Monday, April 30, 2007

Critical Mass and public opinion

One of the odd things about the bike people in SF is their apparent conviction that they are cute and beloved by the public in San Francisco. There's evidence to the contrary, including election results showing that city voters, when given the opportunity, often vote against the bike people's issues, as they did in the elections of 1998, 2000, and 2006. 

Some recent evidence: a couple of quickie online polls in the wake of the violence during last month's Critical Mass, like the one in the SF Business Times, where 73% of those responding thought Critical Mass should be discontinued. Okay, that's not surprising. Who but a bunch of conservatives and business types reads that publication? 

But there's also the online poll that accompanied an April 5 SF Chronicle story, where 79% of those responding thought that cyclists are to blame for clashes with motorists during Critical Mass. Okay, we really don't know how many of those who responded to that poll live in SF, so that doesn't tell us anything reliable about what city voters think about the bike people. And the question was about Critical Mass, not the standing of the bike people in the hearts and minds of city voters.

My admittedly biased perception---a bias informed by years of observation of the cycling community as individuals and their political behavior as a group---is that not only would Critical Mass be overwhelmingly rejected if city voters ever got a chance to do so, but so would the recent so-called compromise to close part of Golden Gate Park to autos on Saturdays. And city voters would even reject the Bicycle Plan itself in the unlikely event that ambitious plan to remake city streets for cyclists ever found its way onto the ballot in San Francisco. I suspect that most people in SF correctly perceive the bike people as arrogant elitists. That perception will only grow, as Critical Mass continues to happen every month in defiance of public opinion and the public good.

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At 6:04 PM, Anonymous wenk said...

The Bicycle Coalition Questionnaire that you gave response to has some rather specious wording, viz, "An estimated 4% of San Francisco adults (30,000+ people) currently commute regularly by bicycle." Where is this data? (rhetorical question, but hey maybe they go by a different route that no one sees.)

And further, "would you actively support an official city goal that 10% of commute made by bicycle by 2010...?" Does the "Plan" include a fallback for when this fantasy goal is not met? That is, does it budget for reversal of the changes in year 2011 when the bicycle fad is over and nowhere near 10% of the commuters are on bikes?

Or will people be forced to ride bikes to meet the quotas?


At 1:13 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I don't know about the 4% figure, but the Bicycle Plan itself cites a 1997 telephone survey---by David Binder, I believe---that came up with 3.7% of the city's population commuting by bike. Even the Bicycle Plan didn't put too much stock in that survey: "However this was only one survey in 1997, with a sample population of 600 registered voters." (page 1-1, San Francisco Bicycle Plan, 2004). The Plan admits that the 2000 Census is "the most accurate data collected at the national level," and that number is 1.9% of city residents commuting by bike. Even that number seems inflated to me, and 10% by 2010 is nothing but wishful thinking.

"Reversal of changes" once the SFBC and the city take away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes? No, of course not. Once these dumb changes are made, I suspect we'll be stuck with them when the young groovies move on to some other political fad.


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