Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Battle of Polk Gulch

Paul Skilbeck

I wrote about the city's irresponsible campaign to get children to ride bikes in the previous post, using Paul Skilbeck's column as a hook. But his comments on City Hall's attempt to take away street parking to make bike lanes on Polk Street also require a response.

Skillbeck's column is only a small part of the Polk Street campaign, which is led by bike guy Ed Reiskin at Muni, the Bicycle Coalition, and Walk SF. (Google Skilbeck and you get a Wikipedia item, evidently written by him, where you aren't surprised to learn that bikes are his whole life.)[Later: the Wikipedia entry has been dumped]

He wants people to think that the city's Polk Street project has growing support:

While some pockets of resistance still exist among merchants and residents, San Francisco city agencies are finding increased community support as they move steadfastly forward in implementing policies that increase the share of road space for cycling and walking...Local groups such as Folks for Polk are sprouting up to show the support of communities for SFMTA plans. Yet many more miles of separated bicycle lanes will be required before San Francisco cyclists come out in the desired numbers.

Folks for Polk is an anonymous website probably created by the city's bike people, who are worried that their "improvements"---that benefit only cyclists---will be rejected by Polk Street businesses and residents. Note that the link to "Preferred Places," supposedly a list of Polk Street businesses that support the bike lanes, has no names on it: "Improving Polk Street is good for business and many places on Polk Street agree. The list will be coming very soon." Or maybe not so soon.

The business owners and residents of Polk Gulch are merely a "pocket of resistance" that will soon be wiped out by "increased community support" after a successful battle led by the Bicycle Coalition, City Hall, and Walk San Francisco!

The military metaphor is actually useful. Imperial powers historically---e.g. the French and the US in Indochina, the British in America and India, etc.---often downplay the significance of resistance by indigenous populations. 

The City Hall/Bicycle Coalition juggernaut did indeed successfully subdue native/neighborhood uprisings on Market Street, 17th Street, Ocean Avenue, and the Panhandle. The latter uprising was led by a general in a wheelchair; he and his highly-motivated troops have now retreated after a spirited but losing Panhandle campaign. They are digging trenches and fortifying their battle line on Masonic Avenue in anticipation of the inevitable clash there.

But the anti-car, bike juggernaut suffered a serious defeat when the 500-page Bicycle Plan of attack was slowed by the Resistance that used the Empire's own legal system against it. The Empire is now rewriting the laws---they call it "CEQA reform"---to ensure that this doesn't happen again.

Interesting to note that my comment to Skilbeck's last column---calling him and Bert Hill on the Valencia Street lie---has been deleted, as have my comments to the Folks for Polk Facebook page.

The Bicycle Coalition is rallying its troops for the Polk Street meetings: "If you support safety improvements to Polk Street, it is critical that you attend one or both of these SFMTA Community meetings on April 27 or 30 and speak up for the improvements proven to make biking and walking safer and bring more people to a commercial corridor."

The lies about safety and "improvements" aside, they're right that these meetings are "critical."

Saturday, April 27 from 10 am to 1 pm and Tuesday, April 30 from 5 to 8:30 pm at 1300 Polk St (at Bush) at the First Congregational Church Fellowship Hall.

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