Friday, August 24, 2012

The myth of the "huge growth" in cycling in SF

The Bicycle Coalition's propaganda machine never rests. The latest production is a soft-ball interview with Leah Shahum in the Wall Street Journal:

The coalition, which receives private and corporate funding in addition to member dues, shepherds the popular "Sunday Streets" program, which closes off car traffic in selected neighborhoods to create a promenade for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Bicycle Coalition also gets $50,000 in taxpayers' money every year to pay for Bike to Work Day, along with other city contracts.

WSJ: Of which accomplishments are you most proud?
Ms. Shahum: Far and away it's the huge growth in people who are biking, and the growing diversity of people who are bicycling. It's made the city a calmer, more pleasant and liveable place. It's inspiring the number of families with children I see riding, elderly people, people in suits, working-class people.

Oddly, the introduction to the interview cites the actual numbers that contradict the "huge growth" claim:

Under her watch, the nonprofit organization's membership has grown to about 12,000 from 5,000 in 2005. Meantime, about 3.5% of all trips in the city are made by bike today, compared with 2.1% in 2002, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Maybe someone else wrote the introduction, since the interviewer doesn't seem to understand how unimpressive those numbers are. She doesn't challenge Shahum on that, but she includes an additional bit of reality in her intro: "Moreover, San Francisco has a long way to go to achieve the city government's goal of 20% of all trips taking place by bicycle by 2020."

Let's go over the numbers again: The 2.1% number actually dates from the year 2000 according to the city's Transportation Fact Sheet, though it supposedly referred only to the percentage of city residents who commuted by bike. Now the 3.5% is cited by the latest Bicycle Count Report as a percentage of all trips made in the city every day. That's quite a bit of backsliding, since the city previously claimed that 6% of all daily trips were by bike (See page 9 in the the 2008 State of Cycling Report and page 4 in the 2010 Bicycle Count Report).

This Mode Share Survey (see page 6, where a 3.4% share of all trips is cited) made for the MTA by a consultant may have forced the city to be more realistic about the share of trips by cyclists.

How could we get to City Hall's official goal of 20% of all trips by bike by 2020? From the present 3.5%, cycling would have to increase by more than 2% every year for the next eight years, even though it only increased 1.4% in the ten years since 2002. How likely is it that cycling will increase more every year than in the previous ten years?

Not even remotely likely, no matter how badly City Hall screws up city traffic in the next eight years---taking away street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes---on behalf of the Bicycle Coalition.

What the 20% by 2020 goal tells us: City Hall has no idea what it's talking about. Shahum can bullshit the media all she wants. That's part of her job description as head of a special interest group. But for City Hall to trumpet that goal to the public shows that our city government is even dumber than we thought.

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Sit/lie law is working

Photo by Eric Risberg for AP

Sit/lie law works
Letter to the editor
SF Chronicle
August 16, 2012

Your summary of effects of the Civil Sidewalks Ordinance was well written and thought-provoking ("Haight is ground zero for sit/lie citations, Aug. 5; "Haight's older indigents get bulk of sit/lie citations," Aug. 6)
However, it must be said again that the law was not intended to deal with "the homeless problem." It is aimed at curbing unacceptable violent behavior that usually started with groups of wanderers staking out a tract of the sidewalk.
Has obedience of the law been perfect? No. Could the police and the courts do a better job of enforcing the law? Yes, there's room for improvement. Has it been effective? Most certainly, yes. The transient, violent thugs have gone. The bohemian wanna-bes have gotten the message. And even the People's Republic of Berkeley now wants a similar measure to give police there a tool to deal with those on the street who threaten public safety. I'd call the Civil Sidewalks ordinance successful by those measurements.
Ted Loewenberg
San Francisco