Saturday, August 23, 2008

"It's silly to overlook the dangers of cycling..."

It's flattering to get a comment from Robert Hurst, a good writer and a sensible fellow who also happens to be a dedicated bike guy. Hurst corroborates what I've been saying about the dangers involved in cycling, but, not surprisingly, he thinks the risks are worth it:

Interesting to see my book quoted here. I believe it's silly to overlook the dangers of cycling in traffic, and there is a faction of cycling advocates who seem to want to do that. On the other hand, I hope I made clear in my book that the benefits of bicycling far outweigh the risks. Also, I think building a lot of new multi-use paths in SF is a damn good idea. They are extremely useful for transportation purposes.

Not sure what he means by the "multi-use paths," but presumably he simply means "bike lanes." But Hurst agrees with me about doubting the wisdom of encouraging children to ride bikes in city traffic:

While [John]Forester claimed that even children could ride safely on busy streets using the vehicular-cycling principle, our way is unquestionably for adults…The streets demand from us an awareness and maturity that would be very rare in a child.

The city and the SF Bicycle Coalition want to encourage the city's school children to ride their bikes to school, a reckless, irresponsible idea that endangers children and will make the city vulnerable to litigation as soon as the first kid is flattened by a bus while riding a bike to school.

See for example today's story about a "wrongful death" suit filed by the family of the father and his two sons killed by illegal alien and gang member protected by the city against the big bad federales who would have deported him---the bastards!---before he had a chance to kill anybody.

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At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Multi-use path is a term describing a path shared by pedestrians and bikes, like the ones found in the Pan Handle. You're probably not very familiar with planning, but there are other ways to balance transportation needs than just slapping a bike lane on a road.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I stand corrected. But anyone familiar with the city's Bicycle Plan knows that "multi-use paths" is not what it's about. Speaking of "planning," do you think it's a good idea to encourage children to ride bikes in the city?

At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I do think it's a good idea to encourage kids to ride bikes. The weekend road closures in Golden Gate Park provide a good chance to teach kids, in a very beautiful environment, how to ride a bike.

I wish we'd done it more, but the park gave me a place to teach my son how to ride a bike (including the balancing skills and instill in him a love of fitness and physical activity) in a safe space.

On our bikes, I used it as a way to teach him about road safety and traffic laws that apply when he's walking, riding his bike, and for the day he gets his learner's permit. Something that turned out to be really fun was to pretend our bikes were cars and he had to "drive" around following all the traffic laws. His favorite part of that was playing the police office who pulled me over for "speeding" on JFK.

I'm going to guess your next question is whether I think it's responsible to let my son ride around the city on his bike. Yes. While I worry about him, I've taught him how to ride safely, to never ride without a helmet, to be aware of traffic, and he's also not allowed to ride on any major streets and not allowed to go more than few blocks without permission (we're in a very quiet bit of the sunset away from the busy streets where I can let him ride in the street because we don't get much traffic)

And he is more aware of traffic because I taught him to ride a bike. I think that's very important because I'm getting him to be more aware of his surrounding and safety which applies to when he's riding a bike and when he's on foot.

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

As a cyclist, you can do all the right things and still get hit by a drunk driver or someone who simply doesn't see you. Small children should be riding on the sidewalk not on the streets, regardless of how quiet the street is. In any event, it's one thing for you---a very respondible parent---to encourage your son to ride a bike and quite another for city government and the schools, as a matter of policy, encouraging children in, for example, the Mission district to ride bikes to school.

At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Jay Abraham said...

Rob, you wrote "As a cyclist, you can do all the right things and still get hit by a drunk driver or someone who simply doesn't see you."
You're correct, but as you are aware many innocent drivers get killed by drunken drivers every year. The problem isn't the cyclist, it's the drunken driver. Please don't hide behind these facts. Yes cycling does have it's risks, as does walking down the sidewalk and smoking cigarettes.

Kind Regards, Jay

At 12:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Small children *could* ride in groups to school to mitigate the danger. Kind of like a big bus made of kids on bikes, an adult lead rider, and a sweep (another adult riding at the back of the group). I think even drunk drivers would be able to see that.

At 1:11 AM, Anonymous Robert Hurst said...

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.


At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

here are some more quotes from Hurst:

"Contemporary Americans tend to use their cars for almost every trip, no matter how short or insignificant."

"In the one-person-one-car society, it only takes a handful of people to create a bottleneck."

"...[the] fatality stats include accident-prone child and teenaged cyclists..."

"statistically, an hour of driving is almost twice as deadly as an hour of cycling."

At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there, Little Robbie,

Cars are becoming obsolete in town :-)

Biking to work

Gas prices have also driven more people to commute by bike. BART officials report an increase of 10 percent to 15 percent in bicycles aboard trains, and bike racks at stations are fuller than ever. In San Francisco, a traffic count by the Municipal Transportation Authority in July found that during a one-hour stretch of the morning commute, there were more bicycles than cars, taxis, buses and streetcars heading eastbound on Market Street. According to Judson True, an authority spokesman, 509 bike riders were tallied compared with 400 cars, 43 taxis and 30 transit vehicles. On Bike to Work Day in May, he said, officials counted twice as many bikes as motorized vehicles.

"In the Market Street corridor, there's been a significant shift to bicycles for commuting," he said. "I don't think anyone could stand on the sidewalk during the commute and not notice it."

Dan Sankey, 31, a sales manager at Mike's Bikes in San Francisco, has noticed. He pedals to work around 10 a.m. and has noticed a big surge in bike ridership in recent months, far beyond the usual summer increase.

"Now at 10 a.m., Market Street is like rush hour," he said. "And at rush hour, it's nuts. It tends to be raceway."

Bicycles sales have increased slightly, but steadily, he said, and technicians are seeing more riders dragging dusty bikes out of garages and closets, and bringing them into Bay Area bike shops for tuneups. The bike industry has also responded by introducing new lines of bikes, with more racks and storage space, catering to commuters, Sankey said.

Electric bikes, which enjoyed brief popularity in the late '70s and early '80s, are also reappearing, though they're clearly outnumbered by scooters and bicycles.

Bike riders, scooter aficionados and environmentalists are all happy to see the boom, and expect it to continue, despite the cooler, wetter weather ahead.

"They've been doing this for years in Europe. There's no reason the Bay Area can't emulate that," said McAteer. "We don't really see any slowdown coming."

At 1:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in favor of kids riding their bikes to school. Their city streets should be made sufficiently safe to do this. Isn't that part of the idea behind the proposed SF bike plan that Rob Anderson opposes?

wsbob/beaverton, oregon

At 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


As a pedestrian, you can do all the right things and still get hit by a drunk driver or someone who simply doesn't see you.

By your own reasoning, no one should walk anywhere. Is your car obsession so complete you think people shouldn't ride bikes to make room for drunk drivers?

You're priorities are pretty fucked up.

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

NPR had a story this morning on the rising cost of bussing kids to school. The increasing cost of fuel is being passed along to the parents and it's becoming a problem for some to afford.

Or we could make it safer for our kids to ride to school and both save money and keep them active.

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Why not just have them walk to school or take Muni?

At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never been hit by a car while riding a bike. I was hit while walking. (In the crosswalk, with the light) I guess I should just ride everywhere then, right?

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, of course. Then you should take your bikey to bed with you at night, along with your teddy and your banky.

At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I feel sorry for you. You completely made yourself look silly on a national public radio.

I also feel sorry for the citizens of the City of San Francisco, having such a short-sighted person impeding progress.

At 3:48 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Could you be more specific? No, of course you can't. What's really pitiable is making a lame, content-free comment like this and doing it anonymously! What are you afraid of? Whatever the city and the bike people want to do to our streets is by definition "progress"?

At 8:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I also feel sorry for the citizens of the City of San Francisco, having such a short-sighted person impeding progress."

And I wonder if Rob might be inadvertently hurting drivers in his anti-bike crusade. The lack of bike lanes doesn't seem to be preventing people from riding a bike. Just look at the new study that bikes are now more than half the traffic on Market. Were there dedicated bike lanes, all these cyclists could be riding out of the way of cars. But because the city can't add any bike lanes, cyclists have to ride in mixed traffic through much of the city and that means getting in the way of car traffic.

The more bikes are on the road, the harder it is to get around them, the more likely it is drivers will give up and join them.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger John Spragge said...

Rob, I can say it (and I have). Robert Hurst can say it (and he has). Any form of transport out children use involves risks. Cars involve the greatest risks. Riding and cycling, while protecting children from the certainty of the devastating health consequences of an inactive lifestyle, involve minor risk of accidental injury or death. Riding the bus involves little risk of accident, but does involve a sedentary lifestyle. Driving kids in a car exposes them to the worst of both dangers.

You asked why not let the kids walk or take the bus, and I'll give you the same answer I always do, the same answer the numbers give: because it won't make them any safer.

At 6:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The lack of bike lanes doesn't seem to be preventing people from riding a bike."

I have no problems with taking a full lane if there's not bike lane or there isn't enough clearance to ride safely on the edge of the lane. If you'd rather I ride in the traffic lane than in a dedicated right of way, well then that's what I'm going to do.

This guy's probably going to flip out and call me an angry, aggressive bike nut, but I'm a vehicle following traffic laws; my legal right. I'm not the one getting up on the driver's tail, honking and revving my engine just because I want to go faster.


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