Even if you remove an entire lane of parked cars to put in a bike lane, it could be worth it. Why should something that's not even being used preclude us from allocating space for something that is? Here's how I see it working out: a regular traffic lane with an adjacent parking lane---not usually enough room for a cyclist and a motorist to proceed safely side-by-side. What happens? Either the cyclist moves further out into the lane, sometimes slowing the motorist (thus being exposed to that driver's vicissitudes) or the cyclist rides too close to the parked cars, exposing him/herself to the opening of car doors AND to the passing of motor traffic! All so cars that aren't being used have somewhere to sit. This is not a balance of transportation needs; this is pandering to the automobile.

Rob wrote:

You can't make one rule fit all city streets. If you're going to take away traffic lanes---and my point is that traffic lanes are well-used in the city---you have to do a traffic study first to see what the results will be. It may be "pandering to the automobile," but, if you read the numbers in the post, you will understand that there are already hundreds of thousands of autos---and buses, trucks, and motorcycles---using city streets every day. That's the reality we have to deal with, not some utopian, goofball fantasy about bicycles as a major transportation "mode."

Anonymous wrote:

I'm not sure you understand how public policy works. We make policy choices that reflect not only the kind of 'reality' we have, but ALSO the kind of reality that we WANT to have. Bicycle transportation is not a goofball dream; most places in the world to a significant amount of getting around by bicycle. It's a very good point you make about one rule not working for all streets. I think the situation I have described helps set up a framework for understanding what's going on out there between cars and bikes. With a city on a pretty small landmass like SF, it's no question that bicycles can work. Look at all the people riding them DESPITE the proper infrastructural investments. Imagine what it would be like if we actually encouraged cycling!

Rob wrote:

And I'm not sure you understand the realities of traffic on the streets of SF. It's just a fantasy to think that by making it harder for people to drive in the city we are going to make people turn to bikes instead of cars. You've provided nothing but fodder for that fantasy. Your suggestions are completely fact-free; you have essentially ignored all the numbers I've cited in the post. You and other bike nuts are entitled to your fantasies under the First Amendment, but it's pure folly to allow the city to apply them to city streets. My whole point, Anon, is this: If you apply the bicycle fantasy to the design of city streets to "encourage cycling," you are just going to screw up traffic for everyone, including Muni and emergency vehicles.

Anonymous wrote:

Biking makes it easier for people to drive; it alleviates traffic congestion. Imagine if the 2% of bicyclists decided one day to all switch to cars. I think it's safe to say they'd place a significant burden on an already clogged system. But we can think of this the other way, too. Imagine the reverse where an additional 2% decide to make the trip by bike. That ameliorates traffic jams. No sane person will doubt that bike trips are on the upswing.

Rob wrote:

Why don't you "imagine" coming to grips with the realities on the streets of the city? You're just speculating off the top of your head, and your speculations are fact-free.

Anonymous wrote:

You mean like 'realpolitik', for example?

Rob wrote:

I mean like reality, dude. The numbers I cite in the post tell me that taking away traffic lanes to make bike lanes in San Francisco should be done with extreme caution.

Anonymous wrote:

I agree with you 100%; it should be done with extreme caution.

Anonymous wrote:

Robert Moses and his lot made essentially the same argument you're making when public pressure mounted to close the extension of 5th ave through Washington Square park. He said it would exacerbate traffic congestion. He was wrong. Traffic counts in the surrounding areas, if they were affected at all, DECLINED. Chew on that for a while. The same thing happened in Copenhagen. When they reduced the number of cars in downtown streets.

Rob wrote:
Try to "chew on" the topic under discussion, which is traffic and the Bicycle Plan in San Francisco, not Copenhagen or New York.

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At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Buff Buff said...

All I know is you deserve to suffer Rob, and suffer you will! Poor little slapper.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Rob Rob replies to Buff Buff:

Why do I deserve to suffer, Buff Buff Buff? Because I challenge your smug, know-nothing, jive-turkey SF progressive orthodoxy? Why don't you address the issues?

At 11:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha ha! Great response to 'Buff Buff'. It's always best to stick to the issues.

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Fashini Roulmassaboun said...

ha! awesome... I think Buff Buff is calling your karmic destiny into question. Spewing unproductive hate does tend to catch up to you! I imagine he/she is probably right!

At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Drive To a Better Tomorrow said...

Uh, is this blog so weak on content that comments get reposted as posts?

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous jaybee said...

Hi. Wow you guys are pretty heated about this. I just moved here from Cincinnati. I ride a bike. I like bike lanes because they are less scary, but when there aren't lanes I am sure I get in the way of cars. Its cool we get along. Anyways I just wanted to say that its proven (The Robert Moses situation is a great example of this) That the more roads are built the more congestion there is. So one can also assume that there is greater availablity of bike roads there are, the more bike traffic there will be. Also if there are less roads, then maybe at first there will be more congestion, but sooner or later people will get fed up and choose another mode. Lastly I think it is funny Rob that the angle you are able to fight the Bike Plan from is an environmental one, when bikes are obviously a more eco-friendly option. Your whole style reminds of the way the midwestern super conservatives act man.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Uh, is this blog so weak on content that comments get reposted as posts?" Yeah, I've just been waiting for a twit like you to provide me with some real content. If you have nothing to say, why post a comment? Is that supposed to be cutting? "Weak" is the word for it.

At 9:31 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"ha! awesome... I think Buff Buff is calling your karmic destiny into question. Spewing unproductive hate does tend to catch up to you! I imagine he/she is probably right!"
Yes, and I imagine you're a pretty deep one, what with the karma concept and all. "Unproductive hate"? As opposed to "productive hate"? You and soul-mate Buff Buff Buff, etc. should get in touch. You surely have a lot of banalities to exchange.

At 9:41 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Welcome to Progressive Land, Jaybee. You'll fit in real well here with all the rest of the bike jerks, since you too are an arrogant know-it-all. Cincinnati wasn't cool enough to contain a guy like you, right? Funny but you clearly don't know anything about the litigation or the Bicycle Plan---or anything else---but rock on, dude! You don't need to know anything to be a progressive in San Francisco; in fact it can be a positive hindrance.

At 8:46 AM, Anonymous jaybee said...

Let me first say: my bad for acting like a dick earlier. sorry, i don't know you maybe you are cool, but anyways i shouldnt have been insulting. I just don't understand your position. i have read everything i can find on your site, but still fail to "get it." I want to movment in society for the better. I dont claim to knwo exactly what that is, i i know people have fucked things up thinking they where making shit better, but adding bike lanes, and racks, and stuff to make it easier to bike. (with a minor, very minor, impact on traffic patterns) doesn't seem like a bad idea. What about when cars here stop right in a driving lane, toss on the hazards, and just go shop. what is that? I guess I agree that traffic and parking are a nightmare in this city. but no, I didnt come here b/c i am "too cool" for cincinnati, i came here b/c of the opportunity to choose a mode of travel other than the automobile. an opportunity not afforded to most people living in most places around the country. I was just really suprised to see this much battle going on in regards to increasing "bikabilty." and remember the highways got built before the traffic jams. and sorry, I would rather discuss, than through around insults, so once again sorry about the earlier comment. -later

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's common to find highways at capacity on opening day.

Building more, wider, etc. roads does nothing but encourage driving.

At 4:16 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

On second thought, Jaybee, you may not fit in very well in SF. You're too reflective. Maybe you didn't read the posts in my archive on this issue carefully enough, however. The issue around our successful litigation against the city's Bicycle Plan is really very simple and reasonable: Before you take away traffic lanes and street parking in a small city that has so much traffic already, you have to do the proper environmental and traffic studies beforehand. It's not only a good idea in general, but it's also the law, that is, the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires an environmental study before implementing major projects or developments. The city did no enviro study of the Bicycle Plan at all before beginning to implement it, which is why we won our suit. Now they have to back up and do an environmental impact review (EIR) of the Bicycle Plan. Does that seem terribly radical to you? Anyhow, it made all the bike zealots in SF furious with me; I am now akin to the anti-Christ in the SF political community. The litigation had nothing to do with the actual contents of the Bicycle Plan itself; it was only about doing some serious study before you implement a plan that might make traffic in the city a lot worse than it needs to be.

Welcome to SF, Jaybee. You will find that this is a fine city but something of a snakepit politically.

At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Fashini Roulmassaboun said...

"our successful litigation" ?

You mean *yours* because you're the only person in the city who cares.

Rob, you actualy have useful things to say once in a while and it's a pity that you've been skunked by your litigation since it covers up your otherwise usual potential.

You caught a minor oversight on how policy gets done (debatable anyways since the Environmental Impact Study was unanimously voted to be un-needed which is good for you and me as it saves tax $$$). You've proven your point. Money and time will be spent doing the study, the bike plan will pass, and things will move forward precisely as before.

The thing that screws you man is that you can't let go of this hatred for cyclists. I fully agree that there are a handful of bike-messenger types who need a scolding from time to time, but you paint anyone who bikes in SF as an evil self absorbed person which is totally evil and self absorbed of yourself! See how that works? The result is you get nowhere.

Maybe if you approached the issue nicely people wouldn't get so tilly on your ass!

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"You mean 'yours' because you're the only person in the city who cares."

Wishful thinking on your part. My impression is that there are a lot of people who agree that the city should do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan.

"Rob, you actualy have useful things to say once in a while and it's a pity that you've been skunked by your litigation since it covers up your otherwise usual potential."

One of the important things I have to say is my critique of SF progressivism, and bicycles play an important symbolic role in that ideology. My "potential"? What crap! You sound like one of my high school teachers.

"You caught a minor oversight on how policy gets done..."

Not true. The city violated the essential part of CEQA, the most important environmental legislation in the state: They did no environmental study at all of the 460-page Bicycle Plan project. And it wasn't a mere "oversight": The city deliberately tried to evade the law, with the apparent assumption that no one would challenge it in court.

"You've proven your point. Money and time will be spent doing the study, the bike plan will pass, and things will move forward precisely as before."

More wishful thinking. By making the city follow the law, people in the city will have at least have a chance to learn what's in the Bicycle Plan, which will probably mean changes will have to be made before it's implemented.

"The thing that screws you man is that you can't let go of this hatred for paint anyone who bikes in SF as an evil self absorbed person which is totally evil and self absorbed of yourself!"

Simply inaccurate. Could you cite a single passage in my blog that shows that I hate cyclists? My ire is directed at the minority of cyclists who misbehave on city streets and the political dominance that the ideology of bikes has on our PC political leadership.


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