Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More bike feedback

Robert Hurst writes:
To be more clear about what I think about the dangers of cycling, another quote from the book that got skipped: "In general, people seem to be short on respect for the dangers involved in any of their chosen modes of personal city transportation, whether driving, or walking, or riding a bicycle. It's dangerous out there, period. The difference with bicycling is that it brings long-term health benefits and peace of mind that other forms of transportation can't." That's pretty much the size of it.

Re kids riding to school---I think there is plenty of room to sensibly promote kids riding bikes to school, just like I did. Today about 12% of kids ride or walk to school; 40 years ago it was about 50%. You know how they get there now. The status quo involves constant ferrying of kids all over the place, giving them strange ideas and feelings of entitlement, and then putting them behind the wheel of potentially deadly rolling mass at a very young age. Let's be realistic here, we already have a ton of kids on the streets, careening around wildly. If we could get some of those kids out onto bikes, where they would be far less dangerous to innocent bystanders and themselves, and gaining an appreciation of moving under their own power for a change, the world would be a better place. The kids would be healthier in many ways. Your city would be a better place.

But you're right, traffic is no joke and demands to be taken seriously, even by kids. Which of course could be an argument in favor of teaching them just that in classes or a program of some sort. BTW, I admire anyone who can fight city hall. Keep 'em on their toes.

Anonymous writes:
Hi Rob,
I just read the article in the Depressed Democrat regarding your well-articulated stand on a need for an EIR when a major impact to city traffic circulation is proposed. There is a link from activist, aggressive, bike advocates to redevelopment. If you go to http://completestreets.org/ and I hope you do, you'll see a morphing photo. The photo shows an average suburban street without bike lanes and then morphs into a street with them. What else changes? Buildings miraculously appear where there were none before, although you'll notice that the McDonald's stays the same. The bike people are, mostly, unknowing shock troops for developers who have a 'vision' of high rise buildings in place of low rise existing ones. Surprised at the link? Take a look at the Thunderhead Alliance. A fanatical core bicycle group that formed to influence political and social events across the nation, they have training to teach bike riding storm troopers (heads of bike coalitions) 'tactics' on taking over policy in their communities. This group is financed/directed by Enterprise Community Development, a high density developer that gets money through redevelopment. Rob, take a look at "Redevelopment, the unknown government." A lot of this will be clear to you. We are deeply involved in this issue. If you have a way of contacting me directly without my putting my contact info on the blog, please do so. Thanks.

Rob replies:
If you just send me a message via my email address (rmajora@gmail.com), we can correspond, and I won't publish your address. Your line of thought seems plausible to me, since the bike zealots and the pro-development, pro-highrise "planners"---there's considerable overlap between the two groups---here in SF are allied in support of some awful projects, none of which of course will allow developers to provide enough parking spaces for the thousands of new housing units being promoted. Everyone is supposed to ride an already crowded Muni or bikes! Yikes!

Steve wrote:
Just wanted to let you know that I found your blog interesting. I'm a bike commuter in Florida, and a friend gave me an article from the Wall Street journal to read. It was about how you and the pro-bikers are bickering over bike lanes in SF. I started reading your May 18th blog and thought you spoke quite well about the matter. From what I read, it sounds like you're not so much anti-bike as much as everyone has made you out to be. I agree that SF should do things in the proper order. It's the old house built on a bad foundation theory. Anyways, just wanted to let you know that all bikers aren't calling you nuts. Here's a link to my blog in case you need some easy reading (http://www.webbedtogether.blogspot.com/). Have a great day. BTW have you seen how many hits you have on your blogger profile?

Jim Nelson wrote:
Hi Rob,
I read the article in the Wall Street Journal and what you are attempting to do in San Francisco and I just wanted to say thanks. I live in Minnesota, and the last thing I want to see here is a bunch of expensive road construction and rerouting of lanes just to accommodate bikes. What San Francisco does will eventually reach here.

I just returned from Boulder CO where they take their biking very seriously. I certainly did spend more time in traffic because of the many and confusing bike lanes, but more important I felt it was dangerous trying to drive and avoid the bikers. Bikers feel empowered in Boulder and therefore they also seem to be immune from normal traffic laws which appears to be their birthright. It was annoying, confusing and stupid. And all because the city appeases a small percentage of people that ride bikes for transportation.

I am not really sure how to solve the bike problem. I want bikers to be able to bike safely but the primary purpose of roads is to accommodate automobiles. Cities just aren’t constructed to accommodate bikes. Automobile use is growing not shrinking. Thanks again. I really do appreciate your efforts.

Kim writes:
Noticed in a recent sfbg that steven t jones was headed East for the Dem convention and for B'Man. Whoopie...Only he isn't headed that way on a green, sustainable bicycle, jones has rented a Chevy Impala (not even an economy car!). If there is anything that could be called a paen to the internal combustion engine it would be Burning Man! The people there would all be dead if the gasoline needed to run the air conditioners and to get them out of Black Rock suddenly disappeared.

Rob responds:
How true. It's also worth noting that the main means of transportation at Burning Man are bicycles. After Jonesy and all the other burners come back to SF when the event is over, they wonder, Why can't the city be more like Burning Man? Why can't everyone just ride bikes like they do in the desert?

Brian writes from the Mission district:
Keep up the good work!

Bike free writes:
wow you suck!

Ted writes:
People who accept the Green movement as theology (believing firmly in something without accepting, reviewing or even knowing any scientific evidence) are full of pomp and are generally anarchists. In my opinion it is dangerous. I consider these believers in the religion of Green to have no faith in humanity therefore people must be forced into submission, even though many of these advocates never bother to do objective scientific research on their positions. They usually just feel very strongly about something or they eat what others feed them, like Al Gore. Still, I believe cars are damaging our country. I believe a combination of rail and other forms of transportation (including bikes) can help us travel more efficiently. The resources automobiles consume and the out of pocket expense for the average American family justify revisiting our overall transportation. Also, many people die in cars because human error is always a factor. Having lived abroad for about 13 months in Japan, I learned that not owning a car was like having a monkey off my back. The Japanese transportation system is incredible, and it inspired me to rethink how we Americans get around if we applied ourselves to improving the status quo. Although I applaud your efforts to stop the Greenies from throwing another wrench in the system we all live in, I do believe that there is credence in exploring a long-term answer to the crisis that is the never-ending increase in automobiles being placed on the road.

Peter writes:
Hi, i found your blog via the Wall Street Journal, and must congratulate you on being a major source of global warming yourself. The hot air coming outof your fat face has caused more of an adverse effect than anything the cyclists will ever do. I'd figure you didn't have many friends when you started this, but am sure that you will end up with fewer after it. Your name is becoming infamous in the cycling community. I hope you are proud of your achievement. Your reasons for requesting an Environmental Impact Report have no motivation in your personal regard for the environment, just your dislike of cyclists. No, by the same logic, i could easily follow you around and call the cops every time you jay-walk, not because i care about that law, but more for my personal dislike towards you. The thing is, that would be petty, a waste of my time, and would require me to spend my time in sight of your odious presence.
(with a distinct lack of ) Regards

Rob replies:
"Your name is becoming infamous in the cycling community. I hope you are proud of your achievement." If I thought that the kind of feedback I get from nasty twits like you is really representative of the "cycling community"---and I don't think it is---yes, I would be pleased to be infamous.

Michael writes:
We "don't know" that bikes have a smaller carbon footprint? You really must be an idiot or a fool. "We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once." (Nietzsche)

Rob replies:
Oh Michael, does this mean you won't dance with me?

Ian writes:
...keep up the good work, this bike mania is infectous & the politicians cave to a few loudmouths. good luck with it. they do NEED an impact review.
yours in the struggle Non nobis solum

Paul Roscelli writes:
Hey I saw the article on you in the WSJ today. Suffice it to say, while i disagree on virtually all your other positions ( i looked you up on the web) you are so right on when it comes the the issue of bikes. Good for you. I would like to donate to your campaign, despite our differences.

Jimmy writes:
I just about how such a pathetic loser you are in the WSJ & Chronicle. Too bad it's too late for you to get a real life.

Anonymous writes:
Mr. Anderson,
Why eliminate bicycle lanes? Looking at your mug here, you could use some time on a bicycle and less time in the car. You appear to be about 20 lbs overweight. Heart disease is no fun.

Anonymous writes:
kudos to you for doing what you can to make our roads safe from stupid bikers! since you already have an attorney on your side, can you please find out what law exempts bikers from having any kind of licensing/identification so we drivers can identify their sorry butts when they refuse to follow the rules of the road. i think they should have to wear something big and easy-to-read, something like a jersey they are legally required to wear that identifies them as easily and uniquely as car license plates identify cars. only, because they zip in and out of traffic so much, the letters would have to be easy to read day AND night AND fog AND rain. the licensing would cost money, since all those bike lanes aren't cheap. there'd have to be a very stiff penalty for not being "licensed" and an even higher one for things like letting another biker use their "license" instead of getting their own. no more freebies for bikers!! no more wanton lawlessness because they can't be identified!!i am sick to death of bikers acting like stupid frat boys when it comes to the serious business of being on america's roads! they don't want to *share* the road, they want to *take over* the roads, and run everyone else *off* the roads we drivers pay for!!thank you for fighting for reason and sanity.

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At 11:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For Jim Nelson of Minnesota, visitor to Boulder:

Hey, I'd like to see the private automobile continue to be a viable means of transportation despite the obviously rapid growing national and world population. I figure that development of bike lanes and other related infrastructure is at least a very significant part of allowing private motor vehicles to do just that.

There's only so many square miles available in any given city for streets and roads. When those fill up with cars, some other way has to be devised to move people about, such as very expensive bus and light rail systems. And then..there's the bicycle. Just paint off 6' to the side of roadways, narrowing main traffic lanes somewhat, and a relatively inexpensive relief valve for overburdened traffic infrastructure has been created.

Here's a little hypothesis that seems as though it could be valid:

4-6 bikes on the road makes room for an additional car on the road. 4-6 people commuting by bike, that formerly were commuting by private car (SOV's), make room for 16-24 more people riding bikes for their commute.

Jim, one of your closing remarks was "Automobile use is growing not shrinking.". Exactly the same observation applies to bicycles.

wsbob/ Beaverton, Oregon

At 7:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What bothers me most about my fellow cyclists is how they go through red lights. Who do you think you are?

At 8:27 AM, Anonymous Andrew Sherman said...

Why are you wasting your life fighting for a worthless cause; obstructing bicycle friendly and pro-density urban development. In all honesty it would be wonderful to see you take all that passion and hard work you put into tearing down into building a legacy that really mattered.

At 9:00 AM, Anonymous jm said...

I just heard about this guy in the Wall Street Journal. What a stick in the mud!

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I'm not "tearing down" anything. All I'm saying is that SF has to be very careful if/when it redesigns our streets, otherwise we will make traffic worse than it has to be.

Interesting, Andrew, that you link bicycles and "density" development. As one of my correspondents in the blog post points, there's a close relationship between the bike people and those pushing to radically increase population density in our cities. In SF the SF Bicycle Coalition supports the awful new Octavia Blvd., which now brings more than 45,000 cars a day through the heart of the Hayes Valley neighorhood. They also support the Planning Dept.'s awful Market/Octavia Plan, which will bring 10,000 new residents into that area. The "smart growth" and "new urbanism" folks and the bike people are unable to square their theory with the everyday realities the city is facing on our streets. Muni is already crowded, and the M/O Plan prevents developers from providing adequate parking spaces for the 6,000 new market-rate housing units it's encouraging. Those thousands of new residents are supposedly going to ride Muni and/or bikes!

At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want to say that I support your views on bicycles and bike lanes.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger yoshi said...

For Jim Nelson of Minnesota, visitor to Boulder:

Where in Minnesota do you live? In Minneapolis there are bike lanes everywhere that usually follow bus lanes. There are dedicated bike lanes following train tracks. Minneapolis is a bike heavy city but the bike lanes do not take up a car lane nor impact car traffic. So hate to break it to you - what you are so irrationally afraid of is already here.

Also - I used to live in Boulder - Boulder is not a car heavy city and not even close as San Francisco in terms of density. So I have no idea what your "conclusion" of "idling" is based on.

At 8:47 PM, Blogger Kansas City Watcher said...

Just read the WSJ article. Wonderful!

I'm all for people biking where practical (I live north of San Diego and I just can't manage all the hills). And I'm all for bike lanes where practical (quite a few where I live).

But many cyclists have adopted an attitude that one might associate with religious zealots.

Why do so many people feel compelled to control the lives of others?

At 9:17 PM, Blogger elia said...

In response to the Wall Street Journal Article:

Dear Rob, your trying to argue that adding bike lanes will slow traffic. After being broad sided by an F-350 traveling 20 mph who claimed they did not see me while riding with a neon construction workers fest, I know ride legally in the lane of traffic when there is now bike lane to prevent being destroyed by divers who cannot share a lane. With no bike lane a bicyclist can ride as far to the right as safe and practicable, that means at easily 5 feet from the parked cars when then means taking away a lane of travel. I am never sharing a lane with a car again as they cannot share safely.

You complain about bicyclist almost being hitting you. How many cars almost hit you? How many cars kill pedestrians and how many bicyclist hit pedestrians? Thanks for wasting tax payer dollars for an EIR, but at least it will be fun reading some good facts on the matter.


At 11:28 PM, Blogger Benjamin Random said...

I am a cyclist in SF and decided to read what you have to say since your name is so reviled within the cycling community. "Who is this nut?" I asked myself; and now I know. You sound legitimate but your actions are unforgivable. I find your judgment of cyclists is without understanding.

You ask, 'why is it that cyclists are such a lawless group? What gives them the right to demand others get out of their way?' Well, a simple examination of the way our traffic systems are organized will answer that question. They are decidedly skewed towards the automobile! Not surprising is it, since America has been trying the great automobile experiment for some time now.

Well, that experiment has failed. Traffic will get worse with or without cyclists. Society has discovered what value can be had when the ability to traverse distance at will is close at hand. Unfortunately, many are unwilling to acknowledge the side effects of traversing that distance with a car; noise, pollution, danger, traffic, anger, and foreign energy dependence. So many drive on, unable to see an alternative in this competitive society.

What used to be high density neighborhoods are now considered low density, not because the density changed, but because there are more of us and we want to go farther in a day. We've had our drink from the goblet of movement and don't want to give it up.

Bicycles are here to help. We can close the distance between transit and home with a bicycle. There is a problem, though... traffic systems designed for cars, not bicycles, block the way. For a cyclist under their own power does not move like a car, does not pose the same threat as a car, and should not be ruled like a car. Traffic systems designed for bicycles would be a wonderful boon for a return to community values and should be embraced. Let us toss away the habit of driving to the grocery store and instead find our groceries and meats within a few blocks of our home. We can do this, but only with bicycle friendly cities, where people can traverse significant distance in bicycle oriented transportation networks to reap the rewards of distance between density.

Please, Mr. Anderson, set aside your personal grudge with whichever cyclist it was that surprised you one day. Or was the offense greater? Did a cyclist collide with you or someone you care about? Consider what would have happened if that collision had been with a driver behind the wheel of a Honda, or worse. Consider the benefits that a cycling populace would have and embrace that.

I look forward to taking a leisurely bicycle with you ride down JFK Drive. It's heartening to discover how lovely a road can be when freed of automotive insanity.

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

This is the same old crap I've been responding to for years, Benjamin. I understand that you're coming late to the party, but your comment contains the same misunderstandings and half-baked notions shared by every other smug, poorly-informed cyclist in SF.

You claim that the American "experiment" with the automobile has "failed," that "traffic will get worse with or without cyclists." In fact the recent spike in oil prices has already thinned out traffic significantly; people are already changing the way they move around and are relying less on their cars. And, increasingly, the cars we all drive will be high-mileage machines powered by other than fossil fuel. What will become of the great anti-car movement when all the cars, trucks, and buses in the country are not using fossil fuel?

You conclude with a dumb analysis of my motives. I've heard all this before, Ben, and it's witless and irrelevant. Regardless of what you bike nuts think my motivations are, the city still has to do an environmental review of the 500-page Bicycle Plan. That's what both the law and common sense require, and that is in fact what the city is now doing. Eventually, they will complete that review, and we will then have something specific to discuss.

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

Obviously this has been receiving quite a bit of attention given the recent WSJ story. I'm curious about the specific provisions of California's EQA and how it is similar or how it differs with NEPA in this context.

The other thing I'm curious about is whether or not the San Francisco Bike Plan is a state-funded or locally-funded study. If there are no state funds, then why would it be subject to state regulation of environmental impacts? I know that it's actually different in other states, and I haven't been able to find references anywhere online. Are there links available to the legal briefs that have been filed by either party in the case?

At 10:40 AM, Blogger slightly-less-random said...

Rob, you obviously have fallen into the same trap as many self described clear thinking (and arrogant) people. The line of reasoning is like this: "We have problems with cars now, but we don't need to worry about them because the government and companies making cars will save us with high-mileage products."

Well, they might. Or they might not. Why might they not? Because they cannot. It is true that there are many efforts underway to bring high-mileage cars into the marketplace. Let's look at what we must achieve, though, before deciding what it means to be high-mileage.

As a race we must reduce our pollution; first stop the growth, then reduce back to 1990 levels (Kyoto, although many scientists agree even this isn't enough). Not all of our activities can be changed, so we need to look at what can be changed. That means reducing automotive pollution nearly 10 fold. And in very little time; 50 years is too long.

Are hybrids going to solve our problems? No, they won't - they are only twice as efficient as current cars, not even remotely good enough. So how about all electric? Some fun cars are coming into the market reaching the 90% efficiency range; but even those are not good enough because all that power must come from somewhere.

So let's look at other ways of improving efficiency; let's reduce the weight of a car down to 500lbs, lets put it on thin tires, and lets streamline every car (think wheel covers mandated by law). Well now we're almost good enough. But there's a problem; all those gas guzzling beasts still on the road, and not leaving for another 15 years.

So, high mileage cars are not going to save the day. You can wish for a silver bullet, but even if one arrives it won't be seriously at work for another 20 years; much too long for us, I'm afraid. By then we'll be well into waging war against our own environment, deploying carbon dioxide scrubbers in our back yards and trying to feed ourselves in a collapsing economy. Or maybe we'll get lucky; but remember, one can't plan luck.

You can write me off as another global warming kook. There's nothing to it, after all, just a bunch of people running around with their heads cut off. Well, it can be hard to decide who is best at predicting the future. This much I certainly admit. I was in BC when the pine beetle epidemic started to happen; scientists knew about it, were collecting the data, and were telling anyone who would listen that this thing was going to destroy many lives. Well, people didn't listen; after all, just some scientists with a bunch of clipboards that don't know anything about business.

They were right. Because we did nothing to stop it, the pine beetle has wiped out massive swaths of forest in BC. It is an economic tragedy that is just getting started but has already destroyed the lives of many tens of thousands of people. This is just a warning; global warming promises to do this to us all.

I look forward to ensuring every change the city wishes to make for the sake of automobiles being subjected to a thorough environmental review.

At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benjamin Random,

We are really just moving back to the way things were before WWII. Bikes and transit were major modes of transportation if you wanted to get anywhere further than walking distance. At least they did until the automobile industry conspired to get a car in every garage and converted our public streets to serve their interests instead of the public good.

Remember it was a conspiracy of automobile interests which bought up and dismantled much of the country's transit infrastructure. East Bay commuters used to have a choice crossing the Bay Bridge, and overwhelmingly they choose the Key System which carried more commuters on Two Tracks than all the auto lanes combined. That choice was taken away auto-interests to force car dependance. That mistake was quickly evident, so much so it forced the creation of BART to fix a problem created by the auto industry.

We've spent decades subsiding cars despite mounting evidence of how impractical car dependance is and it's about time we go back to a more balanced approach. Like we did in the days of private transit.

At 1:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Living out here in Beaverton, Oregon, I can't offer much of comment about the wisdom of SF's city plans (is this the M/O Plan?) supporting population density with a reduction in parking availability, since I don't have any familiarity with it.

In general though, encouraging people to rely less on personal cars to get around seems like an excellent idea. That, rather than a co-ordinated effort by what Rob Anderson generally refers to in a sloppy effort as the "bike people" (I wish he wouldn't do that, because it's probably not working in the interest of a constructive discussion), and high population density interests to be anti-car, is more likely to be the idea behind SF's city plan.

I don't see the personal car going away, probably ever, as long as some form of energy can be devised to power them. As long as this is possible, in settings where personal cars are encouraged and supported as the primary means of transportation throughout a city, city streets are likely to fill to capacity with them, just as they did when gasoline was cheap and readily available.

Bike lanes in cities are not only not a hindrance to motor vehicle traffic, they're actually an essential lifeline to the viability of motor vehicles in cities faced with increased population.

wsbob/beaverton ore

At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Car-sharing programs offer a cheeper alternative to the privately owned cars. The car will never go away for all kinds of reasons, but living in an urban neighborhood where just about everything I need to do on a daily basis is a walk or Muni ride, I only need a car once every few weeks.

I drive so infrequently, it wouldn't be cost effective for me to own my own car, but Zip Car has a lot just down the street from me. I can check out a car anytime like renting a movie.

A lot of new buildings are including car share parking, I think it might be a requirement now.

At 4:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was one of the callers to National Public Radio's airing of cycling issues on which Rob was a "guest" on Talk of the Nation. First, I find, on the surface, that Rob Anderson's views are acutely inconsistent. He fully accepted an environmental impact study as proper for his neighborhood street redesign, yet he scoffed at the work of "experts" that look at actual data. Since impact studies are done by experts, engineers and scientists, they are of equivalent validity to traffic studies. Looking deeper hlwever, Mr. Anderson is actually consistent with an underlining pattern, and that is obstruct and only accept what fits what he believes is "fact". Hopefully S. F. District 5 will not wind up living with such a case.

Please browse to npr.org and search for "Car Vs. Cyclist" (Blog of the Nation) for more comments vis-a-vis the TotN program.

At 4:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Rob thinks SF traffic is bad now, he should consider what it would be like when all those cyclists are in cars after he finishes obstructing cycling.


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