Friday, January 21, 2011

More lies about Masonic

Why does Michael Helquist keep repeating the same lies about Masonic Avenue? Despite the witless head on his latest blog post, maybe he is beginning to worry about the city's plan to screw up traffic on Masonic on behalf of the city's bike people. Maybe he thinks the new "moderate" Board of Supervisors won't be as keen to wage the anti-car war as the previous board.

Helquist lists eight reasons why he likes the city's plan to "calm" traffic on Masonic, but the seventh is the real reason he likes it: "a separated bicycle track that will making biking safe for anyone aged 8 to 80" on Masonic. That will be done by removing all the street parking on Masonic between Geary Blvd. and Fell Street. As it is now, the city prohibits parking on the East side of Masonic in the morning and on the West side during the evening commute to create an extra lane to handle the heavy traffic.

As the city told a neighborhood meeting last year, Masonic Ave. now carries more than 32,000 vehicles a day (page 26), and the #43 Masonic bus carries more than 12,000 passengers a day (page 27). How many cyclists use Masonic now? Not very many (page 28). The city is operating on the assumption that if bike lanes are created many more cyclists will use Masonic. How many cyclists using this future "calmed" Masonic Avenue would justify screwing up traffic for the more than 44,000 who now use the street? The city doesn't know or care; it's apparently going to do it anyhow.

Let's go through the main reasons Helquist and the bike people use to justify deliberately jamming up traffic on Masonic:

"San Francisco officially encourages alternate transportation including biking. Opponents can mount a campaign to change the city's Transit First policy, but it's our guide now."

It's true that the bike people got their allies in City Hall to include bicycles in the definition of "transit first" in the City Charter ("Bicycling shall be promoted by encouraging safe streets for riding, convenient access to transit, bicycle lanes, and secure bicycle parking." (Section 8A.115, Transit First). What do bikes have to do with "transit"? Nothing, but that doesn't matter. It's a lot like the Body Snatchers: one day the people of the city wake up and the bike people are running the city: it's in the law! 

Legalisms aside, the bike people are getting the city to screw up traffic on Masonic Ave. on their behalf because they now have the political power to do it, not because it has anything to do with "transit first." But Helquist and the bike people are clearly pleased with themselves for getting City Hall to rewrite the City Charter for them.

"The reason the city has worked with the community on this proposal is mostly because the current traffic calming simply has not reduced collisions, red light running, and injuries."

Except maybe for running red lights---not exactly unique to Masonic Ave.---the "collisions" and "injuries" claim is simply a lie, since there aren't that many accidents on Masonic. This is shown by the numbers the city itself presented to us last year (page 29): in the six years between 2004 and 2009, there have been 27 "collisions" involving bicycles on Masonic. That's a little over four a year on a street that carries more than 32,000 vehicles a day. 

On page 31 we learn that 17 pedestrians have been injured on Masonic during that same time, an average of less than three a year. The city doesn't tell us who was responsible for these accidents, and the pro-bike, anti-car assumption is that speeding motor vehicles are at fault. But the city's 2008 Bicycle Collision Report of Feb. 2010 admits that cyclists are responsible for at least 50% of their own injury accidents due to their reckless, unsafe riding on the streets of the city. (I suspect the same is true of pedestrian accidents, but the city doesn't provide that information.)

The new Masonic will have "bus bulb-outs at select intersections for easier access and more reliable, on-time buses."

The bike people don't really care about Muni, but they have to pretend to as window-dressing for screwing up city streets, even when, as the EIR on the Bicycle Plan told us, taking away traffic lanes to create bike lanes will delay Muni lines. SF essentially has a "Bikes First" traffic policy. As anyone who regularly rides the #43 bus knows, it now runs very well between the Panhandle and Geary Blvd., but, since the new Masonic will no longer have the extra lane during commute hours, that popular bus line will be slowed along with the rest of the traffic.

"Do those who resist the changes want to tell the families of people killed or injured from collisions on Masonic that safety on the corridor safety on the corridor is not important enough to walk an extra 100 steps for parking?"

Helquist links an earlier post on the death of the young man last year on a bike who was killed by a drunk driver at Masonic and Turk, a typical bit of demagoguery by the bike people, who have used the accident to push their plan to screw up Masonic. Since he was hit from behind in an intersection by a drunk driver late at night, street design had nothing to do with that accident---and he wasn't wearing a helmet. On average only two cyclists die on city streets every year.

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