Friday, May 12, 2017

Brian Wiedenmeier, meet Matt Smith

Bike advocates live in an alternate universe, which is why I call their agenda a fantasy, since there's an unrealistic assumption underlying that agenda that it's possible---even a duty---for government at all levels to make riding a bike safe.

Bike advocates think doing that is all about "infrastructure." If they had protected bike lanes throughout the city, cyclists wouldn't have to worry about the danger of motor vehicles, and then men, women, children, and the elderly could all ride safely on city streets! (In reality most cycling accidents are "solo falls.")

Streetsblog's recent story on a talk at SPUR---a friendly audience for the bike message---by the Bicycle Coalition's Brian Wiedenmeier is a good example of this delusion:

San Francisco has made strides in increasing bicycling’s mode share, but its bike infrastructure is still bad. That was the conclusion of yesterday’s state of cycling talk at the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association. “I had three or four near misses on Market street just getting over here,” said Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “So from our perspective it’s pretty crappy.” He said that the key to getting better, safer infrastructure for bikes is to rely on data when making decisions about lane and intersection construction...

Does Wiedenmeier mean Vision Zero "data"? According to that slogan disguised as a safety policy, every busy street in the city is part of "a high-injury network," since where most traffic accidents happen is---wait for it---on busy city streets.

Well, did Wiedenmeier have three or four "near misses" while riding his bike to SPUR? What was the nature of those incidents, and how would "infrastructure" have prevented them? Sounds like he was so rattled he couldn't clearly recall.

The infrastructure he wants: "protected bike lanes on all major streets," which means taking away traffic lanes and street parking on the busiest city streets, essentially remodeling city streets on behalf of a small minority and making traffic radically worse for more than 90% of those who now use city streets.

Wiedenmeier's experience reminds me of Matt Smith's 2005 account in the SF Weekly of his hair-raising daily commute by bike:

These conflicts are extraordinarily stressful, and on those mornings I find myself spending the first part of the day numb with low-level anger and fear. And I'm what you might call an ace at this: I've bike-commuted in big-city traffic for the past 25 years.

Nothing much has changed over the years. The moral of the story: riding a bike in San Francisco is dangerous and can't really be made safe. Don't do it, or if you do it have a realistic sense of the dangers involved. Even experienced cyclists get hurt on city streets.

We can be sure that Wiedenmeier wasn't referring to the "data" in that UC study that he and the Bicycle Coalition---along with Streetsblog and the rest of the local media---have been ignoring for years, since it showed that riding a bike in San Francisco is a lot more dangerous than the SFBC and City Hall have been telling us for years.

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At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

Rob, I'm impressed that you, a non-cyclist, somehow recognize the "alternate universe" the Bike Coalition Zealots inhabit. I'm a high-mileage urban cyclist myself and I can't figure these people out other than to conclude I'm living in an alien reality very different from theirs. For instance, most of the danger and terror I experience cycling in the city takes place at intersections, yet all the chanting I hear from bike zealots is "protected" bike lanes - which do absolutely nothing to reduce danger in intersections. And they, bicyclists, apparently see themselves as totally benign, harmless actors in traffic, whereas they terrify me, with unpredictable, sudden and quite galling moves within constricted lane space. Honestly, I prefer to deal with cars and motorists. Yes, many drivers do awful things in the presence of cyclists but at least their repertoire is limited and, in my experience, highly foreseeable and almost never surprising. My next crash (oh yes, it WILL happen) is more likely to involve human-powered traffic than a motor vehicle (unless the motor vehicle is a motorized bike, scooter or skateboard many of which are now endangering traffic in bike lanes).

At 12:01 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I respect cyclists like you who aren't in denial about the potential danger of riding a bike. What's worrisome about the SFBC and City Hall is that they're encouraging everyone---even children!---to start cycling without providing them with any realistic sense of the risks involved. Most people in SF want to do the politically correct thing, which means they may give it a try based on the official endorsement.

It's a good deal for City Hall, since more people cycling helps, if only marginally, the city deal with traffic congestion.

The reckless behavior by cyclists you and everyone else sees on city streets shows that riding a bike for a lot of guys---and it's mostly guys---is motivated by the same speed and thrills that motivate mountain bikers, but the latter are more honest about it than their urban brothers.

City Hall should provide every cyclist and potential cyclist with a copy of Robert Hurst's book The Art of Cycling: Staying Safe on Urban Streets, which would give those determined to take it up with a lot of good advice, while discouraging the faint of heart who worry about safety.

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one ever speaks to how FAST bikes go heading east along the Panhandle. The police should have radar guns and ticket bikes for speeding because this "lane" is used by pedestrians as well!!

At 12:54 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I often cross the Panhandle going North after using the track at Kezar Stadium. You have to be very careful to avoid cyclists while approaching Fell Street and crossing the path on the North side. In fact this is true of a lot of intersections in the city, since some cyclists are going very fast and, unlike motor vehicles, you can't hear them coming.


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