Friday, January 09, 2009

Market/Octavia and safety for cyclists

The city will be going to court on January 22 in another attempt to convince Judge Busch to allow it to make a radical change to the Market/Octavia intersection to supposedly make it safer for cyclists, even though Busch rejected the identical proposal last year, when he allowed the city to make changes to the Fell/Masonic intersection. To modify an injunction you have to show the court there's been a change in the facts or the law since the injunction was imposed. Even though the city claims there's an ongoing safety emergency for cyclists at the intersection, it doesn't have the numbers to show that it is more dangerous than other intersections in the city.

Interestingly, the city's traffic engineers have undermined their credibility by arguing the opposite in another case---Margaret Timbrell v. City and County of San Francisco---that the Market/Octavia intersection is in fact safe!

What the city wants to do is so stupid even the SF Bicycle Coalition opposes it (below in italics), though its opposition is based on dubious grounds. The city wants to take away the existing bike lane and force cars and cyclists to share a single lane on Market Street between Pearl Street and Gough Street to eliminate the alleged danger to cyclists when motorists try to make the illegal right-turn onto the freeway. This will be a boon for those passive-aggressive cyclists who enjoy screwing up traffic, though the city is claiming unconvincingly---it's done no traffic studies in the area on the proposal---that this scheme won't have any impact on traffic either on Market Street or nearby streets.

The SFBC's criticism of the city's proposal:

We believe that while MTA might eliminate the bike lane and narrow the remaining single lane, they'll never eliminate bicyclists getting to the right of motor vehicles, whether in the lane itself or on the sidewalk beside it, and the right hook crashes are going to be more cruel and sudden then they are now. Look up and down Market Street for other examples of the "choked" intersection model and how well it forces bikes and motor vehicles to queue up in a single line — of course it doesn't, cyclists filter past cars to the right and left, even if there's only twelve inches to squeeze in.

That is, cyclists aren't going to follow the law anyhow, so why bother? This is reminiscent of the recent proposal to allow cyclists to ignore stop signs: They routinely ignore them now, so why not legitimize their contempt for the traffic laws everyone else has to obey?

The ban on motorists making the easy right turn from Market Street onto the freeway already causes a bottleneck on the streets around 13th and South Van Ness, where motorists trying to get on the freeway are now forced to go. Forcing all motorists to line up single file behind cyclists on a long stretch of Market Street will both enrage drivers---a plus for some cyclists---and make traffic worse for everyone driving down that part of Market Street.

And there's a basic contradiction in the proposal apparently unrecognized by city traffic engineers: Once the bike lane is gone from the Market/Octavia intersection and motorists and cyclists share a single lane on eastbound Market Street, there will be no justification for banning the right turn onto the freeway, since cyclists would presumably no longer be at risk from motor vehicles trying to get on the freeway at that intersection. What all this really means, as the SFBC's statement suggests, is that the biggest safety problem for cyclists is the unsafe practices of many cyclists themselves, not the design of this or any other city intersection.

In fact, even in its offical reports on accidents involving cyclists, the city doesn't tell us who exactly is responsible for all these "collisions," though we are told in the Bicycle Plan's Framework Document that cyclists themselves are often at fault (pages 6-14 through 6-18).

(See also MTA's "2005-2006 San Francisco Bicycle Injury Collision Report" of Feb. 8, 2008; and the "San Francisco 2007 Collision Report" of October 14, 2008. Both documents are available through MTA's website.)

Just as important, the city is again asking the court to give city traffic engineers the authority to do whatever they want to city streets, provided they invoke "public safety" as a justification, which would render moot both CEQA and the massive EIR on the Bicycle Plan. Like the city's proposal for the Market/Octavia intersection, the court also rejected this proposal last year.

The court will also hear arguments on whether the city should be held in contempt for stubbornly refusing to take the invalidated Bicycle Plan legislation out of the General Plan after the court ruled against the city.

Remove Market and Octavia Bike Lane? NO WAY!
On January 22, the city will ask a judge for permission to remove the Market & Octavia Bike Lane. Tell the city 'No Way!' This is a step backwards! The SFMTA wants to remove this bike lane as an 'emergency safety improvement.' Previously, the Planning Department proposed creating a raised and painted bike lane and the SFBC wholeheartedly supported this plan. SFBC staff and members who have been injured at this intersection asked the MTA to abandon their request to remove the bike lane, but the city has chosen to go ahead with this misguided plan anyway.We are urging you to write an email and tell the city 'No Way!' Beyond that, a letter to the editor to the SF Chronicle or The Examiner can also help. Keep checking back here to see what's happening next and you can read more about this Injunction Relief Request and the SFBC's position on removal of the Octavia Market bike lane.

board calls for end of bike lane
Rachel Gordon
Thursday, January 8, 2009

Over the objections of bicycling advocates, including the politically influential San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a city board has endorsed a plan to eliminate a short stretch of the eastbound Market Street bike lane where it crosses Octavia Boulevard---at an on-ramp to the Central Freeway.

The idea is to force cars and cyclists to share a lane. The city's traffic engineer believes that will reduce the likelihood of cars making an illegal right turn onto the freeway and into the path of cyclists.

Drivers aren't used to intersections where right turns aren't allowed, but Octavia and Market is one such intersection. There have been at least 16 collisions there between cars and bicycles since the freeway ramp opened in 2005. The city has erected barriers and posted numerous signs trying to stop drivers from making the turn, but the problem persists.

The single-lane idea was endorsed Tuesday by the governing board of the Municipal Transportation Agency. Although board members were unanimous in their approval, bicyclists are not.

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Stanley Crouch: "Punks with pistols" kill black people

Black intellectual Stanley Crouch calls out the Punks with Guns:

We are also familiar with the pop psychology "explanation" for this violence that is supposed to be a lack of self-esteem. The trouble is that murderers do not kill their victims because of a lack of self-esteem but because they feel that their victims lack the kind of esteem to them that would cause the killers not to shear away their lives. These are basically cowardly people who sneak up on one another and blow away their targets in imitation of Mafia gangsters. Punks with pistols and with shotguns or other heavy personal artillery.

For those who think these knuckleheads are truly rough customers, you may have noticed that, for all of the murder and mayhem caused by the street gangs of Los Angeles over the last three decades, there has not been one serious shootout with the cops, even during the 1992 riot. Talking stuff is one thing but firing a bullet at a man who has been trained to shoot back is another.

Here is a bit more information because James Fox, however up to date, is saying something that we should already have faced in this country but have failed to when the blood sticks to our shoes to the streets.

For instance, street gangs in the black community of Los Angeles have killed off far more black people than white racists did throughout the highest tide of racist murder. Young black men now become killers in turf wars and their targets are the same as white bigots and their resentments are the same. Gang members celebrate the coarse and the common as the "real" qualities of black people who have gone about "keeping it real" and not becoming "sell-outs." We find them consistently hostile to learning and refinement in black people, which is described as "trying to be white." Whatever respect these black gang members achieve in their world is commanded through the same terrorist methods of unapologetic racists or warring Mafia muscleheads—homicide, violence, and intimidation.

The social weight of this attitude is a condition of social terror shocking in its casualties. "Between 1976 and 2004," writes Spelman College historian William Jelani Cobb, "African Americans, who are 13 percent of the population, constituted nearly 47 percent of the homicide cases in the United States." A BET American Gangster episode that focused on Tookie Williams, a founder of the notorious Crips, said that the war with the rival Bloods has murdered nearly 15,000 between the 1970s and today. Since 1980, street gangs have killed 10,000 people in Los Angeles alone. This is three times the number of black people lynched throughout the United States between 1877 and 1900.

That earlier period resulted in the nation's highest number of racial murders, 3,000 victims, usually men. Now the lynchers are black and have replaced hemp with hot lead. As James Ahearn wrote in a sobering story about epidemic gun homicides in the April 11, 2007, edition of The (Bergen) Record, "Typically, shooter and victim are both black, male, young, with arrest records, uneducated, with dim life prospects. The killers act with careless indifference to the enormity of what they have done, or to the likelihood that they in turn will be cut down, in retribution..."

...Lower-class black people may not always know statistics, but they do know that the overwhelming majority of black people who are not economically fortunate do not murder, rape and brutalize other people. The monsters among us are always a decided minority, even within a minority, somewhere just above 1 percent. That is the hardest and most enduring fact, but the one that those who fear being called racist or sellouts never want to hear or look at; a few hard stares might make them realize that true compassion for the oppressed brings with it the courage to call out those who overtly oppress, terrorize. It is too late in the world to put all blame at the feet of "the system." Unfortunately such liberals and compassionate conservatives prefer to think of black people and Hispanics as windup toys who can make no decisions of their own. That is part of the burden and the tragedy of our time...

The complete article