Monday, July 09, 2007

Steve Jones: Fighting "Death Monsters"

The bike people in SF are annoyed when I call them "bike nuts," which is really only a term accurately descriptive of those in the grip of BikeThink, the ideology of bikes.

But they too are developing terminology that more accurately reflects their agenda. For these folks, it's not just about encouraging cycling as an alternative transportation "mode"; it's about demonizing cars and trying to make it as difficult and expensive as possible to drive in San Francisco. 

The Bay Guardian's Steve Jones---a card-carrying bike nut of long standing---gives currency to the BikeThink term for cars---"Death Monsters." Jonesy's lament about the dangers for cyclists at the Masonic/Fell Street intersection is preposterous, much like the mythology about the Market/Octavia intersection and the ridiculous right-turn ban there.

As long as they share the streets of the city with motor vehicles---that is, forever---it's always going to be more or less dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists on the streets of the city

The Masonic/Fell intersection is no different than hundreds of other intersections in the city where cars turn from one street to another and where pedestrians and cyclists have to be wary of motorists. The only difference is that drivers traveling on the one-way, west-bound Fell Street are traveling faster than on other streets, which means cyclists and pedestrians have to be even more careful when crossing that intersection.[Later: It turns out that the number of accidents at this intersection has been remarkably consistent over the years, with only occasional spikes.]

"After getting word of a rash of bicycle-and-pedestrian-versus-car accidents at the Masonic-Fell intersection in recent months..." Exactly how many accidents did this "rash" represent? Jones doesn't really know, since, when he asked MTA for accident numbers for the intersection, he was annoyed that they didn't drop everything to provide him with the information:

Maybe Mirkarimi will spark a change, or maybe the MTA will just keep doing what it's always done: plod along at a bureaucratic pace with tools ill suited to an evolving world that must do more to facilitate walking and bicycling as safe, attractive transportation options, even if that means delaying the death monsters.

An "evolving world"? The assumption by the bike people is that they represent the future, that riding a bike in an American city is somehow the next step on the evolutionary ladder.

This bulletin just in: "Death Monsters," aka automobiles, are here to stay, and riding a bike in the city---any American city---is not a good Darwinian survival strategy.

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At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love how you've seamlessly worked the old standbys of time-tested, focus-grouped GOP rhetoric into your posts. with a san francisco twist, of course.

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I notice that you, like a lot of my critics, are "anonymous." I notice too that your comment contains no specific examples of my alleged "GOP rhetoric," probably because there isn't any. I'm a registered Democrat and have never voted for a Republican in my life.

At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, Good opinion article. I agree with you 100%. Labelling cars as "Death Monsters" doesn't accomplish anything.

What everyone seems to be ignoring is that bicyles are vehicles. If a bicyclist wants to cross a an intersection by using the pedestrian crossing, the biker *must* *dismount* *the* *bike* to legally cross.

What's so hard about that? I do it all the time on my bike.

Its when bicyclists use pedestrian crossings to cross streets at 10-25mph that bikes / left turning cars get into accidents. Well, no kidding, its a pedestrian crosswalk, not a 10 - 15 mph bike crossing!!!

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even registered Democrats will sometimes use GOP-style rhetoric.

-Gregory William Rodgers

At 5:47 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Okay, you've dealt with the anonymity issue. Now all you have to do is cite some "GOP-style rhetoric." Actually, I don't think the bike issue is easily reduced to Republican/Democrat political categories, though in SF the bike people tend to be on the left of the political spectrum.

At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only difference is that drivers traveling on the one-way, west-bound Fell St. are traveling at a higher rate of speed than on other streets, which means cyclists and pedestrians have to be even more careful when crossing that intersection.

Or, cars could just slow the fuck down or stop at that turn. The idea is to share the burden of not running people over.

Regarding the "death monsters" - I ride a bike routinely and generally think bikes are a good idea for the city, even for you drivers, and have never called cars death monsters. I'm not 6 years old. When I saw that paint on the path I laughed, because that's what it is: funny. You turned it into political sloganeering.


At 3:05 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Wrong! Steve Jones turned it into political slogan in his Guardian article, to which my post was a response. I don't own a car and take Muni or walk everywhere in the city. Riding a bike in the city is simply too dangerous, no matter how many bike lanes are painted on city streets or how much "traffic calming" the city engineers.

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, your opinion on the Masonic/Fell intersection just doesn't seem very informed. You say "the only difference is that drivers traveling on the one-way, west-bound Fell St. are traveling at a higher rate of speed than on other streets." This is either ignorant or fatuous.

There are manifold, fairly obvious reasons why Masonic/Fell demands special attention, including but not necessarily limited to:

1) Bike traffic is left of car traffic all along Fell, contrary to drivers' expectations.
2) Drivers assume that because Fell is "one-way," they can turn left at Masonic at high speed without watching for oncoming traffic.
3) Since there is no dedicated left-turn lane on Fell @ Masonic, the left-turning drivers feel forced to turn at high speed. This is in contrast to the left turn a few blocks away on Oak @ Baker where there is a dedicated left turn lane.
4) Bike traffic is on a multi-use path separated from the road on the left, thus:
4a) It is impossible for bikers to merge right to bypass or make way for left-turning cars. Drivers courteous enough to use their turn signals correctly are still a help here, but there's precious little the biker can do to make way.
4b) The line of sight between bikers and cars approaching the intersection is blocked by a row of parked cars and bushes.
5) Fell is the primary artery in this part of the City for westbound car traffic. This section of Fell is also the primary artery for westbound bike traffic. It inherently requires special attention.

I can say unequivocally that this is the intersection on my commute that most requires improvement. I'm not saying that the problem with the intersection is the cars or the drivers. The problem is that the intersection is broken. Having a left-turning lane that is to the right of an ongoing lane is stupid. Whether the solution needs to or should favor the existing car traffic or existing bike traffic is debatable. Your position that this needs no special attention is absurd.

Bertrand Russell said "in a man whose reasoning powers are good, fallacious arguments are evidence of bias." Giving your general reasoning powers the benefit of the doubt, your bias in this case is self-evident.

At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are a fucking idiot rob anderson


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