Friday, August 29, 2008

Bicycle Coalition's reminder: Critical Mass today

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition reminds us that today is Critical Mass, an opportunity for city cyclists to screw up traffic for working people trying to get home after working all week. 

The reminder from their online calendar:

Critical Mass *Fri., Aug. 29 6pm, Justin "Pee Wee" Herman Plaza, Market @ Embarcadero
While this ride is not organized nor endorsed by the SFBC, we have a keen interest in happy bicycling every day in San Francisco. To that end, we encourage all participants to ride courteously and respectfully. For more info, see the
Critical Mass website.

Note the asterisk and the hypocritical disclaimer, along with the witless, cutesy "Pee Wee Herman" play on Justin Herman Plaza. The weasly disclaimer:

* Events not officially sponsored or organized by the SFBC are marked with an asterisk. We post events that might be of interest to our SF area members; we do not necessarily endorse any particular group or perspective you may find represented here. Contact us with questions.

That is, "Go out and have fun flouting traffic laws and screwing up city traffic, but if anyone attacks cars or engages in violence, the Bicycle Coalition is not responsible."

In fact the SFBC's executive director, Leah Shahum, had her religious conversion to BikeThink during her first Critical Mass.

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At 10:52 AM, Blogger slightly-less-random said...

The "Critical Manners" event, in which everyone is expected to follow every letter of the law, is also listed on SFBC's calendar, and you don't seem to want to comment on that one. Why is that?

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Because it's nothing but a poorly-attended PR gesture by the bike people to counter all the bad publicity they get from Critical Mass and the bad behavior or many cyclists on city streets

At 1:41 PM, Blogger slightly-less-random said...

Some cyclists' bad behavior can never make up for the bad behavior of some drivers on city streets. A pasty commuter running red lights at 8 mph is one thing, death threats from a hothead behind the wheel of a heavy machinery weapon is something else.

At 2:23 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Typical: changing the subject from the bad behavior of cyclists to that of drivers. Critical Mass is your chance to show your moral superiority over motor vehicle drivers.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger slightly-less-random said...

No, but it is a chance to show superiority over drivers. Morality has nothing to do with it, similar to how morality has nothing to do with war. There's something deeply gratifying about being at the other end of the stick, when 99% of the time cyclists are at the whim of and on guard against any dangerous or vapid drivers.

Thanks for reminding me it was today. I haven't been in over 6 months but today I think I'll go.

At 4:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Rob, our moral superiority comes from riding everyday on a fuel efficient, cheep, and safe form transportation. We're not endangering anyone on our bikes. Where does your moral superiority come from Rob? Does it come from your one man, almost cartoonishly stupid, campaign to make cycling as dangerous as possible?

Why do you have it out for your fellow man?

After all, by riding out bikes to work, we're helping cut down on pollution, wear and tear on the roads, and helping America end it's dependance on mid-east oil. We are helping build a better America. This is where my moral superiority comes from: That some small share of that welfare check you're living off of, is the tax dollars I pay from the money I make a job I get to by bike while you try and stop me. I'm helping you, even though you're trying to hurt me.

That's what makes me* morally superior Mr. Anderson. How are you making the world a better place?

(* Me being a Critical Manners, AIDSRide, and AIDS/LifeCycle cyclist who does not agree with or support the SFBC in any way, follows traffic laws and will not even ride with someone if they are not wearing a helmet)

At 5:10 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Where does your moral superiority come from Rob? Does it come from your one man, almost cartoonishly stupid, campaign to make cycling as dangerous as possible?"

I'm making cycling dangerous by insisting that the city do the sensible---and legal---thing by giving the 500-page Bicycle Plan an environmental review? Your leadership---including Supervisor Mirkarimi and the SF Bicycle Coalition---is responsible for delaying the implementation of the Bicycle Plan when they ignored our warnings three years ago. No one is trying to stop you from buying a bike. You bike people are not only Saving the Planet but you're also Victims!

I'm on "welfare"? Actually, I get a modest amount from social services as official caretaker of my 92-year-old mother, who would cost the city and the state a whole lot more if she had to be institutionalized. Fortunately, I get more signicant help from my family, which understands that I'm the logical choice in the family to care for my mother at this point.

You write like a young person would write about these issues, but, with your passion for doing the Right Thing, I bet you too will be there for your aged parents in their time of need.

More importantly, I don't feel the need to see myself as morally superior to everyone else. You will find very little self-righteousness in my writing, though you will find a lot of scorn and mockery for those of differing views.

Here's the important thing: People of good will can disagree on political issues, large and small. That doesn't mean you can't be mocked by those who disagree with you, as I do you bike people.

At 9:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rob,
I just heard am interview you did on CBC radio Canada and would like to offer you my support. I live in Japan, and ride my bicycle almost every day, and hardly ever wear a helmet, ride on the sidewalks as accepted here, and sometimes cut through red lights. However, I ride my bike because it is fun and convenient.
But, I also drive my car everyday as well and cannot possibly imagine how bad the traffic situation would be if the city started closing road lanes to cars.

What a terrible idea.

Although, I have yet to visit San Francisco, I imagine it to have many similarities to other North American cities.

The "problem" with North American cities is the zoning policies that make it inconvenient to cycle.

Japanese cities are a mixed bag of bungalows, condos, commercial, office, farm, and even light industrially zoned land all mixed together.

Unlike America, property rights are a priority here, meaning you can do on your property as you wish, more or less.

The result is that the cities are very ugly but very "livable."
Often the fastest, easiest way to get somewhere is on bicycle. I do not need to travel across the city to buy some milk or a new TV. There is always a handy shop nearby.

So, my advise to the city of San Francisco is that if they want to encourage people to cycle they need to loosen up zoning laws so that the bicycle becomes the most convenient form of transportation for everyone not just zealots.

Instead of zoning for a few big box retailers zone for smaller shops distributed throughout the city.
Anyway, when one calculates the gas and time needed to drive across the city for shopping, small local shops are more efficient and better for the environment.

If you need to cycle more than 30 min. to get to work, you need to move or get off the road.

At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"an opportunity for city cyclists to screw up traffic for working people trying to get home after working all week."

Your framing is incredible, Rob.

At 1:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not that I believe this will be posted if it actually is moderated, but @ anon:

Having lived in both Japan (chiba / tokyo) and san francisco, you are right, the situation is very different.

However, just because the situation is different does not lend itself to the conclusion that biking should be frowned upon, or your other suggestion, that people should all live IN the city.

Unlike Japan, american cities generally have poor public transportation. And while public transport here is better than most US cities, it is nothing compared to the japanese public transit.

Aside from that, moving into the city is not an option for most. with property here approaching the same price as apartments in the suburbs of tokyo, and the fact that apartments here are exceedingly hard to find, moving into the city isnt always an option.

The idea that everyone should be essentially forced to drive to work is morally reprehensible. It is not only environmentally unsound, it is the least efficient way to promote people getting to work.

The more dense traffic is, the more each car on the road makes a difference. Because, more cars on the road means many things.

First, it means that people will have more traffic when driving to work. That means that people will get worse gas mileage, in general, contributing to a huge amount of waste.

Second, it means more difficulty trying to find parking spaces. This further contributes to the waste of excessive driving. More difficulty finding parking spaces (for all cars, not just suv's) means that people spend more time circling parking lots or blocks looking for a place to park. Again, this means more wasted gasoline and more wasted time.

In the US, the externality nationwide for driving is estimated in the billions.

Indeed, some bicyclists are both rude and irresponsible. That being said, the rude irresponsible bicyclists are much less likely to hurt someone than say, a car. No matter what angle you look at it from. Additionally, while there's obviously no research on it, I would be willing to wager that the likelihood of a driver being irresponsible is much higher than bicyclist.

Whatever though. Rob Anderson, I think you're an excessively irresponsible politician.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I described Critical Mass as "an opportunity for city cyclists to screw up traffic for working people trying to get home after working all week." Anon then writes,"Your framing is incredible, Rob." How would you "frame" Critical Mass?

Here's Supervisor Mirkarimi's interpretation: "Critical Mass gets my support because of the attention they've brought in influencing the City to become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly."

Exactly how alienating city residents stuck in the traffic jams created by Critical Mass helps the city "become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly" is of course unexplained and in fact inexplicable. If anything Critical Mass creates negative opinions of the city's bike people and their cause. And then there are the 40 city cops on overtime who "escort" the scofflaws through city streets in a time of city budget deficits.

At 4:22 PM, Blogger slightly-less-random said...

First of all, you framed cyclists as people without jobs. Well, the vast majority of cycling that I do is getting to and from work. What kind of job? Well, I assure you, Rob Anderson, that I have a job and I make more at my job than you ever have and ever will.

Now, how does Critical Mass bring about change towards a more pedestrian and cyclist friendly city? Without CM to show just how many people are on bikes, the population would never realize what a mass we really are. These days one just has to stand at Market and 6th at 8:30am to appreciate how many cyclists there are, but that wasn't always the case. Once we demonstrated how many of us there are and how much we care about not being run down, things started to change.

It is both wonderful and a pity that cyclists are the new driver. It's wonderful because it means more space in the street and fewer gaseous cars on them. It is a pity that pedestrians feel threatened just the same.

Perhaps some day cyclists and pedestrians will reach an understanding, much as cars and pedestrians have now. Cyclists must learn to always give the right of way to a pedestrian in a marked intersection, and to at least try to avoid a pedestrian darting out in front of a silent bike mid-block.

At 5:03 PM, Anonymous csangler said...

Critical Mass helps the city become more bicycle/pedestrian friendly because it forces auto-drivers to experience what it's like to be at the whim of another moving force. Cyclists and pedestrians, regardless of right-of-way laws, are always at the mercy of automobiles simply because cars are much bigger and if you get hit by one, you are pretty much screwed.


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