Saturday, May 02, 2009

Follia Urbana

Dave sends the article below with a note: "I thought you'd enjoy this article, which paints a picture of what SF may be like in 30 years if the bike crazies and anti-parking activists continue to get their way."
Peter Popham

Rome Notebook: It is quite common to have to drive around for half an hour looking for a scrap of asphalt in which to stuff one's vehicle

Monday, 20 April 2009

Last Wednesday, a few hundred yards from my home in Rome's garden suburb of Garbatella, two men got into an argument over a parking space. The quarrel escalated, both got out of their cars to explain their respective positions, then the younger man drew a knife and stabbed the older three times in the chest. Aldo Murgia, the 44-year-old victim, was taken to hospital but died soon afterwards.

The contretemps, explained as a case of "follia urbana" or urban madness, was particularly sad because Mr Murgia was only a week away from fulfilling his life's ambition: he was bass player in a rock band called Orchydea, a Deep Purple tribute band, and was looking forward to playing in Sicily next week alongside Ian Paice, the real Deep Purple's original drummer. The concert is going ahead anyway, dedicated to his memory.

Reporters in Rome recalled the last such case of "follia urbana" was in 2005 when two drivers vying for one space got into a fight which ended with one shooting the other dead. But the real cause of amazement is that this sort of thing doesn't happen twice a week.

In Rome there are never any parking spaces. Every park-able kerb space, and many where parking is banned, is occupied all the time. It is quite common to have to drive around for half an hour looking for a scrap of asphalt in which to stuff one's vehicle. When the effort ends in failure you double-park, and every day the air is rent by the horns of the cars trapped by double-parkers. It's surprising they don't kill each other, too.

A new report by a national tourism research organisation which canvassed 34,000 tourists on their feelings about Rome identified car chaos as one of their main beefs.

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At 5:01 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

It's already happening. The city is planning to raise parking rates 50 cents per hour - penalizing hard working people who pay more than their fair share already, putting MUNI bus service on their backs.

Damn bus riding freeloaders. At least MUNI is raising their fares, but only trivially and bus service is still massively subsidized by car drivers.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It's not just about money; it's also about dealing with the reality of what's happening on our streets. I just think it's stupid---and damaging to the city's economy---to continue to make it difficult and expensive to drive in SF. For one thing, since tourism is our largest industry, it's self-defeating to make it difficult for tourists to drive on our streets. For another, if you make it difficult for autos to negotiate our streets, you're also going to make it more difficult for Muni, which already has ontime and reliability problems as it is.

At 10:06 PM, Anonymous Conway said...

That article points to an urgent need for controls over the number of autos permitted on city streets.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Life is about choices.

The city made a choice to institute double fines for traffic violations on 19th Avenue. This made it harder on drivers - you couldn't speed or risk a now onerous fine. Per your argument, this would impact the economy.


Fewer Crashes Quite often, a negative impact on the economy is the correct choice.

You think it hurts tourism to make it more expensive and difficult to drive on SF's streets. But note that one of the most successful recent tourist draws was Sunday Streets - which is the antithesis of driving. Tourists were able to easily and safely explore the entire waterfront without a car and it was a huge success.

Frankly, tourists coming to San Francisco pretty much rent a car and park it at the hotel - it's easier to get around without a car. This is actually *great* for the economy - tourists spending money on taxis inserts money into the local economy. Tourists spending money on rental cars and gasoline inserts money into the Japanese and Saudi economies.

One of the biggest daily tourist attractions in San Francisco is a Giants game. The majority of Giants fans arrive via Caltrain, Ferry, MUNI, and BART (not to mention the 100 bikes Kash parks every game). Provide good transit and people will use it. Focusing on cars kicks the problem of providing good transit down the road.

Obligatory Bike-Nut mention - so many of these car driving tourists are renting BIKES once they get to San Francisco that the ferries can't handle the load, Sausalito is trying to figure out where to park all the bikes, and they are overloading the walkway on the GG Bridge. Yet you think improving safety for cyclists will *hurt* tourism.

It just doesn't make sense.

Fire away your ad hominem attack.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I don't approve of speeding or unsafe driving of any kind, which threatens everyone, including pedestrians and other drivers. The crackdown on 19th Avenue is entirely justified. 19th Avenue isn't a typical city street; it's a state highway.

"Frankly, tourists coming to San Francisco pretty much rent a car and park it at the hotel - it's easier to get around without a car."

"Frankly"? Could you provide some evidence for this?

"Provide good transit and people will use it. Focusing on cars kicks the problem of providing good transit down the road."

Muni and cars use the same streets in SF. If you screw up traffic for cars, you're also going to screw up Muni. That's what the DEIR says, for example, about the #43 line on Masonic Ave: take away a traffic lane to make bike lanes and you are going to have "significant unavoidable impacts" on the #43 line.

You mention "overloading the walkway on the GG Bridge," but funny you don't mention how badly many cyclists behave on the bridge, as per the Matier&Ross item this morning.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Evidence? All those people on the F aren't locals going to see the Bush Man.

The badly behaving cyclists are your friends the tourists... Sausalito thinks they are behaving badly too. The complaints stop the second their wallets come out.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I mean let's see some evidence that people rent cars and then park them at their hotels. Of course all the misbehaving cyclists are outsiders.

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

Oh god, not this nonsense about tourists driving cars again, Rob.

We have reached the point where any time you ask us to "show the facts", you are just showing your empty hand. I would hate to see you in a game of poker!

I have yet to meet a European tourist (and they're the ones pumping the most money into our economy) who rented a car in SF. I see them on bicycles and on MUNI all the time. Even American tourists largely don't bother, as driving in the city is a hassle, what with our weird mess of one-way streets and lack of parking. People who come here to visit simply do not drive in the city. Doing so isn't quite as asinine as renting a car to visit Manhattan, but it's up there. It's a fool's errand, yet you keep inveighing on behalf of this mythical motoring tourist class.

Show us the facts, Rob. I want proof that there are hordes of tourists driving around San Francisco who will be horribly inconvenienced every time we prioritize transit, or cycling, or anything that is not single-occupancy vehicle use (the most inefficient, but thankfully most elastic use of our streets).

I rest my case as you won't have a damn thing to quote and we both know it.

At 10:38 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"Of course all the misbehaving cyclists are outsiders."

Check the clip on KTVU tonight. Golden Gate Bridge police stating the primary problem is with tourists, who aren't paying attention, looking at the scenery, and most of them haven't ridden a bike in a very long time.

Note also many photos of people on rental bikes - no helmet. Locals on their own bikes, helmets.

Of course one person interviewed blamed the locals out for training rides - the owner of Blazing Saddles, trying to defend his dopey customers.

And Michael is right, and you are wrong, re:tourists driving around. Most of the US tourists I see have never parallel parked in their lives! They are scared to death of driving in the city. This includes people from far flung destinations like "Cupertino"

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

Actually, murph, the misbehaving cyclists on the bridge are a mixture of tourists and arrogant "roadie" types. I've experienced much more trouble with the latter than the former; it's hard to blame the former for being clueless, and I give them their space so they can enjoy their trip, even if it means me slowing down (*gasp*!) for a moment while I wait to pass them.

It's the yuppies on their $5,000 bikes hurtling down the bridge @ 25MPH and swearing at everyone to get out of their way who cause most of the collisions. I've had my own run-ins with these types. They don't seem to understand that there's a mixture of skill levels (and pedestrians) on the bridge pathway, and just wish everyone would make room for them to train (instead of waiting the requisite 2 miles to go do it on the open road on either end).

Rob (and most of the commenters on SFGate) would probably like to associate that kind of misbehavior with Critical Mass, but the people in question drive their BMWs to the parking lot in order to get on the bridge, and have probably been stuck in more Critical Masses than they've ridden :)

At 9:49 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Why do you think I need to have an opinion about cyclists misbehaving on Golden Gate Bridge? Of course they do, since cyclists misbehave everywhere. So what? Local cyclists wear helmets? Yes, according to the 2007 Citywide Bicycle Counts Report, 72% of the cyclists counted were wearing helmets, but that leaves a substantial minority of 27% who weren't.

You and Michael have made the point about tourists not driving in SF before, but you still have zero evidence for that unlikely claim. On the other hand, one of the few numbers we have is one posted by the Visitors Bureau in 2005: a poll of the 4.5 million people staying in city hotels in 2004 found that 25.8% of them rented cars in SF, which means more than a million visitors in rental cars on the streets of SF. The poll apparently didn't ask the rest of these people how they got here, but I think it's safe to say that few of them rode bikes into the city to stay at our hotels.

At 10:00 AM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

Ah, he quotes something!

So, 25% rented cars. That's a pretty low number, don't you think? In most places that people visit (i.e. not dense, older cities like San Francisco), it would probably be 95% or more. I bet you most of those peoples' rented cars spent most of their time in expensive parking garages, too. It's really not practical to rent a car to be a tourist in SF, especially when the city is small, MUNI goes everywhere, and the parking situation is spotty and expensive.

How much would you like to bet that many of the other 75% probably came in by hotel shuttle, or BART, or bus, or taxi from the airport? Your logic seems to be that if 25% came in by rented car, the other 75% also came in by car, they just didn't report it.

Unimpeachable, as usual.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"a poll of the 4.5 million people staying in city hotels in 2004 found that 25.8% of them rented cars in SF"

In other words the vast majority of them did not rent cars.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes but they could have rented them elsewhere or driven their own cars into the city. In any event, it amounts to 1,250,000 rented cars on city streets every year.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:08 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I offer numbers, and you and Murph offer nothing but bullshit. The poll only said that 25.8% of city hotel guests rented cars, but it's fair to say that many people drive into the city in their own cars, isn't it? Actually, SF isn't a hard city to drive in---yet. But if you bike nuts get your way, it will become a lot harder. Even so 1,250,000 rented cars on our streets is a big number.

At 1:02 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

Rob, you offer numbers that disagree with your entire point, while meanwhile ignoring every bit of anecdotal evidence to the contrary. You've either never left your mother's place and actually spoken to a real tourist (here's a hint: there's tons of them around Alamo Square, just a short walk from McAllister St!), or you are deliberately manufacturing nonsense. Knowing you, I'm inclined to believe the latter.

Tourists, by and large, do not drive to San Francisco. The vast majority of them fly. Many of them (and most importantly, the ones who bring this city the most revenue) are coming from Europe. Those that do rent a car do so at the airport, which would be included in those figures (unless you somehow think they're coming to the city and renting a car once they get here... care to point me to the vast rental lots I'm missing?). So that 25% figure is accurate, in that there isn't some bevy of rental-car-driving tourists that's somehow escaped the census. That count gets nearly all of them.

Second, 1,250,000 sounds like a big scary number until you break it down by how many of them are actually on the street at any particular point. Keep in mind that you quoted figures in a previous post that San Franciscans own just under 500,000 cars. There's your baseline figure of the number of cars likely to be in town on a particular day.

Of the 1,250,000 rentals, most of them are probably here for about 3-7 days. This means that in an average day, rentals are a tiny fraction of the cars on the streets of San Francisco. I would go so far as to say they're a minority, just along the lines of cyclists, who you always like to point out are a minority whenever you whine about the city "redesigning streets to fit a minority".So should we penalize the majority of tourists, who take tour buses, public transit, taxis, or bicycles, in order to benefit a small minority who drive around in a rental? Isn't this exactly what you say San Francisco shouldn't be doing when it comes to another minority of road-way users?

Stop lying with statistics, and cut the hypocrisy. Leave your house, walk up to the park, find the first person speaking French, and ask them how they're getting around town. I'm sure they'll be surprised to find out that all your car advocacy is really on their behalf!

At 1:25 PM, Anonymous Goodplanner said...

Our brilliant transit system makes it tough for tourists to use it.

There is no direct route to the top of Twin Peaks -- using the 37 is a transfer and a 20 minute ride.

There is no direct route from Downtown to the Golden Gate Bridge except for Golden Gate Transit, which isn't allowed to let people make intra-San Francisco trips; instead, tourists have to get on an overcrowded 30, ride for 45 minutes, then transfer to a 28 to get to the Bridge.

There is no service from Downtown directly to the attractions in Golden Gate Park. Transfers are required.

Imagine a radical idea to have an actual direct bus route with limited stops that goes by hotels and attractions without a transfer!

Meanwhile, where is the outrage over driver salaries and work rules? Other government employees are furloughed all over the place. Private sector workers aren't getting pay raises. Yet, no one in the press will ask about the raises and the inane work rules that keep Muni hourly costs so high and increasing! The time has come to take on the union rather than shaking down auto drivers, riders and everyone else to pay for the driver's to have long breaks, bloated overtime pay and pay raises.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"a poll of the 4.5 million people staying in city hotels in 2004 found that 25.8% of them rented cars in SF"

waitaminute. They polled 4.5 million people? I call bullshit on this one. They don't even poll more than a couple of thousand for presidential predictions.

At 2:20 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"a poll of the 4.5 million people staying in city hotels in 2004 found that 25.8% of them rented cars in SF"

Let's take a look.

"4.5 million people stayed in San Francisco hotels in 2005"

4.5 million people were not polled.

"Rental car in San Francisco: 25.8%"
but Rob says "rented cars in SF" and tries to further make his point by saying "Yes but they could have rented them elsewhere"

Faux News would be proud.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You're right, I didn't phrase what the Visitors Bureau reported correctly. What they said is that there were 4.5 million people who stayed in city hotels in 2004, and 25.8% of all city hotel guests rented a car. They didn't say how large their sample was. Their source was a Hotel Guest Survey Report, published by the SFCVB Education & Research Foundation in March, 2005. Still, at least it's a number, unlike you and Michael, who just pull it out of your asses.

Michael: You're an arrogant prick who has no factual basis for anything in your argument. Actual numbers are better than "anecdotal evidence." You mean if I talked to some tourists in my neighborhood the information I gleaned from those conversations would be more reliable than the hotel guest survey? How do the numbers I've provided contradict my point? My point: there are already a lot of vehicles on city streets, including tourists who drive in SF. Why make it more difficult for tourists---tourism is our largest industry---than is necessary? You keep asserting that "tourists do not drive in San Francisco," but you provide no evidence for that assertion. A while back you said you never see rented cars on city streets, which is an absurdity, since there's no way of telling rented cars or the cars that belong to tourists from other cars. According to the Visitors Bureau, 80% of tourists do in fact fly into SF, where many no doubt rent cars, though there are other car rental agencies near the Union Square area.

Let's go over some actual numbers once again. there are 461,797 motor vehicles registered in SF; there are 35,500 motorists who drive into the city every weekday; and there are at least more than a million tourists renting cars driving into the city every year, which doesn't count the many tourists who drive their own cars into the city; and there are 1,000 Muni vehicles on city streets on any given day. Those are actual numbers provided by the Visitors Bureau or MTA. Where's a single "lie" here? Where do your numbers come from? Oh, I forgot: you don't have any numbers to even analyze.

At 3:17 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Actual numbers are better than "anecdotal evidence."

Unless Rob disagrees with the actual numbers - then he goes with his gut.

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

I'm flouncing. This whole conversation is absurd. You are absurd.

Your numbers don't back up your argument (which is that most tourists in SF drive private cars), but since all I bring to the table is evidence of just about every single tourist I have ever met in the city of San Francisco, my actual real-life experience pales in comparison to your numbers which actually state the opposite of your case.

OK Rob, here's a number. 238742634273423. See? You're wrong. QED.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Do you really think most tourists are riding Muni or bicycles? Many no doubt do, but we don't have any numbers to show us how many. Who, for example, do you think is driving into the garage under the Concourse in Golden Gate Park? Where do all the people who park on the roads in Golden Gate Park come from? We don't really know, because we don't have any numbers that tell us that. All we can do is draw conclusions from the numbers we have, which show that many tourists do in fact drive in San Francisco. The notion that your conversations with tourists are a large enough sample to draw conclusions from is ridiculous.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Rob - face it - they aren't coming to San Francisco to go for a drive. "Making it harder" for them to drive will not drive them away (no pun intended). Tearing down the GG Bridge, now that might run them off. Closing Fisherman's Wharf down, sure. But they won't suddenly abandon coming to San Francisco because there are too many bike lanes.

At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The city of Vancouver, Canada is showing they are becoming enlightened. They are proposing giving up 2 lanes out of 6 on a major bridge in the city, to cyclists and pedestrians.

"Speaker after speaker lobbed pot shots at drivers.

"What is so great about cars anyway?" asked Stan Ford, 65, who regularly rides his bike around Vancouver. "They're noisy, smelly and dangerous. No one really likes them." He added: "I can see a big shift coming," and predicted that once life is made easier and safer for cyclists, many drivers will ditch their vehicles and switch to cycling."


Here in SF we need to shut down Market St. to cars too ! It might get you off your fat a$$, Mr. Anderson :-)

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You mean Cars are Bad and Bikes are Good? Now there's an original insight. What are the dollar signs supposed to indicate? That I'm somehow making money as a critic of you bike nuts? And, typical of city progs, the smiley face at the end indicating the passive-aggressive nature of the great bike movement here in Progressive Land.

At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Chenoi said...

Yes, Ive been wondering how much you make in backhanders from the motor vehicle industry.

At 4:02 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It's not enough considering all the stupid messages I get from assholes like you.


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