Monday, February 11, 2013

Nevius gives up riding his bike

Photo of Bert Hill, Christina Koci Hernandez

Early on as a columnist for the Chronicle, C.W. Nevius earned the ire of city progressives for his incisive columns on homelessness and quality-of-life issues in San Francisco. City progs hated it that Nevius was regularly showing that they were wrong in assuming that people just had to get used to the growing squalor from thousands of homeless people living on our streets and in our parks. Gavin Newsom understood how annoyed city voters were about that, and he skillfully used the issue to get himself elected mayor over prog candidate Matt Gonzalez, the last serious leftist candidate for Mayor of San Francisco.

As Nevius continued writing on city issues, his limitations became clear: he knew little about development and planning issues, and evidently did little over the years to learn more. He's increasingly become a megaphone for City Hall's perspective on development and special projects, like the America's Cup.

Now Nevius has provided city progressives another reason to start hating him again: He's given up riding his bike in San Francisco as he told readers on his blog last month:

One of the people I work with asked me this week, in so many words: Do you have a death wish? First, he said, you talk about pit bulls and said that one that was deemed to be a vicious and dangerous dog should be removed from his owner. And then you follow that up with a call for bicyclists to stop pounding on cars and motorists because they are angry with the careless way they are driving. Frankly, it hasn’t been that bad. The bike people are often reasonable. A lot of the mail has been along the lines of---you must not ride a bike or you’d know that...and it goes from there. What I tell them is I rode a bike, right in downtown San Francisco roughly three times a week for the last three years. But, I have to admit, about two months ago I quit. There were just too many close calls. Sooner or later I was going DOWN.

This is heresy in PC San Francisco, where the bicycle is brandished much like the crucifix as a sacred political symbol, as City Hall goes about busily redesigning city streets on behalf of a small minority of cyclists.

But that riding a bike has inherent dangers is undeniable, except to those in the firm grip of what I call BikeThink. The Bicycle Coalition's favorite safety instructor confirmed that reality way back in 2005 and offered some advice on how cyclists should prepare themselves for those dangers, beginning with how to handle the inevitable fall that Nevius dreaded:

Fall with style: Sooner or later, an urban cyclist will be bumped or dumped, either by his or her own action (Hill says 45 percent of all crashes are solo falls, only 18 percent involve a vehicle), or by something done unto him or her. That's why you always, always, ride wearing a quality helmet and gloves. Abrasion-resistant clothing is a plus. When you start to go over, get your arms out, but don't make them stiff. Use them to absorb initial impact, yes, but even more to steer your fall into a body roll. Want to practice falls? Take a class in judo or aikido.

In other words, cyclists and would-be cyclists in San Francisco should prepare themselves as if they were going into combat.

The Bicycle Coalition of course is concerned about safety on city streets, but their assumption is that the primary danger is other vehicles. As Hill---and Robert Hurst, John Forester and other experts---point out most cycling accidents are "solo falls" that don't involve another vehicle.

That reality makes it doubly irresponsible for the City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition to encourage children to ride bikes in the city.

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