Friday, March 04, 2011

The Examiner and the war against cars

Good to see the SF Examiner joining the debate on the nationwide anti-car movement that's being waged by the Obama administration:

The man Obama appointed in 2009 to manage the Department of Transportation is former Illinois Republican Rep. Ray LaHood, who a few months ago promised to put cars and bicycles on “an equal footing” in federal funding decisions. In an October interview, LaHood denigrated the “traditional people in Congress who like the idea that we continue to build roads and bridges and things like that,” as opposed to the “big things” he and Obama support, including enormously expensive forms of government-subsidized mass transit. LaHood has become an outspoken proponent of what rabid environmentalists misleadingly call “livability” (emphasis added).

The Examiner of course is a conservative, anti-Obama newspaper, while I am a Democrat and, for the most part, an Obama supporter. But the anti-car movement is not really a partisan issue, since a lot of Democrats agree with us, especially here in San Francisco, where voters have never had a chance to vote on Critical Mass or the Bicycle Plan. 

Until now the Examiner hasn't joined the battle on the local level, where for years the Bicycle Coalition and City Hall have been waging a war on cars, trying to make it as difficult and expensive as possible to drive in the city, which is a massive inconvenience to most city residents and damaging to the city's economy.

The Examiner's reporters have been telling us about the anti-car war in SF. A couple of years ago reporter Mike Aldax confirmed that implementing the Bicycle Plan is going to screw up traffic and delay Muni on a number of city streets. And last December reporter Will Reisman wrote about how the Bicycle Plan is damaging small businesses on Ocean Avenue. The next important anti-car phase of the Bicycle Plan will be on Cesar Chavez and Masonic Avenue, where the city is determined to screw up traffic and delay Muni lines on behalf of the city's anti-car movement.

The "enormously expensive forms of government-subsidized mass transit" in the Examiner editorial is apparently a reference to the high-speed rail boondoggle favored by the Obama administration---and Senators Boxer and Feinstein and Representative Pelosi. The Examiner needs to join the anti-high-speed rail movement, too, since it's just another front in the anti-car war.

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At 10:47 AM, Blogger Mikesonn said...

Since there isno war on cars. The whole premise of your column is false. And roads don't pave themselves, nor does the gas tax even pay for half of the funding needed, especially at the local level.

Yes, that link is for NYC, but the media there is screaming the sky is falling just as much as you are. I'd love to see the numbers on how much of SF street space has been converted to cycling or transit in the last 5 years, 20 years, etc. I have a strong feeling your hysteria is not founded on facts but hyperbole and an odd hatred for anything bike.

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The premise of your comment is what's false, as I've documented over the years. The war on cars is being waged here in SF by the Bicycle Coalition and City Hall. The Bicycle Coalition has been quite candid about their goal of reducing auto use in SF. And the Obama administration, through Ray LaHood, has been equally candid about trying to get the American people out of their cars.

It's not that "the sky is falling," but that the anti-car movement in SF has been deliberately making it as expensive and difficult as possible to drive in the city. If you would read the links in the item above, you would understand the argument. Like your comments on high-speed rail, you rush to comment on this issue without knowing what you're talking about.

At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been interested in alternative transportation for a long time. I lobbied congress for the creation of bike lanes as part of the original earthday in 1970 . We asked for a ercentage of highway sending to be used to create bike lanes. But specifically so they would not interfere with vehicle traffic. LAtter day bike activists insist on making it a compettion.I'm continually amazed at how politically naive Critical Mass people are. They think blocking traffic will make people want to ride bikes in fact they make people already frustrated hate bicyclists. But it's impossible to talk about this with most of them,they're absurdly self -righteous ,and don;t seem to ever consider that very few commuters can ride bikes to work,wether they want to or not.
That said bikes as part of the overall mix can take some pressure off. Old San Francisco is enough like human scaled European pre car cities that it could be part of the mix-except for the hills. I mean Amsterdam is level. But they cant solve the problems
ne of the things a bout cars is they give one the visceral experience,which is partially real and partially delusional,of personal autonomy. You can go where and when you want,and you can steer and accelerate- that feels like personal power. The illusory part os that comuters are stuck in traffic for many hours,and that;s really a loss of autonomy,as are the costs of maintaining the vehicles,roads,fuel sources. Personally I donlt think Americans will give up their cars until there's 24/7 gridlock,or nothing to burn in them,nor will they vote for mass transit. depsite the fact that in cities that have real mass transit ,like NY,Boston,Toronto, it's so much easier to get on and off trains than to park the choice is simple.
Public investment on mass transit is really expensive. However the true measure of expense has to take into accout public investment in Highways and secure petroleum supplies. Without EIsenhower's Defense Highways Spending act in the 50s there would be no interstate sysetm and trains would have continued to dominate. Of course Trains ran on land granted by the Fed. Gov't to the Railroads. Ths elands were secured by the US military. Fed spending on Military and aid to secure oil sources is crucial to the position of the private car in US economy.
None of this means I support the way SF's anti car crusade,it blames the individual end user for systems set up and maintained on a much broader level.

At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Examiner needs to start printing itself on toilet paper. Then it would be worth something.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Your comment would be worth something if it addressed the substance of the issue.

At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cars are bad. QED. Next! #winning

At 3:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't Forget - SF Bike Party TONIGHT! Hey - Get out of our Way!

At 1:02 PM, Blogger stanleybmanly said...

Regardless of the arguments around these measures, there is undeniable merit to the Examiner's laying these issues before the public at large. There is a decided aroma of stealth to the expanding eruptions of restrictive measures emblazoned on city pavement. For those accustomed to driving the city's streets, the "war against cars" metaphor seems apt and menacing. It is difficult to reconcile drivers ambushed by the abrupt appearance of these restrictions to the idea that these measures aren't implemented through avoiding the inconvenience of open discussion on proposals decidedly unpopular with those who drive.


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