Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Bike demagogue takes a break

Photo of Michael Helquist from Bike Nopa

Bike Guy Michael Helquist, after working for two years to get the city to screw up Masonic Avenue, is taking a break. Pushing City Hall to redesign Masonic to make it "comfortable" for city cyclists---and jam up traffic for more than 44,000 people who use it every day---is now up to Streetsblog and the Bicycle Coalition.

Helquist provides a retrospective view of his activities:
"Part of my impetus resulted from the initial hesitation of neighborhood leaders to endorse more bike lanes through NOPA in 2009. In that case it was lanes for McAllister and Masonic---proposals that were later dropped from the city's bike plan."
Typical mix of misinformation and lack of information. Which "neighborhood leaders" is he referring to? Hard to think of any that aren't already on board for the Bicycle Plan. And both McAllister and Masonic were in fact in the Plan. McAllister was only proposed for "sharrows," not for taking away street parking or a traffic lane to make bike lanes, since it's only a two-lane street. 

They could have tried to take away all the street parking on McAllister, but, since most of the neighborhood between McCallister and Divisadero is African-American, that would have caused a major row in City Hall. 

Masonic too was in the Plan, but it wasn't put on the list of priority streets at the end of the EIR process, because it was deemed to need more "study"---which probably means City Hall realized it was going to be a major project that would need some pre-emptive community "outreach" to quell any neighborhood opposition:
"a partial re-design of Divisadero that revitalized the corridor"
This is simply untrue. The Divisadero makeover was strictly cosmetic, except for a much-needed repaving of the surface of the street. There was no "re-design," since all the city did was some landscaping and replace the street lights. 

They also put a bulb-out by the bus stops that backs up traffic into the intersection when a #24 bus pulls over. Supervisor Mirkarimi made the same claim about the Divisadero makeover in an attempt to conflate Diviz with what he, the Bicycle Coalition, and Helquist want to do to Masonic, which is a major re-design, since it's going to take away all the street parking to make bike lanes between Fell Street and Geary Blvd:
"a surge of advocacy for a safer approach to Divisadero on the Wiggle bike route"
The militant fringe of the bike movement tried to get City Hall to eliminate the Fell Street entrance to the Arco station at Divisadero and Fell, since the bike lane is on the same side of the street, and cars often block the lane waiting to get into the station. Why not simply put the bike lane on the other side of the street? I've never heard a sensible answer to that question. 

Besides, there's no evidence that the intersection has any more accidents than any other in the area. Even anti-car City Hall refused to submit to that "surge of advocacy," though naturally Mirkarimi supported the idea. 

City Hall understood that if the entrance to the station on Fell Street was eliminated, all that traffic would be re-routed to an already-congested Divisadero:
"a push for a safer Masonic for all road users, a grass-roots campaign that few expected to succeed until last May when the plan cleared a public hearing"
There's no evidence that Masonic is unsafe for anyone now, but that didn't stop Helquist from shamelessly using the death of a cyclist hit by a drunk driver to convince people that some kind of bloodbath is happening on Masonic:
"a vision to transform Fell and Oak between Scott and Baker (and then beyond to Stanyan) for safer transportation with new separated bike routes"
Once Masonic Avenue is screwed up, traffic on Fell and Oak Streets are next on the anti-car agenda, even though cyclists heading to and from the Wiggle can now use Hayes Street and Page Street. It's really all about making it difficult to drive in the city.

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At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you are going to call Helmquist a "Bike Demagogue", you must call yourself a "No bikes demagogue". If you are even remotely intellectually honest.

At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

since most of the neighborhood between McCallister and Divisadero is African-American, that would have caused a major row in City Hall.

cuz ya know, niggers don't ride bikes.

At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why not simply put the bike lane on the other side of the street? I've never heard a sensible answer to that question."

I am an avid cyclist and I have to agree with you here. The bike lane should be on the other side of the street. The argument pursued by the "thinkers" at the SFBC is that the bike lane is on the left because of the path in the panhandle. This is ridiculous.

The bike lane should be on the right side of Fell, and it should continue all the way to Stanyan, by removing a lane of traffic on Fell from Baker to Stanyan.

At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bike lane on other side of street...like I have said before the "true believers" will not move one centimeter from their world view, in particular if Rob suggests it they would never go for it. My SOMA neighborhood is full of true believers who will turn away and walk away if they don't like the conversation they are hearing.

At 8:23 AM, Anonymous bike-nut said...

So you want cyclists to cross the street, ride on the ride, then cross back to get into the panhandle?

That right there is reason NOT to move the lane to the other side. Not hard to understand.

At 9:07 AM, Anonymous bike-nut said...

Clearly I meant, ride on the right then cross back over.

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You assume that most cyclists on Fell Street need to get to the Panhandle. I suspect that just as many are headed for the Hayes Street area as are headed for the Haight or beyond. Anyhow, simply crossing the street is no big deal for anyone. If the city and cyclists want to avoid the conflict with the Arco station, they should put the bike lane on the other side of Fell Street.

At 9:33 AM, Anonymous bike-nut said...

Crossing 3 lanes of very fast moving traffic isn't a big deal? How do you ever find more dirt to dig out of the bottom of the hole you are living in?

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Like everyone else, cyclists should cross busy streets in crosswalks at stop signs and stop lights.

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like everyone else, cyclists should cross busy streets in crosswalks at stop signs

So you are advocating cyclists running over pedestrians?

Seriously - we need to just take a lane from the cars on Fell, from Baker to Stanyan. Then we can move the lane to the right and it will be safer because the cars will be stuck in traffic.

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous anon said...

"Like everyone else, cyclists should cross busy streets in crosswalks at stop signs and stop lights."

The emphasis here should be on the word "crosswalk"--the cyclists would dismount and walk across as a pedestrian; when they are pedaling they are a vehicle and should be ticketed if riding in the crosswalk.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm guessing you really do think Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is "too much of a good thing"

At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So we have to ride one block, get off, walk across, repeat? You've jumped the shark on that one.

Meanwhile in the real world

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think drivers should stop their car, get out, and walk their car across every crossWALK.

At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Your Neighbor said...

Right, because I'm sure nobody rides through the Panhandle to get south of Fell, or anywhere west of Stanyan. You "suspect" that just as many are headed to NOPA, but it's very obvious for anyone that spends time on the Panhandle that it's a major thoroughfare a much, much larger portion of the city. What you "suspect" is just, very obviously and simply, wrong.

Don't believe me? Here's an experiment for you: Go out on Fell street during the evening commute tonight and check out the line of cyclists riding the Fell Street bike lane into the Panhandle. Then try to imagine them riding on the right and stopping at a crosswalk on the northwest corner of any light in order to cross Fell. All of the cyclists who stop to turn would block the bike lane, causing a serious hazard for anyone continuing straight (especially if there are pedestrians in the crosswalk or cars at the limit line), potentially at every single light along the way. Most cyclists traveling straight would be forced into the traffic lane, which would both be dangerous and potentially cause drivers in the north lane to slow or stop, which would seriously impede traffic on Fell.

You are advocating for the creation of an unnecessarily dangerous situation that would make things much worse for everyone, and you're lying when you say that you've never heard a "sensible answer" for why the lane wasn't put on the north side to begin with. Did you try asking anyone from MTA? Would you dare ask a single cyclist (they're pretty easy to come by) whether they think it would be workable? Of course not, because you're not even interested in their opinions. You just know, deep down, somehow, that they're wrong, and you're right! Round and round we go...

At 12:25 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

If the Arco gas station at Divisadero and Fell is such a big problem, then the bike lane would be on the other side of the street. Of course that issue always was more or less bogus, and the city wasn't willing to block the entrance to the gas station on Fell Street in spite of Supervisor Mirkarimi's support for the civil disobedience during those demonstrations.

Any cyclist using Fell Street to go west either lives on the northern side of the Panhandle or the southern side---or further west out into the avenues. How do cyclists now cross the Panhandle? Presumably they do so at stop signs and cross streets.

By the way, I think it's dumb for any cyclist to use either Fell or Oak Streets at all, due to the fast-moving traffic. Why not just use Hayes and/or Page Street to get to and from the Wiggle?

At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Your Neighbor said...

Clearly you didn't read what I just wrote. I personally don't think the Arco gas station is such a problem in and of itself. Some drivers are just assholes, and you learn to deal with that after a while. And I think those kids who laid down in the driveways made the rest of us look like whiny babies: most of us are just trying to get home after a hard day of work, not make some statement about oil wars or whatever.

But you're just ignoring logic if you think the lane would work better on the north side of the street. Read what I just wrote above and think about it. Imagine 10 or 20 cyclists clumping up at a street corner, blocking a crosswalk for pedestrians, preventing drivers from turning right on a red, and forcing other cyclists out into the traffic lane. There's simply no way that it would work, and the MTA knew that when they put the lane down. "How do cyclists now cross the Panhandle?" They go straight through the lights at Baker and Stanyan without any trouble, then they either cross Fell with the help of a green arrow at Shrader or use the crosswalk at Stanyan. And the only reason that works is that all cyclists are continuing straight from that corner, which would not necessarily be the case at any signal along the Panhandle if they had to cross Fell to get onto it.

Just clear your head for a second and try to imagine how it would work. It wouldn't, and the MTA knew it. This has nothing to do with the Arco station; it's just common sense.

I would think it was dumb to ride on Fell if it were actually dangerous, but, as you've pointed out before, very few accidents actually happen there (and the streets are getting safer every day!). Check out the Bay Citizen's map and zoom in on the Panhandle if you don't believe me. I personally think that it's silly for most people to drive a car across town every day when they could be getting some exercise and saving a ton of money on gas and parking, but I also understand drivers' needs and preferences. We all have to coexist out there, and Fell as it is today (while scary for some) works pretty damned well for most of us. I actually don't even agree with the SFBC that a two-way cycle track on Fell is a good idea, probably for some of the same reasons as you.

But look, calling people dumb doesn't solve anything, and neither does suggesting non-solutions like parking lots under Alamo Square and a north-side bike lane on Fell Street. You clearly don't know what you're talking about if you think that either of those is a good idea.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I thought you were on sabbatical to write a book. On Fell Street and Masonic, the whole point of your goofball bicycle "improvements" is to make cyclists "comfortable," in spite of all your lies about the lack of safety on Masonic.

You seem to be arguing that all the cyclists that use Fell are going to the same place. Sooner or later everyone on a bike has to cross the Panhandle. What difference does it make whether they are on the north side of the street or the south side?

At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Your Neighbor said...

Who are you talking to? These aren't "my" improvements. We're talking about Fell Street. There is simply no way that a bike lane on the north side of Fell would work, for exactly the reason you stated: At some point, everyone has to cross the Panhandle. If you put the lane on the north side it creates a potentially hazardous situation for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists at every signal where cyclists might wish to cross.

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to picture what a clusterfuck it would be. But since you're so dense, maybe we can do it together. If a cyclist rides through a green and stops at the northwest corner of Baker so that they can turn left to get into the Panhandle, they have three choices, depending on who's already there:

1) stop in the crosswalk, angering and possibly endangering pedestrians;

2) squeeze in front of or behind one or more cars stopped at the light to maneuver into the right position for going south; or

3) pull in front of the crosswalk, putting them squarely in the way of any right-turning autos and leaving them vulnerable to either other cyclists continuing straight or oncoming traffic on Fell.

Congratulations, you've just created a potential disaster at every single signal between Baker and Stanyan. What is so hard to understand about how much worse this would be? It's like putting a parking lot under Alamo Square: even if you think the surrounding residents would go for it (and you can bet your ass they wouldn't), do you know how expensive it would be? And if it were successful, it would only bring more cars into the neighborhood, which would "jam up traffic". Of course, that's exactly what you'd love, isn't it? Because if traffic got worse you could claim that bikes were to blame, just like you've said all along!

Maybe I should write a book. I think it would be about how old myopic old farts with nothing better to do than sue the city with their lawyer pals and sit at home in their pajamas complaining about bikes are a waste of space at best, and, at worst, a threat to the safety and livelihood of urban communities. It would no doubt do better than your D5 supervisor election bid, and attract more supporters than your phony "coalition" to stop the Bike Plan.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What a windbag! None of your comments address other issues featured in this post: the Big Lie campaign about Masonic Avenue, the Slightly Smaller Lie campaign about a "revitalized" Divisadero, the notion of bike lanes on McAllister, and the city's and the SFBC's lies about the bogus safety emergency at Fell and Masonic.

Maybe you can explain why anyone is even talking about changing Fell and Oak Streets. Still waiting to hear why cyclists to and from the Wiggle can't use Page and Hayes, instead of screwing up Fell and Oak, which combined carry more than 60,000 vehicles a day.

What that's really about: an anti-car plan to fuck with city drivers, since, as you admit, there's no real safety issue with Fell and Oak.

My suggestion about a garage under Alamo Square was tossed off in a response to a comment to this blog, not a proposal that I thought had a real chance of being done. But this neighborhood lacks parking, both for the shops and restaurants on Divisadero and for residents who don't have garages. Of course it would have always been too expensive, unlike the garages under the Civic Center and Union Square, which both could be justified by their contexts.

Speaking of underground garages, how about the garage under the Concourse in Golden Gate Park? Recall that the Bicycle Coalition and all right-thinking city progs opposed that as a desecration and a "privatization" of Golden Gate Park. More significantly to the anti-car bike people, it made it easy for people to visit the park in their motor vehicles, an idea they still hate.

The bike people actually preferred the chronic traffic jams in the middle of the park before the garage, which allowed them to weave in and out of those wicked motor vehicles on their bikes! Take that, "Death Monsters"!

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Your Neighbor said...

I was responding to your claim that "never heard a sensible answer" to the "question" (as if there ever were one) of why the Fell bike lane is on the south side of the street. Why should I bother addressing every single one of your asinine assertions when I can easily point out a few that are obviously bogus?

You've heard from many people (myself included) why cyclists can't—or simply shouldn't be forced to—use Page and Hayes, but let me reiterate them for you one more time:

1) Westbound Page is a big fucking hill, and there's no reason that average commuting cyclists should be expected to have to climb that after a long day at work. You're an asshole to insist otherwise.

2) Hayes is both a short but steep hill north of Fell and inconvenient for most cyclists, since (as we've both pointed out) most aren't going to that neighborhood anyway. Fell is much faster for most people since it drops them right onto the Panhandle, which, with the exception of Masonic, is stop sign free (so people can get home more quickly) and separated from traffic (so it's safer and more pleasant to ride on).

The thing is, you don't care about anyone who rides a bike, so you can't empathize with any of these reasons. Most cyclists accept the brief and mild unpleasantness of riding alongside the urban freeway that is Fell street for 3 blocks because it means that they can get home more quickly—you know, so that they can spend more time with their friends and loved ones. There is no evidence that traffic on Fell Street has been "jammed up" by the bike lane or slowed down to an even remotely unreasonable extent by the presence of bikes on the road. So if that's been their goal all along, I'd say they've failed.

Or maybe that's not actually what cyclists are trying to do, and you're just a loon with too much time on his hands. Have you heard of Occam's razor?

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

On Page Street: one hill between Divisadero and Broderick. Big fucking deal.

On Hayes: there are in fact no serious hills on Hayes. And it doesn't really matter which side of the Panhandle cyclists live on, since they all have to deal with crossing it one way or another. And the stop signs are no big deal on Hayes, since the cross traffic is light.

The path on the Panhandle is separated from traffic until you get to Masonic. Then what? Some people go north, and some people go south, which is what I've pointed out before, the same choice would have to be made if the bike path was on the other side of Fell.

"The thing is, you don't care about anyone who rides a bike, so you can't empathize with any of these reasons."

More or less true, especially for politicized bike guys like you, assholes with a half-baked, know-it-all viewpoint. Bike guys like you evidently have contempt for everyone else in the city, with your Critical Mass and your push to screw up traffic for everyone but cyclists.

"There is no evidence that traffic on Fell Street has been 'jammed up' by the bike lane or slowed down to an even remotely unreasonable extent by the presence of bikes on the road. So if that's been their goal all along, I'd say they've failed."

You keep demonstrating what a lousy reader you are. You political bike guys hate to read what I write, because it's so painful to hear what assholes you are. Of course I haven't claimed that the bike lane on Fell is jamming up traffic now. That's your future plan---to take away either street parking or a traffic lane to make separated bike lanes on the Panhandle.

"Or maybe that's not actually what cyclists are trying to do, and you're just a loon with too much time on his hands."

I have "too much time" on my hands? Your windy comments are longer than the post your supposedly commenting on. By the way, still nothing to say about your Big Lie campaign about Masonic Avenue?

Have you ever heard of kissing my ass?

At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Your Neighbor said...

Don't think Page is a hill? You try riding it every day on your way home from work, smart-ass. (Oh, right—you don't even have a job!) You're too chickenshit to get your fat ass on a bike anyway, so how can you even pretend to know what constitutes a hill difficult enough to be a pain in the ass for most cyclists? You don't know, and you don't care.

Put your thinking cap on and count the stop signs on Hayes between Divis and Stanyan. I count 9 going to Shrader, which is where all cyclists traveling to the western half of the city would go before turning back onto Fell. So, you're telling me that I should have to wind my way north to Hayes, ride through 9 stop signs and two poorly timed lights (at Divis and Masonic), then sit through a green arrow at Shrader made for cyclists coming from the Panhandle just to get to the park? That's just stupid.

You're going to lecture me about reading comprehension when you failed to get the very simple message of my last comment? Let me spell it out for you one more time: I think Fell Street is just fine the way it is. I told you quite clearly that I don't think the two-way cycle track (what you childishly call my "future plan") is a good idea. I don't ride in Critical Mass, either, you presumptuous twit. You've been getting yourself all pissed off about bikes and troll baiting cyclists on your blog for so long that you believe everyone who rides a bike is the same. Like a religious zealot, you can't look past the fact that somebody rides a bike long enough to have a logical discussion with them. Instead you shoot back with petty insults and false accusations. I am not Michael Helquist.

You don't like my "windy" comments because you hate being proven wrong. You can't even bear the thought that someone—let alone a "bike guy"—would challenge your hollow claim that a lane on the northern side of Fell would've been a good idea. Anyone who believes that is either an idiot, an ideologue, or (likely) both.

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The only thing you've proven is that you're a windbag. You're so full of opinions, why don't you start your own blog? Just what the neighborhood needs: a bike blog by another chickenshit cyclist.

At 3:38 PM, Anonymous SFCitizen said...

Actually, there _was_ a plan for a bike lane on McAllister - believe it was for uphill only. That plan got shelved, perhaps due to concerns over the #5 Fulton, and then in came the sharrows, fairly recently.

McAllister is mostly white starting at around Fillmore and up

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It may have been in an earlier version of the Bicycle Plan---there have been a number of them---but, like most neighborhood streets in SF, McAllister is only two lanes, with street parking on both sides, no extra lanes to play with, and, black or white, street parking is in short supply in the neighborhood, which makes taking away all that parking a potential political problem for City Hall.

Even though the Bicycle Plan has been passed, and the EIR has been validated by the judge---which we're appealing to the Court of Appeal---City Hall still hasn't implemented the plan on any of the major streets. That's due in part to how slowly the system works in getting plans in place and finding the money. But it's also due, I suspect, to some concern about negative political reaction.

They had a lot of it five years ago when they took away most of the metered street parking between Van Ness and Octavia, but I was the only one writing about it, and City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition steamrolled the merchants to get the bike lanes.

But they also faced opposition on 17th Street when they tried to take street parking away. And there was opposition on Ocean Avenue, but, like Market Street, they did it anyway. The opposition on Market Street, 17th Street, and Ocean Avenue all came from small, store-front merchants who objected to losing the street parking for their customers.

And the city even had some opposition to taking away a traffic lane on Cesar Chavez.

They haven't yet tried to take away a lot of street parking in a neighborhood like the one McAllister runs through, which is almost entirely residential with few businesses that would be affected. The plan for Masonic involves taking away street parking between Fell Street and Geary Blvd. to make bike lanes, which is a huge project that most residents in the area are unaware of.

I think even the bike zealots in City Hall are beginning to understand that the city's bike people aren't the most popular interest group in the city and that there are potential pitfalls in every big bike project.


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