Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Bicycle Coalition's new director

Dear Rob,

With executive director Leah Shahum’s departure our local bicycle coalition had an opportunity to reform itself and staunch the outflow of its members (they used to boast publicly of having 12,000 members but have been silent about their membership for some time; their 2013 annual reports contains no membership figures, although it does disclose statistics about volunteers and newsletter subscribers. 

Alas, instead of picking a new executive director who could direct the Coalition’s efforts on behalf of those who already ride bicycles, they are handing the post over to another human-powered-transit evangelist who appears to be just the guy to continue the faith-based crusade for the great mode-shift rapture in which all the sinful motorists eventually see the error of their ways and, through the miracle of cityscape re-engineering, become daily utility cyclists.

Among my circle of bike-riding friends, all of whose annual mileage is in the mid 4 figures, you will find no current members of the SFBC although some of us (including me) used to be members as recently as 2012. We are all adults; we all ride transit and walk; we are all licensed drivers and car owners. None of us sees the Coalition as representing our interests as committed cyclists or as San Franciscans. Oh, I suppose the Coalition’s efforts to school cyclists and taxi drivers in the rules of the road are a nice idea (although I see little evidence of this schooling on the streets). 

But its emphasis on screwing up roadways like JFK Drive and Masonic Avenue to fulfill its religious commitment to segregation of bikes and cars over more simple, inexpensive streetscape improvements (such as dedicated right-turn lanes to the right of bike lanes, helping to keep motor traffic running smoothly while guiding it and bicycles out of each other’s way) is at variance, to say the least, with what my friends and I view as what would be most valuable to our bike-riding experience and most harmonious with other traffic modes. We really don’t like being resented and despised.

Not all major bike coalitions choose this path. The coalition in Silicon Valley, perhaps influenced by all the rational, facts-based engineers down there, is a good example. Instead of ignoring valuable academic research (as the SFBC does with the UC bicycle injuries study) the Silicon Valley coalition actually co-sponsors academic research with their local teaching hospital to assist them with discovering what really works and what doesn’t. Sponsoring and underwriting research is something I recommended to the San Francisco coalition when I was a member and participated in their strategic planning brainstorm meeting. You can see how eager they were to embrace THAT suggestion.

Deane Hartley

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Hindu barbarism in Nepal

From CNN World:

...The ritual sacrifice of goats, buffaloes and roosters in temples and at home is widespread in Nepal where 80 percent of the population are Hindu.

Some five million people from adjoining districts---and also from the bordering Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh---will attend the festival, according to local authorities, although only two days are dedicated to the sacrificial ritual itself.

The slaughter follows a set pattern: on Friday male water buffalo calves are killed while on Saturday attention switches to goats.

Officials estimate that up to 10,000 buffalo calves and 150,000 goats will be offered to Gadhimai---the goddess of power---during the ritual. Watch a CNNi report on the ritual

But these numbers will be much lower than those of 2009, the last time the five-yearly Gadhimai festival took place, thanks to advocacy efforts by animal rights activists. In that year nearly 20,000 buffalo calves were killed, according to temple officials and more than 200,000 goats were slaughtered.

"We object to the cruelty with which animals are treated," says Pramada Shah of Animal Welfare Network Nepal. "There is random hacking of animals in open space. Not all animals have their heads chopped off. Some take up to 40 minutes to die."

The participants---who hack the animals in an enclosed arena with large knives---are licensed by the Gadhimai Festival Management and Development Committee. This year about 400 people will kill animals, according to Kushwaha, who is also the committee's secretary....

Rob's comment: Well, at least they aren't hacking people to death like the Islamic fanatics. And maybe the butchers get points from feminists for sacrificing male animals to that female god.

Thanks to the Friendly Atheist.


Angela Merkel, the Baader-Meinhof Group, and Obama

Good piece by George Packer on Angela Merkel (The Quiet German) in the New Yorker. What I found interesting is Merkel's opinion of the radical left in West Germany:

West German politicians of Merkel’s generation were shaped by the culture wars that followed the upheavals of 1968, which didn’t touch her at all. Over dinner one night in the mid-nineties, Merkel asked Schlöndorff, a former radical, to explain the violence perpetrated by the Baader-Meinhof Group. He told her that young people had needed to break with the authoritarian culture that had never been repudiated in West Germany after the defeat of the Nazis. 

The more he explained, the less Merkel seemed to sympathize—she wasn’t against authority, just the East German kind. What did kids in the West have to protest about? She didn’t always hide a feeling that West Germans were like spoiled children...

And her relationship with President Obama:

As she got to know Obama better, though, she came to appreciate more the ways in which they were alike—analytical, cautious, dry-humored, remote. Benjamin Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national-security adviser, told me that “the President thinks there’s not another leader he’s worked closer with than her.” He added, “They’re so different publicly, but they’re actually quite similar.” (Ulrich joked, “Obama is Merkel in a better suit.”) During the Ukraine crisis, the two have consulted frequently on the timing of announcements and been careful to keep the American and the European positions close.

Obama is the antithesis of the swaggering leaders whom Merkel specializes in eating for breakfast. On a trip to Washington, she met with a number of senators, including the Republicans John McCain, of Arizona, and Jeff Sessions, of Alabama. She found them more preoccupied with the need to display toughness against America’s former Cold War adversary than with events in Ukraine themselves. (McCain called Merkel’s approach “milquetoast.”) To Merkel, Ukraine was a practical problem to be solved. This mirrored Obama’s view...

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