Sunday, August 25, 2019

The irresponsible bike hype

Willamette Week

Since our successful litigation against the city's Bicycle Plan---way back in 2006!---people have asked, "What do you have against bikes?"

The litigation was of course not about bikes per se but about the law. The city was beginning to implement the ambitious, 500-page Bicycle Plan without any environmental review, a clear violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the most important environmental law in the state that requires environmental review of any project that even might have an impact on the environment.

As Judge Busch noted in his ruling against the city, our litigation was not about the positives---real or imagined---on the contents of the Bicycle Plan but about CEQA and the fact that the city had done no environmental review of the ambitious plan to redesign city streets, a policy based on nothing but the hope that it would encourage a significant number of people to take up cycling---the mode shift theory.

The other important thing that bothered me about the cycling push: in spite of denials by advocates, riding a bike has intrinsic dangers, not just because of accidents with motor vehicles but also from "solo falls," the most common cycling accident that has nothing to do with other vehicles (See also this).

Now that San Francisco has jumped through CEQA's legal hoops and can do whatever it wants to city streets, it and other cities must acknowledge the safety issue, particularly in the wake of the dramatic collapse of the Vision Zero fantasy.

It's not that cities should discourage cycling, but they should stop pretending that it's a win-win deal for everyone: people on bikes get needed exercise, more people on bikes means fewer people driving cars reducing congestion, which is good for the environment, etc.

Encouraging people to ride bikes in the city---or anywhere, for that matter---is irresponsible without also providing would-be cyclists a realistic sense of the dangers involved. 

San Francisco has even urged parents to get their children on bikes to ride on streets that everyone now admits aren't safe for adults on bikes!

What's become clear over the last ten years: more people riding bikes inevitably means more people getting injured and killed.

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