Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Joel Engardio: Man in a bubble

There's a lot of foolishness in Examiner columnist Joel Engardio's recent column (Time to mandate bicycle licensesand his reaction to all the negative feedback he got (Reactions and Response to My Bike Column)

Apparently his column advocating licensing cyclists was inspired by conversations he had with a neighbor, Dennis Seaman.

“The critical mass bike ride every month is cool, but it pisses off motorists,” he[Seaman] said. “The bike movement has to do more than just demand more bike lanes and take away parking. Cyclists need to give motorists a reason to respect them. Bike licenses and insurance is a no-brainer. It puts everyone on the same playing field.” Seaman recently hit a car door that had opened into a bike lane he was riding in. His injury required 34 sessions of physical therapy. His bike had substantial damage. Yet his auto and home insurance didn’t cover his bike accident (not all policies do). He was on the hook for thousands of dollars in expenses.

Seaman was so shocked by this he apparently convinced Engardio that the moral of story is mandatory insurance for cyclists. There are so many objections to that idea even I, Mr. Anti-Bike, think it's a non-starter.

A reality-based moral of Seaman's story: riding a bike is dangerous. Don't do it. 

You would think that someone injured so badly he had 34 physical therapy sessions to recover would understand that reality. On the other hand, a 60-year-old man who thinks Critical Mass is "cool" clearly has cognitive issues.

From Engardio's feedback piece:

One message from a woman on the westside who drives and rides a bike was especially convincing: “Forcing people on bicycles to pay for a license and have insurance does not make the streets safer, but dramatically discourages people from using alternative transportation such as bicycles.” The woman, who is a mother of young children, made another important point: “I have more insurance than you can shake a stick at, and I still find that truly what makes the streets of San Francisco unsafe for vulnerable users of the road…is vehicle speeding.”

Yes, "vehicle speeding" and reckless driving by motorists is a serious safety problem, but there are many other hazards for cyclists, including the fact that most cycling accidents are "solo falls" that don't involve motor vehicles (see The myth of cycling "collisions"). 

Potholes and street conditions in general are a hazard, along with rail tracks. And there's the biggest hazard of all, the mindset of cyclists themselves. 

Cyclist and author Robert Hurst:

The most important lesson to be learned here is a bitter pill to swallow: There is no greater danger to the cyclist than the cyclist’s own incompetence. As a whole, it turns out, cyclists are not an entirely smooth and skillful lot. The majority of cycling accidents are embarrassing solo incidents, with the cyclist sliding out on turns, stacking it up after ramming potholes, curbs, and other obstacles, or just generally losing control (The Art of Cycling, page 161, emphasis in original).

The last edition of the MTA's Collisions Report (page 24) found that cyclists were responsible for more than half of their own injury accidents in San Francisco.


As I mentioned in the column, bikes are the future. We can’t deny that. We should be doing more to plan for it. I’ve been a strong advocate in previous columns for more public transportation infrastructure and investing in the subway tunnels we regret not building decades ago...My aim with this column was to acknowledge two realities: the number of bicyclists is only increasing and we still have lots of motorists (especially seniors) who rely on driving and parking. With one set of roads, this can cause tension.

Engardio evidently lives in an information bubble. According to the last Bicycle Count Report, commuting by bike in San Francisco has decreased by 7%. Since he clearly didn't read that report---or my blog on the issue---where would he have heard that news? Neither the Chronicle nor Streetsblog even had a story on the report, and the Examiner's story was clearly based on the MTA's press release, not on the report itself.

I wrote about Engardio and SF moderates a couple of years ago, including his delusional idea that a tunnel under Geary Blvd. is reality-based.

And the idea that it's mostly "seniors" who drive motor vehicles in San Francisco is based on nothing but Engardio's prejudice. I don't know of any data that confirms that notion. 

There are in fact more motor vehicles registered in a gentrifying San Francisco every year.

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