Monday, August 17, 2015

The Masonic Avenue Derangement Syndrome #2

Michael Helquist: Bike demagogue rides again

For sheer demagoguery, stupidity and misinformation, Friday's story in the Examiner about Masonic Avenue by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez is remarkable (Safety improvements to ‘most dangerous’ SF street languishes in delays)

But when you learn that Rodriquez began his career at the defunct Bay Guardian---where city progressives used to learn the prog party line---you can understand his mindset. 

I wrote about Rodriguez last May after an earlier story he wrote on Masonic that also read like a joint press release from the Bicycle Coalition and the MTA.

The demagoguery is about the death of Nils Linke, who was hit by a drunk driver at the Masonic/Turk intersection:     
Petra Linke still remembers when she first taught her son to ride a bike. Blonde haired and slender, 5-year-old Nils Yannick Linke swiftly learned to navigate the streets of Berlin. He didn’t need training wheels, his mother said. She would run next to her son as he pedaled confidently. “He was very fast,” she said, “and he learned very quickly.” Nearly two decades later in 2010, 22-year-old Nils Linke was struck and killed by a drunk driver at Masonic Avenue and Turk Street. 

The tourist’s death grabbed city headlines. Linke’s candlelight memorial was attended by members of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors, neighbors and transit activists. Advocates say his death, and others killed and injured along Masonic Avenue before and after, spurred the SFMTA board to approve the Masonic Avenue Streetscape Improvement ProjectIt aimed to make Masonic Avenue safer for cyclists and pedestrians alike.
Linke was killed by a drunk driver at the Masonic/Turk intersection. Even if this project, with its separated bike lanes, had already been completed, nothing could have protected Linke---or anyone else---from being hit by a car in an intersection. And Linke wasn't wearing a helmet that might have enabled him to survive the accident.

From the Examiner's story on the accident five years ago (German cyclist's death found to be a homicide):
On the night of Aug. 13, Nils Yannick Linke was riding a borrowed bicycle to go to a party at Divisadero and McAllister streets when he was struck from behind. He crashed and died from blunt-force injuries to his head, according to the recently released autopsy. Linke was not wearing a helmet...On the night that Linke died, 36-year-old Josh Calder was driving an older-model Mercedes at the intersection of Masonic Avenue and Turk Street when he struck the 22-year-old cyclist, according to police.
That this Masonic Avenue project is essentially a bike project the MTA tries to obscure by calling it a "Streetscape" project, since it includes landscaping and some crappy art near Geary Blvd. (The Polk Street bike project is also called the "Polk Streetscape Project.")

The Masonic Avenue project is all about creating separated bike lanes between Fell Street and Geary Blvd. by removing 167 parking spaces on both sides of Masonic. Those parking lanes are now converted into traffic lanes during morning and evening commute hours. Turning them into permanent bike lanes will surely create more traffic congestion on Masonic Avenue.

More from Rodriguez's press release:
Thursday was the fifth anniversary of Nils Linke’s death, and not one shovel has broken ground on the project. Five years later, the effort to re-engineer one of San Francisco’s most dangerous streets languishes in delays. “It shouldn’t be taking this long,” Supervisor Eric Mar told the San Francisco Examiner. Mar’s district includes part of the project. “Masonic,” he said, “is a deathtrap.” The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition also expressed frustration. “Everything is in place,” said Noah Budnick, the coalition’s executive director. “The neighbors have spoken loud and clear. There’s political support for safety improvements, and the funding is in place. It’s time to get it done.”
Masonic is not in fact a "death trap," since there are few fatalities on the street, especially considering that it carries more than 32,000 vehicles a day. Along with Linke's death, a pedestrian was hit and killed by a drunk driver and a pedestrian was killed jaywalking on Masonic in front of Trader Joes, which isn't even in the project area. Supervisor Mar is featured in my analysis of the only serious city study of Masonic Avenue.

Noah Budnick's credibility on cycling and safety is undisputed, since he once had a cycling accident in New York---a solo fall, by the way---that put him in a coma for nine days, but he really knows nothing about Masonic Avenue. As the new head of a special interest group, he of course backs the party line regardless of the facts, like his predecessor, Leah Shahum.

More misinformation from Rodriguez:
The $18 million improvements would completely reshape Masonic Avenue from Geary Boulevard to Fell Street. Instead of six lanes of auto traffic, Masonic Avenue would sport only four, accompanied by pedestrian bulb-outs, cycle tracks, landscaped medians and more than a hundred new trees.
In fact Masonic now has only four lanes of traffic, except during commute hours, when one of the parking lanes is turned into an extra traffic lane. The rest of the time there are only four lanes. Rodriguez of course adopts the MTA's terminology: everything the city does to our streets is an "improvement"!

Rodriguez caps his story by citing bike demagogue Michael Helquist:
Michael Helquist, from the group BIKE NOPA (North of the Panhandle), long advocated for Masonic safety. He was a member of a similar group, FIX Masonic, which presented former SFMTA-head Nathaniel Ford with 500 neighbor signatures for Masonic Avenue improvements in 2008. “Linke’s death helped spur The City to move forward with the Masonic project,” Helquist said.
There was/is no petition with 500 signatures. At least we've never been able to find a single copy of it.

And Fix Masonic was never anything but a Bicycle Coalition front group, part of a long campaign of lies about Masonic by the coalition and people like Helquist.

There is, however, a petition against the Masonic bike project circulated by Save Masonic that now has 1,314 signatures, but that reality doesn't fit the Rodriguez/MTA/Bicycle Coalition party line on Masonic Avenue.

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At 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again -

Cycling bad. Cycling without helmet bad. Cycling on Masonic bad.

Driving at 3x the legal limit - shit happens. Hit and run - shit happens.

At 5:06 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Cycling is not "bad" in any moral sense, but it is a risky way to get around and cycling without a helmet is even riskier.

In any event, that's not the issue with Masonic Avenue, which is about redesigning a major regional traffic artery on behalf of a small minority against the interests of an overwhelming majority of city travelers. Few cyclists now use Masonic, and the city has no idea how many cyclists will use it after this radical project is implemented. This is a faith-based traffic policy.

The city's own study of Masonic---I linked it for you---shows that Masonic isn't particularly dangerous for anyone. All three of the fatalities cited could not have been prevented with the proposed street design: two people were killed by drunk drivers and the third was killed jaywalking by Trader Joes. It's simply demagoguery---and intellectually dishonest---to cite those accidents as somehow showing that Masonic is now unsafe.

At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

helmets should be required on bikes. i cant believe idiots are riding around the city without helmets

At 9:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nonetheless, you refuse to take a stand against drunk driving or hit and run, pretty much showing your true moral character.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Nonetheless, you refuse to take a stand against drunk driving or hit and run, pretty much showing your true moral character."

Duh. Does anyone support drunk driving?


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