Monday, April 07, 2008

Rachel Kraai: "I'm considered brave and crazy..."

Below is a transcription of the public comment by the SF Bicycle Coalition's Rachel Kraai before the Board of Supervisors' City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee on April 17, 2006. This is the meeting during which this BOS committee---including Supervisor Mirkarimi---voted to implement part of the Bicycle Plan by eliminating almost all of the street parking on Market Street between Van Ness and Octavia Blvd. to make bike lanes. The committee did this in spite of the vigorous opposition of many small businesses in the area. Adding insult to injury, they rushed it through at the behest of the mayor to get it done in time for Bike to Work Day. The message the SF Bicycle Coalition was sending then and is sending now: the safety of cyclists---as if merely painting bike lanes on Market Street makes it safe---trumps all other considerations on the streets of San Francisco, including the interests of the city's small businesses.

See thisthis and this

Rachel Kraai:

Thank you, Supervisors, for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Rachel Kraai. I am a six-year San Francisco Resident, pedestrian, transit user, and a bicyclist. I'm also the newest staff member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and I'd like to speak as a new staff member. I have a simple point today. I began working at the SFBC over one month ago, and it is astounding. In that time, the number of people that I've spoken to who are interested and passionate about riding bicycles in the city but who are simply scared. We have volunteers, and we even have an intern who comes in for almost one full day a week who does not bike in the city because they're terrified by the prospect of getting on busy city streets where there is not space for them to ride. 

I'm considered brave and crazy by some of these people for going down Market Street to the major economic hub of our city daily. This is an incredible shame in our progressive city. People are blocked from using sustainable transportation to get to the city's major economic hub. To feel safe, these people need a designated space to ride in. The visual distinction of a bike lane is mental as well as physical in making people feel that they belong on the street. Without a bike lane these people feel that the street is for cars only, and the rules of the road belong to cars, not to bicycles. I'm also a resident of the Mission and use Valencia daily. The popular Valencia bike lane is one of the major feeders into this stretch of Market. Valencia serves current and potential bicyclists in the Mission, Glen Park and Noe Valley. In this city, which professes that [inaudible] a sustainable green policy, these current and potential cyclists want a safe way to get to the major economic hub of our city. Thank you.

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At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In your introduction you make it sound like the Bike Coalition is out to get small businesses, but that quote from Rachal Kraai seems very reasonable and doesn't say anything about hurting business.

Drivers do treat Market likes it's for cars, just this morning I saw a car in the center lane honking at the bus that was stopped to let riders off. Market Street has always been the main transit artery of the city and private, and largely single occupant, cars slow down Muni and the F-line.

The small number of parking spaces along Market cannot possibly turn over often enough to have an impact on the businesses that line Market. Despite what business owners might say about parking, their best interest is served by what brings in the most customers.

Parking is one way for customers to get to a business, but once they've parked there's no room for the next driver to park. The busses, trolleys, and taxis flow through and can bring the business a constant stream of customers.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Kraai in fact seems oblivious to the interests of the businesses on Market Street, whereas Leah Shahum, in the link I provided, actually lectures them about their need to accept change---in the form of losing the parking spaces near their businesses! As someone who was once in a storefront business myself, I know how important it is to have parking for your customers. I think these folks have a better sense of their interests than either you or Leah Shahum. It's ridiculous to claim that cars slow down the F-line, since it runs on tracks in the middle of Market. Street.

At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Niobe Lathis said...

I too think Rachel's comments are pretty reasonable. If there's a problem with business it's that a proper dialogue hasn't taken place and the SFBC and small biz on Market simply don't understand each other.

There should be no parking on Market after the Casto - PERIOD. The reason is both to let bikes pass as well as to let Muni flow. After Van Ness, cars other than cabs should also be banned completely. Vans and trucks should be allowed to do loading in off hours.

To make up for the small amount of parking lost, stick a garage on that vacant lot near 12th and Market. That would quadruple the parking for those businesses and everyone goes home happy.

At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" It's ridiculous to claim that cars slow down the F-line, since it runs on tracks in the middle of Market. Street."

Not ridiculous, cars drive in the same lane as the F and get in front of the train.

It can take as little as two-three cars stopped in front of an F to block it from the boarding platform. That makes it take an extra light cycling to get to the platform once the cars have cleared and that slows down service.

You only addressed the F being on tracks, perhaps because you're aware its not the most severely delayed line on Market when compared to the buses. Muni's Transit Effectiveness Project found service on Market runs at less than 7.5mph.

Cars are slowing down Market, it's not a ridiculous claim, it's fact.

How often do parking spaces turn over along Market though? Do the small number of on street parking spaces on Market account for more customer arrivals than transit? Several hundred thousand people use transit along Market each day.

At 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have trouble with the claim that loosing parking would hurt small businesses. The new Bloomingdale's mall opened a couple years ago without adding any new parking and the Fifth & Mission garage is still a ghost town.

There doesn't seem to be a shortage of parking, just a shortage of parking immediately in front of many stores. If people are really dead set on being able to park in front of a store, they should probably try the suburbs and suburban malls where parking is plentiful. They do after all have the car to drive there.

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Right. So the interests of all the small businesses in SF are dismissed with a wave of the hand. Let their customers go to a mall! You bike people are the crudest elitists. The Fifth and Mission garage is quite busy whenever I've been there recently. Of course that garage could never even be built in SF now.

At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed, if someone tried to build that garage today, they'd probably do something stupid like hide all the parking away underground so and make the above ground structure something useful like commercial space. Terrible what this world has come to.

At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If business owners aren't bright enough to run a successful business in San Francisco without parking right outside their establishment, then they're pretty dim and ought to consider getting out of the business they're in.

At 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Agreed, if someone tried to build that garage today, they'd probably do something stupid like hide all the parking away underground..."

Sitting right next to Moscone Center and a block from Powell, a developer would probably want build something which would allow them to cash in on the tens of thousands on conference attendees that walk by daily (the only tenant who really benefits from conferences now is Starbucks) and being only a block away from Powell Station, they have a potential of hundreds of thousands of MUNI and BART riders who already pass through or stop at that station each day.

A hotel seems like the ideal solution since they could tap into conference attendees arriving by BART, or commercial office space since the employees working there could use BART and MUNI letting them build less parking and more usable (read: rentable) office space.


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