Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Bicycle Coalition, Debra Walker, and Rafael Mandelman: A love story

For some of us, the Bicycle Coalition's political endorsements are more of a warning than a serious recommendation about who to vote for. For this election, they're endorsing/warning us about Debra Walker (District 6) and Rafael Mandelman (District 8), two bike zealots who, in their enthusiastic responses in the Bicycle Coalition's questionnaire, struggle to stay under a 300-word limit.

One of Mandelman's answers barely makes the cut at 294 words, a response that includes a list of a dozen proposals "to decrease auto use" in San Francisco, and Walker provides a 254-word response to another question. The Coalition's questionnaire doesn't set a good example, since one of its "questions"---a passionate mini-essay on the evils of the present level of service ("LOS") standard for measuring traffic congestion---is 242 words long.

Even so they found it necessary to cut a couple of Walker's verbose answers, inserting "response truncated" instead of her verbiage. But hot air is what you get when you ask True Believers about their religion, as both candidates rhapsodize about bikes and eagerly match the Coalition's anti-car zeal.

I've written about Mandelman before. He's the "RoboProg" of this election cycle, that is, he stands out as the most knee-jerk "progressive" candidate in a crowd of prog lemmings.

If you think the monologues by Supervisor Mirkarimi are tedious, wait until these two windbags become supervisors!

Walker assures the bike lobbyists that she's one of them:

I am an avid bicyclist and proudly ride my turquoise, original Specialized Street Stomper, which I've owned since the late 80's. It is my primary mode of transportation. I do not own a car and do not find it necessary in our City. My bicycle has been an essential part of my daily life as well as on my campaign.

I don't find owning a car necessary---or a bike, either. (Nor do I find it necessary to capitalize "city.")

Walker's responses to the Coalition's questions suggest that she doesn't know what she's talking about:

I have spoken out for reform of our CEQA evaluation to include the effects of development on our city, especially as it displaces workforce and workers out of the city, thus contributing to suburban sprawl. I support revamping the criteria as it relates to LOS (level of service) evaluation of impacts of development. Instead of evaluating how development effects congestion (thereby opening the door for wider roads, more car lanes and other private vehicle solutions to counter congestion) we should be looking at the adherence to our Transit First goals as we assess developments.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is displacing workers and "contributing to suburban sprawl"? Hard to say what that can possibly mean, since CEQA is about doing enviromental studies of projects before they are implemented. I don't know of a single project in SF that will result in wider roads or more traffic lanes.

The reality is that it's a zero-sum game on city streets, with any "improvements" for cyclists coming at the expense of drivers and Muni passengers. In fact the city and the Bicycle Coalition want to narrow our streets---taking away existing traffic lanes---to make bike lanes for the bike people.

Walker's muddled response manages to convey her support for LOS "reform," which really means that the bike people want to eliminate it entirely. LOS is now the standard method of measuring traffic density by measuring how long it takes traffic to move through intersections. If the bike lobby can get rid of LOS, they will be able to jam up traffic all over the city without having to pretend to mitigate the effects of removing traffic lanes to make bike lanes.

They prefer the "auto trips generated" (ATG) methodology, which is really no method at all. If you take away traffic lanes to make bike lanes on busy streets, of course you are going to create traffic jams, which is measurable using LOS. ATG simply says that no additional auto trips are "generated" by bike lane projects, even though they jam up existing traffic. Get it?

One oddity is the Bicycle Coalition's endorsement of Carmen Chu (District 4), who isn't a bike person, as her answer to the first question shows: "I am currently learning to ride a bicycle and have used a bicycle for recreational purposes in the park. I primarily drive to work."

Chu gets an endorsement, even though she's unopposed for reelection and not a cyclist---or even a progressive---and only answered a few of the questions on the questionnaire, though she supports Sunday Streets and encouraging the city's children to ride bikes to and from school, which conforms to irresponsible Bicycle Coalition doctrine.

Maybe the Coalition is trying to enlist Chu's support for future use, to be deployed as the Bicycle Plan is implemented on city streets. But it's interesting that she didn't support---"no response given"---plans that the city and the Coalition have to screw up traffic on 2nd St., Cesar Chavez, and Masonic on behalf of cyclists.

The Bicycle Coalition couldn't find a single candidate in District 2 worthy of its endorsement, which is to that district's credit.

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