Saturday, September 27, 2014

Jason Henderson: "Prop. L must lose big"

Jason Henderson teaches a course called Bicycle Geographies at SF State, and he wrote a book supposedly based on the city's recent transportation history that features the illusory significance of bicycles. Even his vacations are about bikes. And he writes for the Bay Guardian, the editor of which is also a dedicated bike guy.

Who's better qualified to express the "progressive" view of transportation in San Francisco? Unfortunately for Henderson (see Money for Muni in this week's Guardian) and city progressives, that case has some serious shortcomings:

Prop. A's campaign also touts $142 million going towards pedestrian, bicycle, and motorist safety in corridors where the most death and injury have occurred.

Specifically which "corridors" are those? Impossible to say in light of that UC study that found that for years the city has been seriously under-counting cycling accidents. An earlier report found that the city has been making the same mistake counting pedestrian accidents. Along with counting accidents on the streets of the city, the purpose of the city's annual Collisions Reportanalyze where and why accidents happen to determine how they can be prevented. If the city isn't counting a lot of accidents, that analysis can't really be done. 

Odd that Henderson, a dedicated bike guy, ignores a report that finds he and his cycling comrades are in greater danger on city streets than they thought. Of course the real reason he and the editor of the Guardian are strenuously ignoring the study: it shows that riding a bike in the city is more dangerous than they, City Hall, and the Bicycle Coalition have been telling us. It's the same with the debate about wearing helmets when you ride: it makes many bike advocates uncomfortable because it implies realistically that cycling can be dangerous, which would discourage would-be cyclists from adopting that transportation "mode."


If [Prop. A is] approved it will also leverage state and federal matching funds, such as new cap-and-trade funding, hastening shovel-ready projects that many San Franciscans are clamoring to get done.

And exactly what kind of projects are people "clamoring to get done"? Henderson doesn't say, though paving city streets would seem be high on the list, since the condition of city streets is among the worst in the country. What should be low on the list: more bulb-outs, bike lanes, and cosmetic makeovers like the one on Divisadero. City Hall should pave the streets and then leave the neighborhoods alone.

Had Mayor Ed Lee not pandered to wealthier motorists, Sunday metering would be providing millions annually in Muni operating fees. Sup. Scott Wiener, the author of Prop. B, and his colleagues on the board, were shamefully silent about blowing that $10 million hole in Muni's budget. They were also silent or complicit in stopping expansion of SF Park, which is smart management of our streets and would provide millions more in operations funding for Muni...

Mayor Lee is rightly worried about passing Proposition A, which is why he has tried to placate neighborhood discontent by deactivating Sunday parking meters; why he wanted raising the vehicle licensing fee off the ballot; and why he opposed putting Supervisor Wiener's Prop. B on the same ballot as Prop. A. (Supervisor Wiener will be re-elected easily, so it's easy for him to grandstand with Prop. B).

As Henderson notes, Prop. A needs a 2/3 vote to pass. According to the Chamber of Commerce poll early this year, it was only getting 54%.


Meanwhile, congestion pricing---or charging drivers to access the most traffic-snarled portions of the city during peak hours---could bring in up to $80 million annually. Together with a reestablished VLF[vehicle license fee], that would simultaneously erase the need to do Prop. B and reduce our need to incur more wasteful debt.

According to that same poll, congestion pricing is even more unpopular in the city this year than it was last year: 72% disapprove of the idea and only 21% approve.


But ultimately, all of the supervisors, including Wiener, are complicit in the mayor's mess. Why didn't the supervisors speak up when Sunday metering was repealed? Why didn't the supervisors insist on placing the VLF on this year's ballot? With a two-thirds vote of the board, it would be on the ballot now. And unlike Prop. A, the VLF only needs a simple majority to pass. And now, because the mayor and supervisors have pandered to motorists to the umpteenth degree, a small group of them feel even more emboldened and entitled to grab more.

Obviously, as elected officials, the supervisors understand Mayor Lee's fears about Prop. A, which is a much bigger deal than Sunday parking meters or raising the vehicle licensing fee. (A prediction: both those issues will soon be back on the ballot whether Prop. A passes or not.) The mayor wanted to clear the ballot of other money issues to give Prop. A a better chance of passing.

Henderson wraps it up:

That takes us to Prop. LProp. L must not only lose at the ballot, it must lose big, so that maybe our politicians will get the message that we want a sustainable, equitable, and transit-first city.

In the city charter, the definition of "transit first" is so elastic it includes bicycles, which is why Henderson likes it. That means that the city can do whatever anti-car "improvements" it wants to city streets, and they can always be called "transit first."

But what if Prop. L passes, comes close to passing, or even just gets a substantial vote? "Our politicians" would then get a different message, one that would shatter the phony consensus about redesigning city streets on behalf of Henderson's small special interest group against the overwhelming majority that uses city streets.

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