Saturday, June 07, 2008

Steve Jones: Bike guy

The Bay Guardian's Steve Jones writes:
Based on my previous interviews with you, Rob, you are hostile to this group's goals of facilitating a transportation system that relies on automobiles far less than the current system does. That's what makes "car free living" possible, and it's not the same thing as being anti-car. Given the pro-car biases of just about every journalist in town, as well as most elected leaders and the transportation laws as a whole, none of us need to apologize for trying to bring some balance and rationality to the system.

But you, Mr. Troll, don't share these goals, and you regularly express a point-of-view that can only be described as anti-bike, almost neurotically so. I was surprised to see you join this list [] because I didn't think we were having an "open discussion" like some random blog, but a focused newsgroup discussion on how to advance our shared goals and share news that is of common interest. And I don't share Marc's appreciation for the role that you've played in making the bike system considerably less safe in the short term for me and my fellow cyclists, even if it ultimately results in a better plan. So, goodbye and good riddance.

Rob responds:
If you are so concerned about "facilitating a transportation system that relies on automobiles far less," how come you never write about Muni? For sensible people, improving our Muni system, not bikes, is the real alternative to driving a car in the city.

"Just about every journalist in town" has "a pro-car bias"? The opposite is the case. Rachel Gordon of the Chronicle, a former Guardian writer, is clearly pro-bike, though she's skillful at hiding it in her pseudo-objective stories. And Matt Smith of the SF Weekly is a dedicated bike guy, who risks his life every day by riding his bike to work south of Market Street (The Guardian's differences with the Weekly are only about business practices, since there's little difference in political perspective between the two publications). The Examiner has never criticized the bike fantasy editorially and is even running a regular "great bike ride" feature provided by the SF Bicycle Coalition. BeyondChron, Fog City, Left in SF, and every other political blog in the city are all pro-bike.

I'm the only consistent media critic in the city you bike people have
, though Ken Garcia of the Examiner and Matier
& Ross in the Chronicle will occasionally put a stick in your spokes. And "elected leaders" in SF are also pro-car? In fact not a single member of either the Board of Supervisors or the Planning Commission voted against making the Bicycle Plan part of the General Plan---the vote was unanimous on both bodies---even though the city had done no environmental review of that ambitious, 527-page Plan to remake city streets. 

Mayor Newsom, too, has been fully supportive of everything you bike people have asked for, except for his veto of the Healthy Saturdays ordinance a few years ago.

But it seems that the mythology of the city's bike people requires that you see yourselves as some kind of embattled---even oppressed---minority. You folks should drop that pose, since it only makes you look like crybabies. Anyone who's paying attention understands how much political power the bike people really have.

Marc Salomon responded to Steve Jones:
Steve, kindly take care to refrain from twisting and restating my sentiments. I did not write that I "appreciate Anderson's role in making cycling less safe," just acknowledged the fact that Anderson is only relevant here because those whose job it is to make cycling safe left the door open and then yelled at him for driving Mary Miles' car through it, making cycling less safe. Either we learn from the mistakes of the past or we are condemned to repeat them. MTA and SFBC made mistakes. The right to sue government to compel compliance with the law is a good thing. The way government insulates itself from that challenge is to obey the damn law with careful attention to detail. 

The response from supporters of the SFBC on this list when confronted with those historical realities is to attack those who capitalized on those mistakes rather than take steps to ensure that the process faults that led to those mistakes are identified and safeguarded against for the future. The sad part is that the EIR will not result in a better plan because the plan undergoing EIR, contrary to the "outreach" sessions underway by the MTA, has been frozen in granite for a decade now and in the intervening decade, the MTA has yet to start on the 2007 bike plan, not to mention the 2012 bike plan which should be commencing around now. The EIR also won't absolve us of having to do EIRs for certain projects, nor will it obviate the need to get political okay for the removal of auto lanes and parking spots for bike lanes.

From: Rob Anderson
Sent: Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Subject: Troll?
Yes, that's an unfortunate side effect of "open discussion": someone saying something you don't want to hear. How distressing! Maybe Mike can tell us how my comments are not "rational." I'll leave you all alone to your circle-jerk, self-congratulatory "discussion." You might consider, however, how the very existence of this discussion group shows that the city's bicycle movement is in fact as much anti-car as it is pro-bike.

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Small business and bike lanes on Market Street

murphstahoe ( wrote:
"The small businesses on Market Street were on the losing end of this arrogance by the city and the bike people."

Do you have data that they have seen a drop in business? Hard data? Anecdotal data? Or are you just making this up? I'd be satisfied if you even said "I went and talked to the guy at Flax, and Delissio, and they said they are getting hammered due to the parking spots being gone" (assuming you weren't lying about talking to them).

Rob responds:
I haven't polled the many Market Street businesses that protested taking away street parking to make bike lanes between Van Ness and Octavia Blvd. since the city did that in 2006. I did receive an email from a business owner on Market Street last month that said, among other things, "I could certainly attest to the adverse effects that the removal of the parking meters has had on my business."

I did several blog posts on the issue at the time, including one that transcribed the public comments of 18 businesses at the BOS committee meeting where it was accomplished.

Regardless of the merits of the project, the worst thing about it was that it was done quickly at the behest of the mayor's office so that the parking meters would be removed and the bike lanes in place in time for Bike to Work Day that year. Two representatives from DPT said this at the meeting, so the supervisors on that committee---Ma, Mirkarimi, and Dufty---clearly understood that. Only Supervisor Ma expressed any concern about the accelerated process.