Saturday, March 03, 2007

Cyclists on city sidewalks

From my Eastbay correspondent:
"Notice how the anti-motoring SFBC is using the sidewalk cycling hazard problem as an opportunity to promote or justify shrinking down streets for bicycle lanes."
Friday, March 2, 2007

Jeanne Lynch didn't see or hear the two bicyclists before they rammed into her, leaving her bruised, cut and needing braces on her neck and left arm. Luckily the 77-year-old senior activist didn't become part of the grim statistic of pedestrians killed by bicyclists in San Francisco. "They just plowed into me from behind and knocked me down,'' she said of the crash that happened a couple of years ago on the sidewalk outside her Richmond District home. "They didn't even stop. They just kept going.''

On Thursday, Lynch joined other activists at a South of Market intersection to demand that bicyclists stay off the sidewalk. "For too long the city has allowed illegal and improper use of its sidewalks,'' said David Grant, executive director of Senior Action Network, which organized the event. "For years, pedestrians have been squeezed, shoved, intimidated and injured by bicyclists and motorists. The sidewalk is a designated walkway, not a parking lot for cars or a bike lane for cyclists.''

Authorities responded with a promise to step up enforcement of the law that prohibits people from riding bikes on the sidewalk. The violation, an infraction, comes with a $138 fine.

"It's a serious problem, especially for seniors,'' said San Francisco police Sgt. Bob Guinan, who heads a traffic squad. He said his officers will start citing people who violate the law, and initially will concentrate their efforts on the Market Street corridor, which is well-traveled by cyclists.

An exception to the no-bike rule is made for children 12 and younger who can ride their two-wheelers on the sidewalk. And cyclists of all ages are allowed on the sidewalk along the Embarcadero closest to the bay.

Since 2000, three pedestrians have been killed by bicycles and more than 20 others have sustained injuries requiring hospitalizations, according to Michael Radetsky, injury-prevention coordinator for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

"We believe there have been many more incidents that haven't been reported,'' Radetsky said. Ruth Lawner, 74, uses a wheelchair and has been hit twice by bicycles -- once in December and again in January, she said. Both times, she said, she was on the sidewalk and the culprits sped away without checking to see if she was all right.

Lawner was not seriously hurt, but on one occasion the cyclist rammed into her motorized wheelchair and knocked out the power, making it difficult to get home. "They are putting people in danger. They menace people in wheelchairs and who use canes and walkers,'' she said.

Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, showed up at Thursday's event to support a crackdown on law-breaking cyclists -- and to push city officials for more bike lanes. "There's a perception that riding on the sidewalk is safer than riding on the street, but for the most part riding on the sidewalks is more dangerous for everyone,'' Thornley said. The bike coalition will work with city officials on a new public awareness campaign called "Sidewalks Are for Pedestrians.''

Bike messenger Paul Nolan rode a half-block down a Market Street sidewalk near Sixth Street Thursday afternoon before parking his cycle to make a delivery. He pedaled down the short stretch of sidewalk to avoid a double-parked truck, he said. "It was that or weave into traffic,'' he said. "And I made sure I was careful.'' 

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Asian Week and ethnic separatism

I've written about AsianWeek before, when the publishers of that periodical complained about Adam Carolla's racist mocking of Asians.

AsianWeek apparently has some racial issues of its own.

But people of Asian ethnic background, whether born in the US or not, need to come to grips with the implications of the very existence of a publication like AsianWeek. Do Asian-Americans believe in assimilation to US society, or do they see themselves as a permanently separate community with different interests than the rest of us? 

When non-Asians look at the English language AsianWeek, all they see are pictures of Asian faces and all they read is supposedly of particular interest to that group, as if Asian-Americans need to define themselves as apart from and different than the rest of US society. But the American ideal is assimilation, not separatism for its ethnic groups.

The matter of city government mandating the continued survival of Japantown is also problematic, since it turns out that the population of ethnic Japanese in that neighborhood is only 10%. That shows that Japanese-Americans are in fact assimilating to US society and that the only reason for trying to "save" Japantown is because it's a good marketing strategy for businesses in the area.

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