Monday, November 18, 2013

Street Fight 4

Like the Bicycle Coalition and the anti-car movement in general, Jason Henderson, writing in the Bay Guardian, thinks "parking reform"---aka, taking parking spaces from cars on city streets---"is one of the most radically important elements of making San Francisco a more livable and equitable city." If the city can't simply take away street parking, Henderson thinks it should install parking meters in the neighborhoods.

How does taking away traffic lanes and street parking and making traffic worse for everyone make the city "more livable"? And how is redesigning city streets on behalf of a small minority of cyclists---only 3.4% all daily trips in the city are by bike---make for a more "equitable" city? 

Henderson thinks street parking is against the "public good" on behalf of "narrow private interests," though the Bicycle Coalition and the anti-car movement represent a much narrower special interest group as opposed to the overwhelming majority of people who now use city streets.

As reported several years ago, once implemented the Bicycle Plan will make traffic worse for everyone, including delaying a number of Muni lines. And what's the payoff after City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition create gridlock on city streets? City Hall bases its anti-car traffic policy on the "mode shift" theory, which simply hopes that a significant number of people will give up driving cars and trucks in the city and take up riding bikes, thus reducing traffic congestion. How many cyclists, for example, will use Masonic Avenue after the city takes away all the street parking between Fell and Geary to make separated bike lanes? The city has no idea.

The whole, goofball, anti-car traffic policy is based on nothing but a wish! If wishes were bikes, the homeless could ride.

Henderson, like his anti-car comrades, wants to associate those of us who oppose this nutty policy with the Tea Party:

On Polk Street, some loud merchants and residents went ballistic when the city and bicycle advocates proposed removing curbside parking to accommodate bicycles. The city, weary of Tea Party-like mobs, ran the other way, tail-between-legs. Progressive supervisors seem to have gone along with the cave-in.

Actually, City Hall hasn't given up on taking away street parking on Polk Street to make bike lanes; it's only scaled the project back so that it will eliminate fewer parking spaces. 

Like most city residents, I'm a Democrat and more or less "progressive," depending on the issue. The city was "weary of Tea Party mobs"? In fact that was the most vocal neighborhood opposition yet to the MTA's anti-car "improvements" it's been foisting on city neighborhoods. Apparently it took Ed Reiskin completely by surprise, which is why I bet he'll never show up again at one of those "community" meetings!

But Henderson makes a good point about the spineless supervisors. When campaigning for office, they all promised the Bicycle Coalition they would support the Polk Street project. When the massive opposition surfaced in Polk Gulch, they all scurried for cover. Except for Supervisor Chiu, not a single supervisor has supported even the scaled back Polk Street project!

One thing that is remarkably disturbing about this backpedaling is that, in an ostensibly progressive city by many measures (civil rights, tolerance, environmentalism), the counterattack is steeped in conservative ideology. That is, conservatives believe that government should require ample and cheap parking, whether in new housing or on the street. 

This conservative ideology, shared by many car drivers and merchants---and even by some self-professed progressives---is steeped in the idea people still need cars. This despite the evidence that cars are extremely destructive to our environment, socially inequitable, and only seem essential because of poor planning decisions, not human nature.

This is in line with Henderson's fatuous riff on ideology and anti-carism in his book, as if people consult their ideological inclinations before they get on a bus, on a bike, or in a car. Speaking of "human nature," people simply use the means of transportation available to make a trip. 

Yes, it's more or less inequitable that some folks can afford a car and others can't, but neither Henderson nor anyone else can do anything about that, except to make Muni a better system for those of us without cars. But the silly implication is that only right-wingers would oppose this "progressive" anti-car traffic policy.

I suspect that Henderson doesn't have children or a personal/professional life that requires a car, though one wonders how he gets from SF State to Hayes Valley, a time-consuming trip on Muni.

Henderson is bitter about the recent campaign against 8 Washington:

But during the campaigns, the lack of attention to parking was curious. Notably, progressive-leaning transportation organizations like the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Walk SF, and Transform sat out the election despite the project's excessive 327 underground parking spaces, which violated hard-fought progressive planning efforts to make the waterfront livable. 

The Council of Community Housing Organizations also sat it out, despite benefiting from the progressive parking policies that 8 Washington violated. It appears that despite their transit-first rhetoric, progressives made a tactical calculation to keep parking out of the campaign. The progressive victory came with a Faustian bargain which involved ignoring parking.

To a hammer like Henderson, the whole world is a nail. If the Bicycle Coalition, Walk SF, and Transform insisted on making the anti-8 Washington campaign about parking, they would have achieved two things: made themselves look like the anti-car fanatics that they really are, while losing votes for that campaign, since the whole anti-car bike movement is not particularly popular even in San Francisco. These organizations wisely stayed out of it, not that the Bicycle Coalition has anything against highrises, since it supports the Market/Octavia Plan, which allows 40-story highrises at Market and Van Ness.

"Faustian bargain"? What's the downside of ignoring the parking issue during this campaign? There is none, since it was mostly about limiting building height on the waterfront, though city voters finally got a chance to lash out against the rapid gentrification of the city.

Henderson and the anti-car movement in SF better hope that city voters never get a chance to weigh in on the Bicycle Plan and other anti-car projects, since they would suffer a similar fate.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,