Sunday, February 19, 2012

Get out of their way 2

Photo by Scott James for Bay City

Recall that we've encountered Morgan Fitzgibbons before. Like all religious fanatics, he and the bike people keep coming at you with their planet-saving message. Fitzgibbons, of something called the Wigg Party, has an op-ed in the current Bay Guardian on his disappointment that Mayor Lee and MTA haven't immediately implemented the latest anti-car "improvement" to the Panhandle: taking away street parking to make a protected bike lane between Baker and Scott Streets.

Turns out that Fitzgibbons's hysterial rant (below in italics) has no factual basis, since of course the MTA is planning to eliminate 80-100 parking spaces---in a neighborhood where street parking is scarce---to make protected bike lanes so that cyclists will feel "comfortable" riding on that part of the Panhandle.

Making cyclists "comfortable" is what this project is all about, since there's no evidence of any safety emergency due to Panhandle traffic, and there's already a bike lane on Fell Street. Check out the MTA's presentation for the recent community meetings explaining the great "need" for this project, page 15: "Fell Street bike lane not comfortable for many cyclists," and page 16: "[cyclists]Not comfortable riding with cars."

According to the MTA, this anti-car project is on schedule, but Mayor Lee will be interested in how his appointee, Christina Olague, does in November in her election campaign. As a San Francisco progressive---and a practiced opportunist---Olague will have her finger to the wind on the Panhandle issue. If there's any political advantage in doing so, she'll dump the bike nuts just like she dumped the Green Party and city progs who opposed Mayor Lee's appointment as interim mayor. Her comment on the Panhandle project in the Bay Guardian was carefully crafted to keep her options open. 

As the Haight-Ashbury Improvement Association has pointed out, the bike lanes on Oak and Fell are unnecessary, since nearby Page and Hayes Streets can already provide "comfort" for nervous cyclists.

Of course the Bicycle Coalition supports this "improvement."

Fitzgibbons's rant from last year.

Mayor Lee's vanishing bike lanes
The mayor's resolution to create better bike lanes was exciting---until he broke it
by Morgan Fitzgibbons

OPINION When Mayor Ed Lee announced in February 2011 that he understood both the critical importance and the severe dangers inherent in the current bicycle infrastructure along the dual three-block stretches of Fell and Oak between Scott and Baker, a shot went through the community of people who had worked for so long to bring awareness to this troubled path.

Finally, it seemed, we had a mayor who understood that if San Francisco was serious about living up to its own nearly 40-year-old pledge to be a transit-first city, a narrow bike lane sandwiched between parked cars and fast-moving traffic on Fell Street and a complete absence of any bicycle infrastructure on Oak simply wouldn't do.

Finally, we had a mayor who wouldn't be satisfied with mere words on a page, who had the courage to carve out one single safe bike route from the east side of town to the west, to create a viable alternative to automobile transportation, to prepare our city for the inevitable challenges presented by climate change, peak oil, and economic collapse, and to do it in the face of the predictable objections from a few small-picture citizens who couldn't look at the 60 square feet of a parking spot and imagine anything other than a privately owned two-ton pile of steel taking up precious public space.

The community of people who had waited nearly 40 years for the city to live up to its own word kept on waiting throughout 2011, patiently allowing the Municipal Transportation Agency to perform its due diligence, attending multiple public meetings in the hundreds, and delivering a resounding verdict: bring us our separated bike lanes. Make this neighborhood a better place to live. Begin the long work of preparing our city for a way of living that doesn't center around the automobile.

With the public process complete and the calendar turning to nearly one year since Lee called for the MTA to "move quickly" to create separated bike lanes on Fell and Oak, the MTA handed down a jarring announcement. The Fell and Oak Bikeways were being delayed because the agency needed to take extra time to do all that could be done to find nearby replacements for the 80 parking spots set to be removed for the bike lanes.

That's right — in a city that has for 40 years had an explicit policy of giving preference to transit options that weren't the automobile, in a city that, nevertheless, has over 440,000 public parking spots and zero safe, accessible bike routes from the east side of town to the west, the creation of a separated bikeway that the vast majority of the community wants, and that the mayor's own newly appointed District Supervisor, Christina Olague, is in support of, was being delayed by nearly a year so that the loss of private automobile parking would be as small as possible.

How does this happen? In a word: fear. The mayor and MTA are afraid of ruffling a few feathers to do what they know is right.

Cities like New York, Portland, and Minneapolis are leapfrogging us in building the cities of tomorrow. Chicago is creating 100 miles of separated bike lanes in the next four years. Don't call us America's Greenest City — you're thinking of the San Francisco of 40 years ago.

Morgan Fitzgibbons is co-founder of the Wigg Party, a Western Addition neighborhood sustainability group.

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Following the money on the Central Subway

From Save Muni's Howard Wong: 

Hi Everyone:

Re: Some interesting articles

Interesting that this New York Times article about Willie Brown mentions that one of his  clients is Aecom, the big consultant for the Central Subway Project.

This is another layer in the undercurrents of money in big infrastructure projects. Would be interesting to "dye" money and watch its flow to privileged politicians, consultants, contractors, land owners, developers, special interests, nonprofits, governmental staff, Willie Brown, Rose Pak and so on. No wonder there's such improvised support for projects never disclosed publicly. Remember, that's how bad projects have been pushed throughout history, e.g. the Embarcadero/Central Freeways, demolition of the Western Addition/Lower Fillmore/Nihonmachi...

Streetsblog articles about Stockton Street here and here. Imagine if $500 million of state/local dollars, currently being siphoned into the Central Subway Project, were poured into the Stockton Street corridor and the citywide Muni system.

Like the great civic battles in history, the fate of the Central Subway is far from resolved. Let's focus on the funding and congressional approvals because future generations will thank us for our perseverance. 


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