Friday, October 23, 2015

Fitzgibbons: "We have battle after battle, and nothing is ever solved"

The NY Times's story (San Francisco May Let Bicyclists Yield at Stop Signs) about Supervisor Avalos's Idaho Stop ordinance is a classic of the pseudo-objective reporting genre. The story's quoted sources: Morgan Fitzgibbons, another city cyclist, Supervisor Avalos, the executive director of a bike group in Portland, someone from a bike group in Washington, D.C., Ed Reiskin, and Noah Budnick, all of whom support the Idaho Stop.

That's objectivity for you! All the news that fits!

Like the local media, the reporter supposedly couldn't find an actual San Francisco critic of the city's bike movement, but she didn't look very hard. As a party to the successful litigation that made the city do an environmental review of the Bicycle Plan, reporters used to feel obligated to give the devil his due by talking to me about these issues. No longer. But there are other, perhaps more respectable, critics that could be consulted, like Howard Chabner of Save Masonic.  


“It feels like the Wild West because there are so many people in the city right now,” said Morgan Fitzgibbons, a community activist who organized the protest at the Wiggle. “People say[to cyclists], ‘You are so entitled.’ But if anyone is entitled, it is the drivers who refuse to give up the privilege of having a parking spot. We have battle after battle, and nothing is ever solved.”

"Parking"? Fitzgibbons and the reporter can't even get their issues straight, since this story is supposed to be about the Idaho Stop.

But Fitzgibbons is right about how the public and the bike/anti-car movement are having "battle after battle" with no end in sight.

It's not just in San Francisco but even in Oregon:

The [Idaho Stop]issue is so divisive, said Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in Portland, Ore., that few politicians are willing to take it on. In 2009, Oregon’s Legislature debated such a bill, but it did not pass. “It became, ‘I don’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole,’ ” Mr. Sadowsky said.

And in Arizona and Montana:

Injuries in Idaho have not increased since the law passed, said Stephen Clark, a program specialist at the League of American Bicyclists in Washington, D.C. Nevertheless, proposals not only in Oregon but also in Arizona and Montana have failed to gain support, Mr. Clark said. He attributes this to the fact that cyclists and motorists do not always agree on how best to share the road.

The last sentence is putting it mildly. In short, the controversy about the Idaho Stop is not really about the merits of the idea but about the annoying behavior of cyclists that make politicians reluctant to support it. That boorish behavior is a national/international phenomenon: see this, this, and this.

The reporter finds a bogus consensus in San Francisco:

Still, everyone here agrees San Francisco has to better address the safety of its cyclists as more commuters take to biking to avoid the parking crunch and congested streets. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency estimates that 70,000 bike trips are made each weekday — a number that is rising — and it is the city’s goal to cut bike fatalities to zero by 2024.

No, there is in fact no consensus in the city on these issues. According to the last city count, commuting by bike has leveled off to an unimpressive 3.8% of all commuters after more than ten years of anti-car, pro-bike propaganda from City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition.

And Vision Zero is nothing but a slogan for a campaign that can't possibly succeed as long as people use city streets and act like, well, human beings who sometimes indulge in unsafe behavior.

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