Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wife of Jesus

Papyrus fragment with Jesus referring to "my wife"

After today's news about Jesus and his wife, the jokes are starting. Let's get these out of the way first:
After Henny Youngman, Jesus to his disciples: "Take my wife, please."
A nagger, like the wife of Socrates: "You're going out dressed like that?"

Screwing up Masonic is a done deal

As expected yesterday the MTA board okayed the plan to screw up traffic on Masonic Avenue on behalf of cyclists to make them more "comfortable" using a busy city street that now carries more than 32,000 vehicles---and 12,000 passengers on the #43 Muni line---every day.

To understand how poor the city's justification is for this surrender to the bike lobby, take a look at the city's Masonic Avenue Street Redesign Study that has a couple of lies in the first paragraph of the introduction (page 5):

Since 2006, residents living along Masonic Avenue have been actively working to make this busy and important corridor a safer place for all users. In response to their efforts, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency initiated a Masonic Avenue traffic calming study in February 2010.

A handful of residents were involved in this movement, but it's mainly the Bicycle Coalition that's been trying for years to jam up this "traffic sewer"---that's what the coalition calls any street that moves a lot of traffic efficiently (Go to the Coalition's website and enter "traffic sewer" in their search engine). Masonic now carries 32,165 vehicles a day (page 14). In the next paragraph, we're told that Fix Masonic represents an important "neighborhood group," even though it's nothing but a very sketchy website---and a Bicycle Coalition front group.[Later: When you click on the Fix Masonic link now, you get the SFBC's website on Masonic. Fix Masonic is now officially---it has been for a long time---nothing but a Bicycle Coalition front group.]

The introduction has the study's predetermined conclusions: making Masonic "a safer place for all users" and, as a solution to that non-problem, "traffic calming." According to the city's own numbers in this document, Masonic is not now unsafe for any "users," including their primary constituents, cyclists.

The intro cites some unimpressive numbers of those attending their "community workshops": 50 people at the first and 150 came to the last meeting. Not exactly an impressive turnout to "redesign" a major north/south street that is of regional importance, not just a city or neighborhood issue. (I was at the first meeting, and I blogged about it here.)

There are more lies on the next page under "Goals and Objectives," which lists to "improve transit operations" and "improve pedestrian and non-motorized access to transit." I often ride the #43, and there's no "access" problem now for anyone. We can figure out that "signage" means "signs" and "street furniture" includes benches and trash cans, but what exactly is "non-motorized" access? Bikes? For that matter, what is "motorized" access to transit? Wheelchairs? Hard to say. The folks at MTA live in their own world and have their own language.

There's only one Muni bus line that runs between Fell and Geary, the #43 Masonic, which carries 12,765 people a day (page 11). Since, as the study admits, this project will actually slow down Muni and the rest of the traffic on Masonic (page 14), it's a flat-out lie that it will do anything to "improve transit operations."

But the project will no longer allow Muni buses to pull out of the lane into bus stops. Instead it will create "bus bulb plazas" (page 49) like those on Divisadero, that will jam up the traffic behind buses when they stop at bus stops, which won't make it any easier for anyone to get on the bus; it will only delay traffic in the lane directly behind the #43 bus:

"Bus Bulb Plaza" proposal seeks to separate bike and bus traffic at stops and eliminate this challenging conflict. Instead of having bus and bike traffic merge in front of bus stops, bikes instead would be directed behind an 8-foot wide boarding island for bus riders. This would allow buses to pull up directly against the curb without leaving the traffic lane, and allow bikes using Masonic’s new cycle track to avoid passing or being stalled behind buses making a stop.

No mention of the delay to traffic---thousands of vehicles a day---stuck behind buses in the same lane. It's all about bikes! The talk about "transit" and "all users" is nothing but window dressing for a bike project on steroids.

How many cyclists use Masonic now? On page 12 we learn that "The current PM peak volume was counted as 20 bikes per hour at Masonic and Golden Gate Avenue and 32 bikes per hour at Masonic and Fell Street." There's no indication whether these are north/south or east/west travelers at those intersections. But, based on the city's numbers, it's safe to say that very few cyclists now use Masonic Avenue. So how did the city discover the "challenging conflict" between buses and cyclists on Masonic? Maybe Leah Shahum told them about it. Or maybe Matt Smith did.

The justification for the Big Lie about safety on Masonic begins on page 12 with a tally of "bike collisions." There's no analysis of these accidents as to who was at fault, but the implication is that it's those wicked motorists. The numbers are small-to-insignificant given the volume of traffic on Masonic: the study cites 19 accidents involving cyclists between 2004 and 2009, a six-year period with an average of three a year. Since the city itself admits that cyclists are responsible for half of their own injury accidents, we can cut that total in half to get a realistic number caused by motorists: 9.5 in six years, or an average of 1.58 accidents a year.

The numbers for pedestrian accidents (page 13) on Masonic in the same years are even sketchier: a grand total of 12 in six years. Again no indication of who was responsible for these accidents, because the safety lie is only window dressing to justify what the city and the bike lobby have long wanted to do to this street---to "calm" it, aka, "jam" it up for everyone else on behalf of the bike people.

To get enough street space to make the bike lanes, the project will remove all of the street parking---167 spaces (page 15)---on both sides of Masonic between Fell Street and Geary Blvd. Those parking spaces are now elminated during the morning (7-9) and afternoon (4-6) hours to create extra lanes to handle all the commute traffic.

By sheer, relentless repetition of the falsehood, the Bicycle Coalition and its enablers in City Hall have established as a "fact" that Masonic Avenue and the intersection of Masonic and Fell are dangerous. The city's own numbers in its annual collision reports tell a different story, but we now live in a "post-fact" age. The city doesn't have to worry that the facts in their reports contradict the rationale for their various "improvements" to city streets, since I'm one of the few people that actually reads them. All they have to do is keep repeating the lie, and the media---especially the Chronicle and the Examiner---won't challenge it.

This "study" contains very little information that wasn't in the PowerPoint presentation from the first community meeting on screwing up Masonic. It's just puffed up with a bunch of diagrams of "alternatives" that were never seriously considered to make it look thorough.

The screw-up-Masonic project is based on the city's "mode shift" theory: If it keeps making it more difficult and expensive to drive in San Francisco, people will give up driving and start riding bikes, thus solving all our congestion problems. Of course there's no evidence for that theory, but we're dealing with a faith-based and fad-based belief system here. All these projects are going to do is make traffic worse for everyone but cyclists, which is the point.

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