Sunday, March 30, 2008

The traffic calmers get excited

This exchange is in response to Group therapy with the bike people.

Anonymous wrote:
After hearing all those cyclists talking about how dangerous it is to use the road, as is their legal right, you still don't seem to take any interest in the safety of your fellow citizens. Are you really so heartless that you cannot take responsibility for your actions and apologize to everyone who's been endangered by your selfish actions? Are you really so delusional to think all these cyclists who's lives are endangered by pro-car, anti-pedestrian, anti-bike laws are going to start kissing your feet for dragging this out and putting them in further danger?

Rob Anderson responds:
Are all you bike people remedial readers? I don't care what you/they think of me, but it's clearly irresponsible of Rachel Kraai to finger me in the audience, given the marginal emotional/intellectual capacities displayed by some of her comrades. What a bunch of crybabies! Anyone who rides a bike in the city has to understand the dangers. Speaking of delusions, the central delusion you folks hold is that somehow riding a bike can ever really be made safe. It's an intrinsically risky way to get around the city. Even so, I don't want to see anyone get hurt, and in fact there's no evidence that anyone has been hurt because of our litigation. That's just hysterical bullshit. I too am a pedestrian, and I feel more threatened by cyclists running through stoplights and stop signs than I do by cars. I'm also a daily rider of Muni, which will be further delayed if you morons get your way on the streets of San Francisco.

Anonymous wrote:
It's a good thing not everyone makes the same kind of generalizations and stereotypes people the way Rob Anderson does. I find it kind of funny that you said this woman fingered you, and lump all cyclists as being delusional, but point out yourself the cyclists at this meeting didn't attack you or whatever it was you were afraid of. You say it's delusional to think cycling could ever be made safe. If I understand this right, cyclists don't feel safe because motorists are not obeying the law and not sharing the road as they are legally obligated to do. Is this correct? If the issue is that motorists are not obeying the laws and endangering cyclists, then isn't this the exact same issue for pedestrians? There are a lot of pedestrian injuries, and fatalities, caused by motorists who are not obeying the traffic rules and hitting pedestrians. Are pedestrians then delusional for ever thinking it would be safe to enter a crosswalk? Separately, what exactly is it that makes cars sacred so cyclists can't share the road with them? Why is this not seen the other way around. Roads are public property that all citizens have access to, but it's the private car that is endangering all other use of this public space. Pedestrians, cyclist, skaters, segways, and wheelchair users would all be much safer if the roads were not being hoarded from everyone so only a slight majority of motorists monopolize it. Even worse is the behavior of motorists who then expect to have their own parking spaces everywhere they go.

Rob Responds:
Yes, I wasn't attacked, no thanks to Rachel Kraai. But it was a real danger, given the ridiculous sense of grievance nurtured by some bike people---a sense of grievance that is actually encouraged by the irresponsible leadership of the SFBC. We know now---the city filed the papers last week---that the city is going to court to try to convince Judge Busch that it needs to do something about the Fell/Masonic intersection Kraai cited. If Kraai knew that was going to happen---and surely she did---her demagoguery the other night is doubly inexcusable. But she was only following the bad example set by her superior, Leah Shahum, executive director of the SFBC, who constantly implies that the injunction is causing unnecessary injury to city cyclists. "If the issue is that motorists are not obeying the laws and endangering cyclists, then isn't this the exact same issue for pedestrians?" Yes and no. Motorists are only part of the problem, since many cyclists are injured in accidents that have nothing to do with other vehicles. And many of the pedestrians injured by autos and Muni vehicles in SF are actually at fault when they cross streets recklessly and illegally. As a pedestrian, I'm wary of both motor traffic and cyclists when I cross the street, since the latter can also be a menace to pedestrians.

murphstahoe wrote:
The barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge is also being held up by an Engineering and Environmental review. In the wake of the accident on the bridge the other day there is a clamor to get it done now, for safety reasons. If the bridge needs a barrier in order to be "safe," how is this different than saying we should improve bike facilities to make cycling more safe. If cycling is so dangerous and driving is not, how did this happen on the bridge to the drivers, next to 1000's of cyclists who suffered no injuries crossing the bridge that day. Perhaps you also believe that the bridge barrier should follow process at the same pace it has been following, that the safety of drivers is not paramount to process, exactly as is the case with the bike plan. Even with a barrier, that incident on the bridge would have been ugly---instead of careening into oncoming traffic, the cars would have careened into the barrier and back into their own lane. Much like there will still be cycling incidents even with better bike lanes. If someone tries to bypass process for the bridge barrier, can we count on you to sue?

Rob Anderson replies:
I don't know anything about the process behind putting a traffic barrier on Golden Gate Bridge, and I haven't heard of any litigation on that issue. Have you? No, you're just desperately looking for an analogy to the Bicycle Plan litigation. "Environmental review" is not the same as litigation. And the bridge directors have an obvious problem with putting a barrier on the bridge: If it's a stationary barrier, how do they adjust the traffic lanes---as they do now with cones---to deal with the different traffic flows during commute hours? You fail to make a convincing argument because you don't really know anything about the barrier process, which I suspect is difficult because of that basic engineering problem. 

Of course I don't claim that driving can't be dangerous, but you bike people get your knickers in a twist when anyone points out the obvious dangers involved in cycling and rush to change the subject to motor vehicles. Why is that? Recall that Bert Hill, a bicycle safety expert who's on the Bicycle Advisory Committee, said in a Chronicle article several years ago that most bike accidents are solo falls that don't involve other vehicles. That is, even if there were no other vehicles on the road, cycling would still be a risky way to get around. The Bicycle Coalition understands this with its campaign for the city to fix the surface of city streets. Potholes can damage a car, but for cyclists they pose a threat of serious injury. The SFBC is fomenting hysteria about the safety of cyclists, but there's no evidence of any increase in accidents and/or injury to cyclists since the injunction against the city in June, 2006. If there is, let's see it.

murphstahoe wrote:
Let me posit this question so perhaps I can see your exact point of view, since I'm new here (to your blog, not SF). You are being attacked as using the lack of an EIR as an end-around to prevent the bike plan from being implemented? Correct? Were the EIR to be completed and the review states that the Bike Plan does not negatively impact the enviroment, would you oppose the implementation of said plan?

Rob Anderson responds:
Yes, you're getting warm, Murph. Why would I want to block the Bicycle Plan? According to a lot of commenters, it's because I don't like cyclists or don't like bikes. One commenter speculated that maybe I didn't get a bike as a kid and have nurtured some deep grievance on the matter ever since. It's simply bad public policy to redesign city streets on behalf of a small minority of citizens---the 2000 Census says that only 1.9% of city residents commute by bike---when 98% drive cars or take Muni. And to do it without doing any environmental review beforehand makes it much worse. Of course the city is going to say in their EIR that it can't have any negative impact on the environment, but they also said that about the 527-page Bicycle Plan before they did any environmental review at all, didn't they? Clearly their judgment on the issue can't be trusted. We will take a close look at the draft environmental review (DEIR) when it comes out later this year. If we have problems with it, we will take it to Judge Busch, who issued the injunction and still has jurisdiction on the matter.

Anonymous wrote:
"there's no evidence of any increase in accidents and/or injury to cyclists since the injunction against the city in June, 2006. If there is, let's see it." I've got to call Bullshit on this one. The question is not whether there has been an increase in bike accidents; the question is which accidents could have been avoided or ameliorated if not for our failure to implement safety measures (i.e.,the bike plan). And most of the danger in SF is not intrinsic to biking (the activity itself), but extrinsic to it; death-dealing cars, buses, and trucks. Why is cycling so much safer in Copenhagen, for example, even though many more people cycle and nobody wears a helmet there? The short answer: bike facilities and traffic calming.

Rob responds:
You can call my statement bullshit, but the burden of proof is on you to back that up. Any assertion that the injunction is responsible for cycling accidents is entirely speculative, since we have no information on that. On the other hand, if the city had followed the law years ago by doing the required EIR on the Bicycle Plan, presumably the Plan would have been implemented by now and all safety concerns addressed. I don't know about Copenhagen, but I do know that there's no reliable data base on cycling accidents in San Francisco, a state of affairs the Bicycle Plan itself mentions (pages 6-12 and 6-13, Framework Document). There is in fact evidence that most cycling accidents have nothing to do with other vehicles: here and here.

murphstahoe wrote:
1) Do you predict the plan will come back as "Bad for the environment"? One can assume you believe that will be the case, otherwise you would not be causing this ruckus. If not, and this is ONLY about process, then you should be causing a ruckus about bridge barriers and the like as well. 2) Is the standard "Has no negative impact on the evironment?" If that is the standard, we should block pretty much everything. My wife is pregnant. If we had an EIR on that, the only conclusion is that no matter how eco-conscious I train the little bugger, my child will have a negative impact on the enviroment just by living. 3) There are some flaws with your stats. Without even claiming that your stats are incorrect, I will claim that they are not meaningful. 

You spend a lot of time whining about Market/Octavia. Only a tiny minority of citizens utilize that intersection---despite the amount of traffic there. Is it bad public policy to focus on that area? There are very few cyclists commuting up Twin Peaks on a daily basis. I rode when I lived on Forest Hill and never saw another cyclist. However, I would not be surprised if 50% of trips on Townsend between Division and Embarcadero are made on bikes. And that road is a nightmare for cyclists AND the many pedestrians who use it (there is no sidewalk so pedestrians, dropped off by the 19, walk in the road. 

Their biggest danger is getting hit by a bike. Now, who is in the wrong? The cyclist in the road where they are legally bound to be, or the pedestrian walking on the road?) The injunction prevents work on corridors where cyclists are NOT a tiny majority. The census data spawning across San Francisco is arbitrary---the national average is lower than SF, the average in the Mission alone is much higher than the citywide average. The argument that the city should not cater to local conditions falls flat---if that were the case then the roads on Mt Davidson should be unpaved since they serve only a couple of people.

Rob responds:
1. It's unlikely we'll object to everything in the EIR, since the 527-page Bicycle Plan involves many different things---and many different streets; the city has listed 56 separate streets/projects that they are studying for the EIR. We'll take a close look at the DEIR when it comes out later this year. If we think there are problems, we'll take our objections to Judge Busch, who makes the final call on its adequacy. I can only "cause a ruckus" about a limited number of issues in SF, and the bridge barrier---assuming a ruckus is justified---isn't one of them.

2. The "negative impact" we're concerned about is making traffic in SF a lot worse than it has to be to cater to a small minority, particularly taking away street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes. If the city hasn't done any serious traffic studies before they recommend doing that, we will object.

3. I'm not the one "whining" about the Market/Octavia intersection; it's the city that's going to court to make even more changes to that intersection. I've simply pointed out that we still haven't seen the evidence that this intersection is a lot more dangerous than others in the city. What we need is a citywide data base on cycling accidents so we can make a proper comparison. It's also counter-intuitive---if you're concerned about traffic in the city---to forbid that easy right turn off Market Street onto the freeway, which would quickly get a lot of cars off the surface streets of the city, instead of making them go all the way to 13th and South Van Ness.

Which "corridors" are you referring to? Hard to respond if you aren't specific. In fact there's not a lot of hard data that tells us how many people ride bikes in the city, by which I mean ride as a serious transportation "mode," not just for weekend recreational rides in Golden Gate Park. The 2000 Census says only 1.9% of city residents commute by bicycle, while the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) says it's only 1%.

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