Thursday, August 14, 2014

Leah Shahum

Over the years, I've made more than 70 posts on this blog that have been about or quoted Leah Shahum. Anyone who writes about traffic in the city has had to reckon with Shahum's soundbites in the media, as she relentlessly pushed bicycles, bike lanes and the Bicycle Plan, and, just as important, promoted anything that makes it harder and more expensive to drive a motor vehicle in San Francisco.

Just reading her message to the Bicycle Coalition's membership about leaving nicely illustrates her mindset, since it's clotted with the hyped-up language of the special interest group lobbyist that she has been for the last 12 years: Shahum is "awestruck" at the number of people riding bikes in the city; it's been "a tremendous honor" to lead the SFBC, which will now be looking for an "extraordinary" new leader; San Francisco is "poised to become a truly great place for bicycling"; she is "tremendously proud" to have worked with the coalition's members, and she has "enormous faith" in the future of the organization, whose staff has "a level of passion and savvy that is unparalleled"; she will be with us until the end of the year, "continuing to increase and improve great bicycling in our city"; she urges the membership "to keep it up! You're making a tremendous difference."

She can't turn the hype machine off long enough to write a simple letter.

Like a lot of lobbyists, she can push her agenda too hard, like when she rationalized violence by cyclists during Critical Mass:
Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bike Coalition, said this entire story has been one-sided and it overshadows the everyday dangers of biking in the city. "We've got a totally unacceptable rate of bicycle and pedestrian deaths and injuries in this city and that should be the real story," Shahum said.
For years the Bicycle Coalition listed Critical Mass on its online calendar, albeit with a disclaimer. They wanted to have it both ways: pander to militant cyclists without taking responsibility for any violence or disrupting commute traffic on the last Friday of every month. A typical calendar entry:
Critical Mass! Fri., Apr. 29 6pm Justin "Pee-Wee" Herman Plaza, Foot of Market St. Join hundreds or thousands of other cyclists---remember---we are not blocking traffic---we ARE traffic!
The accompanying weasley disclaimer:
Events not officially sponsored or organized by the SFBC are marked with an asterisk. We post events that might be of interest to our SF area members; we do not necessarily endorse any particular group or perspective you may find represented here.
Shahum herself had her life-changing bike epiphany at a Critical Mass demo.

She and city cyclists claim they aren't anti-car, but they see that as an important part of pushing bikes in the city: if cycling is to advance, motorists must be punished. Shahum supports Congestion Pricing, an idea that polls show is unpopular in the city (When the Chronicle did a story on the latest poll, it didn't mention the Congestion Pricing numbers!) And she supports punitive traffic and parking fines because that will supposedly encourage people to give up driving and start riding bikes.

The Coalition's Andy Thornley made anti-carism explicit way back in 2005: "We've done all the easy things so far. Now we need to take space from cars."

Creating parking for those wicked motor vehicles must also be discouraged. Shahum opposed the parking garage under the Concourse in Golden Gate Park, even though it was a gift from Warren Hellman and the city's rich people, and it's made it easier for families, the elderly, and the handicapped to visit the park. Why can't they ride bikes?

After getting the city to eliminate metered parking spaces on upper Market Street to make bike lanes, she lectured small business owners who objected to losing customer parking about how they had to accept "change."

Shahum invoked to an Examiner reporter what I call the Valencia Street Lie to justify taking away 200 parking spaces to make protected bike lanes on Polk Street. 

Shahum tried to spike a Bay Citizen story about how the city and the Bicycle Coalition tried to take away street parking to make bike lanes on 17th Street like they did on Ocean Avenue.

Shahum was furious when we got a judgment against the city's ambitious Bicycle Plan under the most important environmental law in the state, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Was she lying or was she just being stupid when she then made a lot of dumb comments about CEQA? Not easy to tell when a lobbyist talks to the media.

Shahum's vision for the streets of San Francisco: "Imagine streets moving so calmly and slowly that you'd let your six-year-old ride[a bike] on them."

When two cyclists were killed in Cupertino by a motorist who apparently fell asleep, Shahum rushed out a press release to show that cycling wasn't really dangerous: " truth, not bicycling is far more dangerous than bicycling." Not true for those two people. One thing you can be sure of: If you don't ride a bike on street with traffic, you won't die that way.

Speaking of traffic accidents, Shahum told the Bay Guardian her plans for the future include learning how to prevent them:
“In order to implement Vision Zero, we’re going to need funding to replace our obsolent[sic] traffic infrastructure that valued speed over safety...It’s at the valuable crossroads of injury prevention and sustainable transportation,” Shahum said. “I’m excited to take Vision Zero to the next level, not just in San Francisco, but around the nation.”
If Shahum is so interested in preventing traffic injuries on the streets of San Francisco, why hasn't she commented on that December, 2012, UC study that found that the city was radically under-counting cycling accidents? The answer to the question is obvious, but here it is anyhow: because it shows that riding a bike in this city is a lot more dangerous than she and the Bicycle Coalition have been telling us for the last 12 years.

And, incredibly, the Coalition and City Hall have been encouraging city parents to put their children on bikes in San Francisco. (Shahum doesn't have children, but Ed Reiskin does.)

One wonders about the timing of Shahum's exit. The Coalition claimed not long ago that it had 12,000 members, but now Streetsblog tells us that membership now is only "more than 10,000."

Maybe Shahum is getting out of town just in time, before all the chickens come home to roost: declining Coalition membership, the UC study, the restoring transportation balance initiative, and the Masonic Avenue bike project that was pushed by a long campaign of lies by Leah Shahum and the Bicycle Coalition.

Perhaps the anti-car bike movement in San Francisco has peaked like it has in Vancouver and Portland.

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At 3:21 PM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the anti-car bike movement in San Francisco has peaked like it has in Vancouver and Portland.

Wanna bet?

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

True ... and Queen Leah is always enamored with personal pronouns as well! Like I discovered years ago, if you views vary one centimeter from this crew then you are persona non grata.

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Make a bet with someone too wimpy to put his name on this lame comment?

Of course I hope it's peaked. The Masonic Avenue bike lane project may be the bike movement's Waterloo. Maybe Shahum will be back from her tutorial in Europe---them foreigners are so smart, you know---for screwing up that major north-south street that's important not only for San Francisco but for the whole Bay Area.

At 11:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite thing about your blog Rob is that it shows how pedestrian the "opposition" to smart street design is. If this—you, your blog, and Rkeezy and the like—are the opposition, then whatever the complete streets movement is doing in San Francisco must be spot on. Your arguments are so weak, and you continue to resort to personal mud slinging and vendettas against people. That's my favorite thing about this blog and y I hope it never goes away. Any time someone wants to hear an argument against making walking and biking safer we can just point them to this blog and they quickly realize that yeah, the arguments against this are so absurd—onward with the improvements! It's true for the Hayes Valley freeway tear down, the Embarcadero freeway teardown, bike lane improvements, sidewalks improvements, and it will be true once we add congestion pricing.

Keep writing Rob. You are the voice of the other side and it helps the cause.

At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, though right?
"Result: Decisive Coalition victory"

Whereas SFBC's Masonic Avenue campaign was a victory:

"In 2013, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a redesign of Masonic Avenue, which includes San Francisco’s first raised bikeways, sidewalk improvements for pedestrians and 100 new trees to be planted on a median. Thanks to the hard work of San Francisco Bicycle Coalition members, this project was fully approved by the SFMTA Board in 2012 and later funded in June 2013! Work on Masonic Avenue is set to begin in Spring 2015."

I think you mean a Pyrrhic victory, perhaps?

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, of course. A "victory" for the Bicycle Coalition's long campaign of lies about the safety of Masonic and its phony "Fix Masonic" neighborhood movement. Still waiting to see a copy of the mythical petition in support of the project.

Most people can manage to ignore City Hall, until the day that DPW arrives in the neighborhood and starts tearing things up. That's when the fun will begin.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Any time someone wants to hear an argument against making walking and biking safer we can just point them to this blog and they quickly realize that yeah, the arguments against this are so absurd—onward with the improvements! It's true for the Hayes Valley freeway tear down, the Embarcadero freeway teardown, bike lane improvements, sidewalks improvements, and it will be true once we add congestion pricing."

Right. Whatever the bobbleheads in the MTA do to our streets are "improvements." Yes, that was a great victory for you folks when the Central Freeway was torn down, bringing 63,000 cars through the middle of the Hayes Valley neighborhood on Octavia Blvd., not to mention the thousands of vehicles clogging up the rest of the streets in the area all day.

As a matter of fact, I didn't oppose tearing down the Embarcadero freeway, which resulted in a completely different outcome, except that Willie Brown gave Rose Pak the Central Freeway boondoggle to compensate Chinatown businesses for losing the freeway connection.

Yes, I know Congestion Pricing is what you morons dream about. It will be a two-fer: you will be able to punish those wicked motorists by charging them to drive downtown, and, just as important, it will be a great source of revenue to maintain the MTA's 5,000-employee bureaucracy and all those featherbedders on six-figure salaries.

Problem is that Congestion Pricing isn't polling well with city voters, but you and the overpaid drones in City Hall will figure out a way to shove it down our throats anyhow, right? Because it's all about Smart Growth and, as Scott Wiener would say, Good Government. Like encouraging 19,000 residents on Treasure Island.

But the odd thing about you folks is that, in spite of all your talk about Speaking Truth to Power, you rarely put your name on comments to this blog.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

By the way, this post isn't a "personal attack" on Shahum. It's a political attack. The same thing to you though, right? Politics in SF to you folks is apparently an elaborate self-esteem exercise, where you all have to have continuous positive feedback about how brave and "progressive" you are because it's all about you, not what's good for the city.

At 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On many occasions Leah Shahum showed that she is clueless.

For ex. she didn't understand the purpose of the bike plan EIR. June 24, 2006 in the SF Chron she said

"The irony is that you have a few people trying to use the state's environmental regulations to discourage bicycling, the most environmentally friendly form of transportation."

When someone with this capacity is exec. director, no wonder there are fewer SFBC members.

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Another item that questions Shahum's judgment and sense of proportion: her unwavering support for adding a bike path to the west span of the Bay Bridge, even if it costs $550 million!

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fun definitely began with the "Valencia Street Lie" - when Valencia went from shitty to kick ass

At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Valencia is now a congested hell hole of boutiques, wine bars and restaurants. This was the SFBC's pyrrhic victory - the time when the average San Fransican said, "enough! no more boutiques!" Ever since then the SFBC has been on the defensive with loss after loss.

At 6:25 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"The fun definitely began with the 'Valencia Street Lie'---when Valencia went from shitty to kick ass."

A reference to the bike lanes on Valencia. But those lanes were made without eliminating any street parking on Valencia, which is why it's a lie to use it to justify the bike project on Polk Street, which will take away a lot of street parking to make protected bike lanes.

How exactly did those bike lanes have any impact at all on that neighborhood? No evidence to support that new wrinkle on the Valencia Street Lie.

At 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bicycles aren't a problem, it's the assholes who ride them and advocate for them


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