Thursday, December 04, 2014

Noah Budnick: "excited" to lead anti-car special interest group

As the new executive director of the city's Bicycle Coalition, Noah Budnick shares Leah Shahum's preference for the language of hype. He refers to the "incredible energy" of the anti-car movement around the country, and he's "so excited" to be in San Francisco. Shahum's comment is also hyper: Budnick has "tremendous experience" and will be a "terrific new leader, she is "excited" about his ability.

Shahum shouldn't be a hard act to follow, since her long reign as head of the coalition has been characterized by arrogance, stupidity, and outright lies.

The Bicycle Coalition's press release includes this baloney:

Under her leadership, the number of people biking in San Francisco has skyrocketed (97% from 2006-2013), protected bikeways have been added across the city, and bicycling has become a core issue in creating a more livable city. She leaves the SF Bicycle Coalition to pursue a fellowship studying Vision Zero initiatives in Europe.

It's a lie that "people biking" in the city has "skyrocketed" 97%, since that's a reference to the last city bicycle count report, a survey that's only done once a year during commute hours. It doesn't measure the number of people riding bikes overall in the city; it only counts people riding to and from work on that particular day. And where are all those "protected bikeways" in the city? I know of one on the Panhandle but not any others.

This is a problem that the bike zealots have always had---knowing the difference between their own hype and reality. From Streetsblog's story on Budnick:

Budnick once debated with Rob Anderson, who sued SF over its 2009 Bike Plan (delaying it for years), on a 2008 edition of National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation.” He was also featured alongside Anderson and Shahum in a Wall Street Journal article on the issue at the time.

Actually, we sued in 2005 over the 2004 version of the Bicycle Plan, not the 2009 version (See Judge Busch's decision, wherein he all but called the city liars for their lame argument). And Budnick was not in that Wall Street Journal story. Streetsblog provides a link to the story but apparently didn't bother to read it. I don't remember Budnick at all from a radio program that allowed me little time to say anything, which wasn't surprising, since NPR usually upholds the prog party line.

This kind of ass-kissing on Streetsblog by Budnick probably didn't hurt his application for the job:

Last month, Streetsblog USA interviewed Budnick about the TA-hosted Vision Zero Symposium, a first-of-its-kind national event held in NYC. “In San Francisco,” he said, “the broad coalition and engagement on Vision Zero is impressive...I think what they’ve done in San Francisco with the Vision Zero coalition is good work for us to note.”

On Vision Zero, the rhetoric is outrunning the reality. Budnick:

It starts with a simple matter of leadership, which is stating that traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable. They’re not accidents. That change in thinking is an incredibly important first step....When the leadership acknowledges that all traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable, then you can move past these policy debates about whether or not zero is appropriate, and you can start from a strong moral position.

Meaning that you supposedly seize the high moral ground with this absurdity, since obviously not all traffic injury accidents are preventable; people will sometimes indulge in unsafe behavior, regardless of how well city streets are designed. This kind of hyperbole just makes Budnick and Shahum sound like hyped-up megaphones for their anti-car special interest group.

For someone supposedly concerned about the safety of city streets, Shahum has had nothing to say about that UC study that found the city has a radically flawed method of counting cycling accidents. You would think that someone pushing Vision Zero would be outraged at that gross incompetence about the safety of her membership.

By coming to grips with that study and its implications, Budnick could signal that his regime at the Bicycle Coalition is going to be different than Shahum's.

Bike guy John Murphy comments to the Streetsblog story: "I keenly look forward to the Rob Anderson blog post on this one. His tears of sadness are so delicious."

Why would I be sad about a leadership change at this special interest group? Like Budnick and Shahum, Murphy is probably just "excited."

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