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  • Fear and Blogging in America’s Most Bike-Friendly City

    San Francisco

    Photography by | Chris Bruntlett

    From the beatnik poets of North Beach, to the flower children of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco is a city with a long and storied history of dissent and counterculture. The world of bicycle advocacy is no exception. It is, after all, home of the very first Critical Mass protest ride, which began as a modest gathering, envisioned to temporarily reclaim the streets for pedal-powered transportation. Over the past two decades, it has spread to cities around the world, snowballing into a global movement with a reputation for defiantly provoking police, politicians, and anyone inadvertently caught in its path.

    However, during a short stay over Christmas – where I rode its streets and chatted with its citizens – it became clear San Francisco is very much a bike culture in transition. It is gradually dropping the militant image it (rightfully) garnered over the years, and becoming something a little less divisive and little more mainstream. The bicycle is no longer a symbol of radical activism, but rather, is evolving into a fixture of modern urban life.

    There are mounting signs that the Critical Massers have outstayed their welcome. Even founder Chris Carlsson recently questioned their current relevance and necessity. More diverse, celebratory, and less confrontational gatherings – such as the S.F. Bike Party, Sunday Streets, and Tour de Fat – have started regularly outdrawing Critical Mass. One cannot deny it once played a role in mobilizing and garnering political support, but even more powerful new engines have emerged, successful in building infrastructure, changing policy, and most importantly, getting butts on saddles.

    One such engine is the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which at over 12,000 members, is one of the largest non-profit bicycle advocacy groups in North America. Not only have they established themselves as a significant political force, but they provide valuable services to the community; distributing free lights, training taxi drivers how to safely share the road, and providing a free bicycle valet for events across the city (required by law in San Francisco for any gathering expected to attract more than 2,000 people).

    Another strong indication of a cycling culture in transition is the wide variety of female, lifestyle-orientated bike bloggers in the Bay Area. Writers, photographers, and filmmakers – such as Kristin Tieche at Vélo Vogue, Melissa Davies at Bike Pretty, Bojun Bjorkman-Chiswell at The Bike In My Life, and Janet Lafleur at LadyFleur – are sharing inspiring, informative, and high-quality content about bike fashion, culture, accessories, and art, in an enlightened attempt to engage with mainstream audiences, and help cycling shed its rebellious, subcultural connotations.

    With levels of human infrastructure (a phrase coined by Adonia Lugo to refer to grassroots organization and advocacy) rarely seen on this continent, San Francisco has experienced a tremendous number of successes. In late 2013, it was named “America’s Most Bike-Friendly City” by the Alliance for Biking and Walking, based on their 5.6 bike-able miles per square mile (including on-street bike lanes, multi-use paths and signed routes). The next best cities, Austin and Long Beach, rang in with about 4.5 bike-able miles each.

    These achievements have also extended to a surge in ridership, having experienced a 96% increase in cycling rates since 2006. And the city is currently spending $9.16 per citizen per year on bicycling projects, to reach their ambitious goal of a 10 per cent mode share by the year 2020. In comparison, my home town of Vancouver – where the press tirelessly ridicules our “bike obsessed” Mayor – saw an increase of just 40 per cent in the same period, and has a paltry $4.32 per citizen per year budgeted to hit a modest 7 per cent share goal by 2020.

    Sadly, many of these accomplishments have been realized in the face of vehement opposition–often from folks who stand to benefit the most from them. Just last year, a group of merchants rallied to “Save Polk Street” from the removal of a few parking spaces for a bike lane, despite a study indicating just 15 per cent of their customers arrived by private automobile. City planners eventually caved, settling for a compromise that would retain all parking, and force brave cyclists to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, five years after a similar lane was installed on nearby Valencia Street, two-thirds of retailers reported both the number of visitors and amount of business had since improved, and voiced support for further traffic-calming measures.

    In June 2006, in a move that would make the “Save Kits Beach” group proud, the S.F.M.T.A. was slapped with a lawsuit by a single “concerned citizen” opposed to their bike plan. It resulted in a court-ordered injunction, which prevented them from building any new infrastructure until they completed a four-year, $1-million review to prove the plan complied with the California Environmental Quality Act, and did not result in an increase in motor vehicle emissions. The injunction was eventually lifted in August 2010, and city officials celebrated by immediately painting a brand new bike lane on Townsend Street.

    Under such challenging circumstances, it comes as no surprise that the vast majority of theses celebrated “bike-able miles” are, in fact, fading sharrows and door-zone paint. Referred to by Mikael Colville-Andersen as the “unloved, bastard children of bicycle infrastructure”, they do little to increase the perception of safety, or welcome cyclists of different ages and abilities. San Francisco does have some short stretches of protected bike lane, but they are few and far between. The work needed to complete a safe, separated bike network is planned – but at the current rate, will take decades to finish.

    The perception of safety – rather than the reality of safety – is something with which aspiring cycling cities around the world struggle. This sense of fear was palpable in the types of cyclists I saw (and most tellingly, didn’t see) on San Francisco’s streets, many of whom fell into the “hunched and helmeted” demographic: young (in their 20s or 30s), white, and physically fit. I saw precious few children or seniors on bicycles. And while two-wheeled travel is – in reality – just as safe as crossing the street, this scenario won’t change until those age groups feel more secure and comfortable giving it a try.

    One final piece of the puzzle – the long-awaited Bay Area Bike Share – launched in September, after securing a limited amount of funding, and failing to find a title sponsor (despite the region teeming with wealthy tech companies). The result is incredibly narrow in scope, with just 350 bikes and 35 docking stations in the downtown core. This makes cycling to any of the city’s two dozen neighbourhoods impossible, but ridership has been sufficient to qualify for additional funds. An expansion is planned that will see the scheme grow slowly, but surely in the coming years. It’s a far cry from Citi Bike’s 6,000 Bixis, but Bay Area Bike Share will become a critical part of their public transit system, given a suitable investment of time, and (most importantly) money.

    In the end, the narratives and themes I saw in San Francisco were identical to many other North American cities I’ve cycled in. Unlike a recent trip to Los Angeles, however, where I beamed about its potential to become a great cycling city, this stop had one crucial, underlying difference: I was riding with my children (ages five and seven). Their mere presence drastically effected my observations and experiences, as I suddenly witnessed all obstacles and challenges through their vulnerable eyes. And through that lens, “America’s Most Bike-Friendly City” still has much to do. The low-hanging fruit has been picked. But if they are truly serious about retaining that title, they must now refocus, and aim higher, for more difficult – but substantive – targets. I can’t wait to return, as my kids grow older, and reap the rewards of that hard work and determination.

    Words by | Chris Bruntlett

    47 thoughts on “Fear and Blogging in America’s Most Bike-Friendly City

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      1. Jake Wegmann

        Not every article can cover every important topic. Climate change is important too. So is homelessness. So are a lot of things. But to write a coherent and sufficiently short article, the author has to keep the scope in check.

        Personally, I think the author nailed it — this is a very well-informed outsider’s view of what’s been happening in SF regarding biking in recent years.

        Reply
        1. Slow_Factory

          “A lot of things”? Sure, but there is the question of WHO is riding in San Francisco, and in a way cycling can be – it is in this case – a symptom of gentrification.

          We are simply adverse to talking about class issues. It is complicated, but this article is not ingredients on the side of a box of cycling, is it?

          Reply
          1. Jake Wegmann

            I’m not afraid of talking about class issues. I do it constantly. I’m just not sure why you think this article is incomplete without them being brought up.

            First of all, is it well-known that gentrification is driving the cycling boom in SF? I don’t think that’s obvious at all. Is your claim that virtually the only people who have taken up urban biking in the last few years are newcomers who earn a lot of money? I could see that driving some of the increase, sure, but I could also point to a lot of other factors: ongoing frustration with the performance of Muni; people pinched by the rising rents turning to bike travel to save money; the general rising cultural cool factor of biking (which doesn’t just influence gentrifiers — lots of people want to be cool); increasing consciousness about the environment; or better infrastructure (which is available to all, not just gentrifiers). To convince me, or anyone else, that gentrification is the only significant explanation is going to take a lot more than just saying so.

            But, OK, let’s assume that you’re right, and the boom in biking is only because of gentrification. Well, then what? Since you’re saying that increased biking is only because of gentrification, should the article be about gentrification, and skip talking about biking altogether, since it’s just a symptom of the underlying problem? Should the author only write articles about gentrification, even if that’s not her/his primary interest?

            And then, even if we now acknowledge that increased biking is due to gentrification and gentrification only, what do we do with that information? Surely we shouldn’t stop seeking to make biking better, since after all biking is (as you say) caused by, not causing, gentrification. Which means that trying to stop the improvement in biking wouldn’t do a thing to half gentrification. Right?

            Reply
            1. Chris Bruntlett

              Thanks for your comments Slow_Factory. I get similar feedback after every city-specific piece I write. I do my best to summarize what I can (decades of history, geography, politics, socio-economics, etc., etc., etc.) in a single, 1,200 word article. It ain’t easy. In an ideal world, I’d find someone to bankroll an entire book on the subject, so I can write 300+ ridiculously detailed pages on the world’s best bike cities (à la Taras Grescoe’s seminal ‘Straphanger’). In the meantime, I’ll keep pumping out these little snapshots of the places I visit, as long as there are people interested in reading them…

            2. M.

              Thanks for writing about SF, Chris. Coupla points: Neglected to point out that the Board’s resolution called for 20/20; 20% in 2020.
              As to who cycles and cycling being driven by gentrification, not really. At least not along Polk St., the primary north-south cycle route in NE SF. An ongoing SFBC bike count there confirms our observations: numbers of cyclists-of-color who don’t fit the popular stereotype of gentrifiers almost on a par with ones that seem to. My conversations w/ them reveal that they are folks who staff the entire corridor and the ‘delta’ up into affluent neighborhoods and the tourist mecca of Fisherman’s Wharf. Cycling is a transit necessity for many in this most expensive city in the US.

      2. Fred

        I talked to homeless and immigrants in my community (in SD) and both groups are _more_ supportive of safe cycling infrastructure than the gentrifier classes (white middle class). The only people who equate cycling and gentrification are white people. Haha. Using minorities and poor as sock puppets isn’t racist or classist at all. Haha.

        Reply
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    5. M.

      Chris wrote, ‘…two-wheeled travel is – in reality – just as safe as crossing the street…’ Worth noting that SF is the US’s most dangerous town for pedestrians, with 20+ deaths in 2013 and an average of 2-3 ped/vehicle collisions/DAY. The reasons are many but are fundamentally that SF is the most concentrated urban population in a state the was built on the supremacy of the auto, and all it symbolizes. And there’s a knock-on effect for cyclists as well.
      As founder of Folks for Polk (featured in Bike Smart- Momentum Mag http://momentummag.com/features/bike-smart-madeleine-savit/), I came face-to-face w/ the reactionary dark side of SF. Among many other initiatives (e.g. innovating w/ tech tools for broader outreach), we’ve cited several extant laws to turn the spurious legal saber-rattling back on opponents of positive change.

      Polk St. gets repaved in 2015; bring your kids back when they’re 7 and 9 to see experience our handiwork 😉

      Reply
    6. SFnative74

      Nice article! You manage to accurately capture many of the dynamics around cycling better than some people who live here.

      Reply
    7. Rob Anderson

      Very misleading account of San Francisco’s recent history and struggles with the Bicycle Plan and anti-carism. The Bicycle Coalition is in reality nothing more than a lobbying organization for a special interest group that represents only a small minority of city residents.

      We won the litigation against City Hall because it was clearly trying to illegally rush the 500-page Bicycle Plan through the process. Of course when you propose taking away thousands of street parking spaces and more than 50 traffic lanes on busy city streets, that will impact the environment. The city lied about that and maintained that lie to the bitter end, when Judge Busch ordered them to cut the crap and do an environmental review of the plan.

      The city’s bike people have been bitter about that ever since, because they’re not burning any fossil fuel and shouldn’t have to comply with the most important environmental law in California!

      On Polk Street: That 15% of visitors to Polk Street arrive by car is mentioned, but not that the same poll found that only 5% arrive by bike. So the moral of the story is that more than 200 parking spaces should be removed to make protected bike lanes for this small minority? Not surprisingly small business owners on Polk Street objected to removing all that parking for their customers, as did residents in the area. Like all neighborhoods in SF, street parking in Polk Gulch is in short supply.

      On the Valencia Street lie: No street parking was removed to make the bike lanes on Valencia Street. Traffic lanes were removed to do that, which makes this example completely irrelevant to Polk Street.

      There are very few streets in SF that have space to make separated bike lanes, since that requires either taking away scarce street parking or limited traffic lanes.

      Speaking of safety and cycling in SF, the local media has been successful so far in ignoring a recent UC study on cycling accidents in the city that found that City Hall has for years been systematically under-counting cycling accidents by relying only on police reports and ignoring all such accidents recorded at the city’s primary trauma center, San Francisco General Hospital.

      The New York Times wrote about the study back in October, but the local press is pretending that it doesn’t exist, because it undermines City Hall’s pro-bike, anti-car policy to encourage people—even children—to ride bikes in the city. If riding a bike is a lot more dangerous than City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition have been telling us, it makes them look duplicitous and irresponsible, which of course they are.

      Reply
      1. M.

        RA’s got a bug about the SFBC. Most cyclists in SF are not SFBC members, they just cycle to get from one place to another and the SFBC would love if they all were members.
        It’s noteworthy that you used to claim that the MTA lied in saying that only 15% of people arrive by car to Polk St. Now your tactic is to ignore that that still means that at least 85% do not need vehicular infrastructure like parking. If indeed you ever walk, take a stroll there and see for yourself how few parking spots are occupied much of the time.

        And equal time, RA, for all the splinter special interest groups lobbying for minority interests like, for example, the auto industry Brahmins? Or another example you, a one-man crusade shilling for a majority who *would* support you if they only knew that you represent death by collision, contaminated air and water.

        Reply
        1. Rob Anderson

          Not true that I called that Polk Street survey “lied” about the numbers. Could you provide some documentation of that? Like most bike people in SF, you don’t read my blog because it can be such a painful experience for True Believers in the great bike revolution.

          Of course City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition understand the interests of small businesses on Polk Street better than those business owners do! Why should they worry about 15% of their customers having trouble finding parking? Anyone who’s actually been in business understands that even 15% of your customer base can mean the difference between success or failure.

          I haven’t owned a car in more than 20 years and walk and take Muni to get around San Francisco.

          Reply
          1. M.

            Several of the most vocal businesses have already or are about to go out of business. Nothing to do with parking, rather no/really crap business plans. otoh, I’ve gathered letters from merchants who are in favor of positive change. Yes, positive change.
            (No time to keep blowing back at RA’s hot air, so signing off now. Thanks again, Chris)

            Reply
            1. Bike Pretty

              I read through your comments, but I don’t feel like I understand your ultimate goal.

              Do you want to keep SF at the current level of 3.4% trips by bike? Or do you want it lowered? Or do you want to eliminate bikes and bike lanes from the city altogether? Or do you feel like the city is rushing ahead and not making informed plans?

              I’m not sure I get The Rob Anderson Plan for SF.

            2. Rob Anderson

              The only people talking about “eliminating” anything are City Hall and the bike lobby; they want to eliminate thousands of parking spaces and dozens of traffic lanes to make bike lanes for a small minority. And they’re doing this based on nothing but the hope that it will result in a lot more people giving up driving and taking up cycling. That’s what the city’s “plans” are based on: nothing but hope.

              Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. People now have a perfect right to ride bicycles in San Francisco. But redesigning city streets on behalf of a small, fashionable minority is simply bad public policy. And it goes against the interests of a majority of city residents.

            3. Bike Pretty

              Thanks for the clear explanation of your views. In brief, you would like the city to do nothing.

              Can we expand that to include doing nothing to maintain current car infrastructure?

              Seems fair.

            4. Rob Anderson

              Maintaining “current car infrastructure” is “fair” and also good public policy, since motor vehicles are easily the predominant choice of more than 90% of those who now use city streets. There are 458,000 motor vehicles registered in San Francisco, more than 35,000 vehicles enter the city every workday, all of our goods are delivered by trucks, there are 1,500 taxis in the city, millions of tourists drive into and around the city every year, and tourism is our most important industry.

              Cyclists now make up only 3.4% of all trips in the city.

              But you really have to focus on specific bike projects to see how poorly they are justified by City Hall. Take the Masonic Avenue bike project that will eliminate 167 street parking spaces on that street between Fell Street and Geary Blvd. The city’s justification for that radical anti-car project is about safety on Masonic Avenue, which is a lie, since its own study of that important north/south artery shows that is untrue.

              Very few cyclists now use Masonic, so this project is a good example of one that’s based on nothing but the hope that enough cyclists will use it afterward to justify removing all that parking—and permanently foreclosing using those two parking lanes to make extra traffic lanes during commute hours.

              The same lie about safety was used to justify both the Fell/Oak bike project and the Polk Street project.

              Instead, the city should stick to painting sharrows on city streets to remind motorists that cyclists are present and have a perfect right to use city streets, Second, the city should do a lot better at keeping city streets paved, since potholes are a serious threat to the safety of cyclists. And there needs to be better enforcement of traffic laws by the SFPD.

            5. Bike Pretty

              Nope, car infrastructure is too expensive. It’s better to save the money and let the individual taxpayers use it how they see fit.

              If they want to band together and fix the potholes, that’s great. If they’d rather buy individual jetpacks and stay above the fray, they should get the chance.

              I don’t actually need the city to fix every pothole. I can get beefy tires for my bike. Or just, you know, avoid the potholes by going out of my way about a foot. But I can see why that sort of upkeep is important for car drivers.

          2. Fred

            I’m started to get really amused. 15% is big. 800 deaths nation wide is big. Haha. You’re a total riot. Let’s focus on the smaller problems and ignore the bigger ones. I’d love to have you working a hospital triage. You’d be putting through ring worm cases while people die of heart attacks. Total lack of rational real world prioritizing.

            Reply
      2. Fred

        Really? There’s no such thing as a cyclists. Most of us who ride bikes
        also take public trans, operate motor vehicles, and walk. Cycling
        infrastructure makes ALL these activities safer. Cycling as an activity
        is super-popular. There are more people who can ride bicycles than can
        drive cars due to age, legal status, and more. Nearly every child knows
        how to ride a bicycle. So “cyclists” are nearly 100% of the population.
        Meanwhile, cars spend 90% of lifetimes in parking spaces paid for by
        other people. Go figure.

        Anti-carism is bullshit. Show me a place where you can NOT get there by car? What percent of our real estate is car only? Which mode has literally their own “free”way system? Which mode has “drive-thrus”? I can show you many, many places where it’s either hazardous or down right ILLEGAL to walk or ride a bicycle. And yet we still hear complaints of “anti-carism” when the budget and real estate is so small. If you had a pie chart of the areas in SF devoted to cycling only vs. to motoring only you wouldn’t even see the slice! And yet Rob’s world is falling apart. How hysterical (I mean this both ways overly emotional and makes me laugh). :)

        The American motorist is one of the most pampered groups in the world. And despite > trillion bucks spent on them, they are still the whiniest group, too. If they they spend HALF the amount of money on cycling, hell, if they spend 10% of the current budget on cycling, I’d be the happiest guy in the world. I all ready am, but you know what I mean. Haha.

        Rob’s whining is an example of why I don’t drive. I don’t want to be part of such an unhappy group of people.

        Go for a bike ride, Rob, and get over your entitlement.

        Reply
        1. Rob Anderson

          I’m “overly emotional”? Seems like a case of projection, Fred. I’ve made fact-based comments and even linked documents to support my argument showing that cycling—even in San Francisco—is not “super-popular.” My world isn’t “falling apart” at all, but City Hall is actually damaging the city with its bike-centric traffic policies that make traffic worse than it has to be.

          I rely on Muni for longer trips across town, and when you take away traffic lanes to make bike lanes on busy streets, you’re also delaying the more than 700,000 people who rely on the city’s bus system.

          I cited the UC study to support the argument that riding a bike in SF—or anywhere, for that matter—is not safe. The study found that “cyclist-only” accidents—that have nothing to do with other vehicles—are the most under-reported accidents even though they are just as serious as “auto-versus-cyclist” accidents.

          Cyclists are not only taking up too much room on our streets and in our political life, but they are pushing an activity that is inherently dangerous.

          Reply
          1. Fred

            What!? Taking up too much room? Are you out of your mind? Bicycles are smaller and safer than cars. Anything you can say about bicycles can be cross applied to cars. But you have a double standard. Cyclists killed ONE PERSON in recent years, while motorists kill more people than terrorists and pedophiles combined. The whole point of cycling infrastructure is not to enable cycling, but to protect cyclists from known killers who will kill again. You seem to forget the most pertinent facts because you have a special hatred of cyclists for whatever reason. Your anti-cycling rants are totally out of proportion to problems that cycling has caused. Perhaps motorists can clean up their acts and stop killing people and we can all “share the road”. But that will never happen.

            Cycling infrastructure makes it possible for current motorists who are too scared to ride to have a chance to get outside and get some exercise.

            Why are you so opposed to an activity that spreads joy, exercise, community, and saves me personally thousands a year? I put myself through college working part time b/c I didn’t need to squander money on a car. Why is this so bad? This is progress for me and my life.

            I can ride anywhere w/o infrastructure and I am happy. The infrastructure is not for current cyclists, but for motorists who have demanded it before they ride. In fact the less people cycle, the more dangerous it is and the more that infrastructure is needed. So with numbers so low, you have actually proven we need more infrastructure to expand the market that is cycling just as we have expand the motoring market through government intervention which spent billions to “pick winners and losers.”

            Cycling only kills 700 people in the US per year and the serious injuries are in the thousands. Motoring kills more than 700 people per month.

            Look up the stats on the cdc website. Cycling is a sport and transportation combined and it’s safe in either category. When you take into account that cyclists are getting exercise (sports risk) plus getting somewhere (trans risk) you’ll be shocked at how absurdly safe cycling is.

            It’s safer than football and safer than motoring and equal in danger to many other athletic activities. When you combine benefits of exercise, money, health, and fun, you can not beat the absurd value that cycling is.

            Oh, cycling infrastructure makes motoring safer as well as walking.

            Finally, if cyclists are so dangerous (we aren’t) not building infrastructure is not going to solve a problem, but it will force many of us onto the sidewalk to hit pedestrians and into the street to delay motorists. There’s no winning against us. Cycling is legal and there’s nothing you can do about that.

            I love cycling and I’m happy. I just got in from riding my bike. Pure bliss. I hope your commute was just as fun.

            Reply
            1. Rob Anderson

              By “taking up too much room” on San Francisco’s streets, I mean that only 3.4% of all trips in the city are by bicycle, which means that 96.6% of travelers in SF use other means of transportation. Hence, it’s unwise and bad public policy to redesign city streets on behalf of this small minority with an effective lobbying organization. All that will achieve is making traffic worse for everyone else, including Muni passengers, since to make a bike lane either street parking or traffic lanes have to be eliminated.

              Odd that you invoke the CDC, since their websiteincludes this message:

              “While only 1% of all trips taken in the U.S. are by bicycle, bicyclists face a higher risk of crash-related injury and deaths than occupants of motor vehicles do. In 2010 in the U.S., almost 800 bicyclists were killed and there were an estimated 515,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries. Data from 2005 show fatal and non-fatal crash-related injuries to bicyclists resulted in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $5 billion.”

            2. M.

              and from $18-28m/yr in costs from ped/cyclist/car collisions on Polk St. *alone.* You’re riding a ideological hobby horse, RA. Want something dynamic between your legs, suggest you ride a bike – way more fun and actually gets you somewhere.

            3. Fred

              Google is your friend. We are not your paid lackeys to do research for you. If you really want to know how safe cycling is you’ll stop selectively quoting sources and look at the big picture.

            4. Fred

              Yes, that’s a very tiny number. Look up any other disease and you’ll see that it’s smaller.

              Also, you ignored the part where I noted that there is lots of evidence that says that cycling infrastructure makes the city safer for all modes.

              Many of the cycling deaths are in places with the least amount of cycling infrastructure. For example, Florida, with some of the most pro-motoring roads have more deaths. Ironically, places like Portland and NYC which have expanded infrastructure have seen an explosion in the number of cyclists and far fewer injuries and deaths.

              Very, very pro-cycling countries like the Netherlands have far, far smaller rates of cycling injuries and death and also lower motoring and pedestrian fatalities. In fact Portland had no fatalities in some years after building facilities. The cost? A mile or two of freeway. How many miles of freeways are there in the Bay Area?

              So cycling, itself is NOT inherently the problem, but rather lack of infrastructure is. So according to YOUR OWN VALUES of safety, you should be for infrastructure. Only your hate blinds you to these obvious facts. Or are you backing away from your claim that you want cyclists and others to be safe? You can’t have it both ways.

              Also, strangely enough places with better cycling infrastructure see shorter commutes for ALL MODES.

              So your plan will put more people’s lives at risk and it will lead to more delays.

              Finally, you have ignored the notion that CYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE IS FOR MOTORISTS. Why would I want infrastructure when I can ride my bicycle everywhere? I have had at least a dozen people at work say wistfully that they wanted to ride to work but are unable to do so because they are not comfortable with the risk. This number 12 x 3 = 36% which is comparable to a cycling mecca. Not only that I have had at least 3 co-workers decide that they wanted to risk cycling at least sometimes b/c it is so fun, healthy and practical.

              Heart disease rate kills thousands a year while cycling a handful.

              Finally, you need to cross apply your numbers to motoring and walking which are each much, much more deadly. In fact, if you were really consistent and not just filled with anger and hate, you’d actually want to ban motoring because as you said, it takes up too much space and is more deadly than cycling.

              And even if cyclists are killing ourselves all the time so what? I noticed that you are concern trolling cyclists b/c you know that you lost when you mentioned the danger b/c the danger that cyclists cause other modes is almost nil. But you ignored that b/c you are cherry picking arguments based on your anti-cycling crusade. If you really cared about cyclist’s lives, you’d read a study on how infrastructur4e is a great boon for your safety. But thanks for pretending that you care about people outside of your own personal lifestyle choices even if you did it to try to trick me to win a stupid argument.

              Also, since you ignored the economic and health argument (except to exaggerate the 800 number which is not even a blip on the danger radar) so I assume that you agree that cycling is healthy, happy, and is a huge for of economic relief for those of us who aren’t made of money. Or do actually want people to be poor, unhappy, and unhealthy? I’m so confused why you have so much hate at something that causes so few problems.

              I follow all traffic rules while on and off my bicycle. I routinely stop to allow people jay walk and to account for motorists roll stop signs. If you filmed my ride, it would be a series of non-cyclists breaking laws. Also, I experience almost no close calls and almost no harassment nor any other negative interaction with motorists or pedestrian. Cycling is bliss. Come and join in on the love.

            5. Rob Anderson

              I’m happy to learn about the “love” relationship you have with cycling and your bicycle. Congratulations. Yes, I’ve often been accused by True Believers like you that I’m full of “hate,” but like you those folks mistake criticism for hate. In San Francisco the bike folks get so little negative feedback from the rest of the media, they clearly don’t know how to handle it when it happens.

              That “800 number” is from the Centers for Disease Control’s website. Fatalities for cyclists are actually relatively rare in San Francisco, but serious injury is not, as both the UC study and the CDC confirm.

              Of course cycling can be good exercise, but it’s also a lot more dangerous than walking and jogging, which is how I stay fit.

              Cycling infrastructure in SF is not “for motorists.” As a representative of the Bicycle Coalition has said publicly, it’s really about “taking space from cars.”

            6. Fred

              Yes, when you selectively ignore evidence against your case and you call names like “True Believers” it proves that you have hate. I have refrained from calling you a name or insulting you, but your tone, from the start has been mean.

              You claim to care about cyclist’s deaths and when I point out that it’s safer than driving you fall back to serious injuries. You also didn’t address where cyclists are going to get their budget shortfall.

              You also made some claims about infrastructure costing a lot of money, being dangerous, and being wasteful of space. When I pointed out that compared to other modes, cyclists get less, you ignored that which means that you really don’t care about money, safety, nor fairness. Do you see why we think you have hate? When you make standards then are busted on them, ignore your old standards and fall back to different positions, you expose yourself.

              Stick to the point. Yes, we need to take space away from cars so what? Have you read about Smeed’s law? Do you want to save lives? Do you care to breathe fresher air?

              By the old standards you have stated you should be in favor of cycling infrastructure.

              Why did you quote that “800 number” when you selectively didn’t listen when I said that most of these deaths are in areas where infrastructure sucks. Why do you think there are so low deaths in SF?

              If you watch any tv commercial or movie, you’ll see that getting a car is code for growing up while there is nothing but hate in movies for cyclists. This has given you the false perception that cyclists are a safe target. I’m shocked that you think that cycling is getting a lot of love. In fact, in most cities, the police and media have a BBF policy. Blame bicycles first. Just as you do.

              Imagine you are walking and get hit by a bicycle who ran a stop sign. What are the first questions to ask? Did you wear a yellow vest? A helmet? Did you, too, break a law. Do you need to take a class to learn how to walk? Did you pay the sidewalk tax?

              Cyclists get this shit all the time no matter how law abiding and kind we are. If you are walking and get hit by a bicycle, they will press charges against the cyclist. Trust me. The one cyclist who killed a pedestrian had the book thrown at him while in a similar circumstance, speeding to make a yellow, he might not get charges at all. The cycling community was in FAVOR of the pedestrian. In fact, cyclists, in general love pedestrians with a few exceptions (that you’ll cherry pick). At least I do and I don’t like to fight with anyone.

              After all this, I can see that since you realize that infrastructure makes all modes safer we should accommodate cyclists. Failure to do so will only result in cyclist being forced to make terrible decisions such as sidewalk riding and “taking the lane” things that I oppose. I want cyclists in their own space and out of everyone else’s way. I routinely pull over on narrow streets, for example, to allow motorists to squeeze by. Why should we need to do this nonsense when there’s space for all?

              Finally, when assessing dangers of cycling, you need to realize you are combining three things which lead to misleading results:

              1. Sports cycling. Do we include NASCAR collisions as part of the dangers or motoring? No. Most cyclists are working out on the roads. This is not the type of cycling I do.

              2. Children cycling. Childeren get hurt. A lot. The CDC numbers combine these together. If you break them out, you’ll see that adults who ride are much lower.

              3. Slow commuters. I ride < 20 MPH and don't "take the lane". I yield a lot. If the speed limit were < 25 MPH on my commute, I'd have almost no chance of death nor serious injury.

              Speed kills. Take that out of the equation and most serious injuries and deaths are gone.

              I am totally confused on why you are even interested in cycling safety other to scare people away from cycling. You seem profoundly disinterested in helping make it easier and safer. But your not a hater. No. :)

              Again, explain why if you are so interested in cycling safety you are opposed to things that make cycling safer. Go to any place with awesome infrastructure and you'll find that the deaths and injuries are absurdly low. The cost of infrastructure is less than ours and the commute times are comparable if not less.

              If you don't ride a bike then you are highly unlikely to be seriously injured or killed by one. I have noticed that you have dropped this line of reasoning.

              Cycling is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

              And no, I can't walk to work b/c it's not practical because of all this real estate devoted to the car.But we shouldn't do anything to mitigate my danger b/c unlike any other mode, I am assumed, by society to be solely responsible for my safety even though there's not a lot I can do to control the motorists around me.

              If you are afraid to ride a bicycle because it's too safe, wait till the space is "taken from cars" and things are safe enough for you to ride a bicycle. It'll happen and I'll ride with you when it does.

            7. Rob Anderson

              Not very clear exactly what you’re responding too here, Fred. The issue in San Francisco with the bicycle projects is not money but space on city streets. This is a relatively small city geographically, densely populated with mostly two-lane streets in the neighborhoods. The only way to make separated bike lanes is to take away scarce street parking or limited traffic lanes, which of course will make traffic worse for everyone, since the existing traffic will be funneled into fewer traffic lanes and motorists will do a lot more circling around in neighborhoods looking for parking.

              You didn’t carefully read the CDC quotation I provided, which said that, mile for mile, riding a bike is in fact more dangerous than driving a car. And I didn’t emphasize the 800 fatalities number; it was part of that quotation.

              Cycling, along with contact sports, like football, is in fact a major cause of head injury to children. See this NY Times story from 2011. My point on the safety issue is that the city shouldn’t be encouraging a lot of uninformed people to take up riding bikes without also providing them with a realistic sense of the dangers involved. It’s particularly irresponsible to encourage children to ride bikes on city streets.

              Again, it’s not only the CDC that says that cycling is dangerous. The UC study I referred to found that not only has SF radically under-counted cycling accidents in general, but it has under-counted in particular “cyclist-only” accidents that have nothing to do with other vehicles and/or bike infrastructure.

            8. Fred

              New Note 221

              From the paper you linked to:

              “Bicycling and walking have become increasingly important modes of transportation in urban environments. The popularity of biking has grown in the last decade for various environmental, economic, and public health reasons, including the challenges posed by the cost of fuel, threat of greenhouse emissions, and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The transportation, public health, and urban planning communities have come to view active transportation as a critical part of the solution to these challenges.”

              This seems to say the opposite of what you said. Deaths and serious injury almost always result in either hospitalization or funerals and thus are not under counted. Despite your fear of cycling, as the paper you linked to said, cycling is becoming more popular.

              When you think about how horrible you find cycling, yet more and more people do it, did you ever stop to think, why? Perhaps there’s something your missing that so many people are discovering.

              Cycling tends to be less safe in areas with the LEAST amount of infrastructure. Thus, since you are so concerned about safety you should be in favor of infrastructure to make things safer. I said this a couple of times. I’m not sure why you are having trouble with this.

              Motoring used to be much, much more dangerous. One of the NHTSAs way to make things safer is to pour billions of dollars into making it safer. They did NOT tell uninformed people NOT to drive. In fact, they go to extremes like removing trees for times when people’s cars fly off roads.

              All this investment resulted in more people driving and in the long run, increased safety of motoring. So the fact that motoring is so safe, due to massive infrastructure expenses makes it seem like you’d get it when it comes to cycling infrastructure.

              Also, I must say that I am very, very happy with how tenacious you with your concern in making my commute safer.

              Do you recall that I brought up the CDC? What you are doing is reading and listening to only information that you thinks that backs up your point.

              The 800 number is absurdly low as to be laughable. In a country of 300 million people, 800 dead is a drop in the bucket. With so many weekend cyclists (not part of your 3%) as well as the fact that accident prone, but adorable children usually learn how to ride bicycles, this makes the number even look less impressive.

              When I mentioned this, you went back to another fall back position in saying that cycling causes serious injuries.

              I noticed that you continue to ignore all the benefits of cycling as if safety is the only reason people do activities. In reality safety is almost NEVER a factor in making a life choice. It’s usually habit followed by social acceptance and finally by PERCEPTION of safety which can be much different than actual safety. If you account for money saved by cycling, health benefits, and the intangible, but most important SHEER JOY, the utterly minor risk of being ina cast of hundreds dying doing what I love is a minor, minor, minor risk. I think that perhaps, you are too risk adverse and you ought to put a little adventure into your life. Just putting that out there as an option.

              As for children getting hurt cycling, I’m not a child. The fact that head injuries are so high for children was my whole point. Lumping in adults with children regarding cycling injuries distorts the number of injuries and makes cycling for adults look more dangerous than it is. This is because in general children are more accident prone. It’s a phase. They do stupid things and fall down whether on a bike or not. Since many of them spend time on bikes, and many children fall, there’s nothing shocking about children falling off bicycles.

              Only someone who had their minds against cycling would come to the conclusion that because kids fall down a lot we should not make cycling safer for adults. Do you see how these ideas aren’t connected?

              I guess you seem to think that cycling is this super edgy and dangerous activity which makes me feel that you don’t cycle much. Is this true? I ride every day of the week as I had for YEARS and I have been fine. Like I said, last time I got hit by a car, I was WALKING my bike in a cross walk with the light because I thought it was too dangerous to bike. Haha. I got nailed twice in crosswalks each time going with the light. In the first case, I had voluntarily yielded, in contrary to the law, to two cars. I still got hit! While walking! I got doored two times with no injuries. Last year, almost no close calls, no big scares, no harassment. So in my experience, and in my reading, cycling for adults who follow the law and ride slow is super safe.

              As I said before, you are combining dissimilar data together. When I pointed this out, you doubled down and hyper-focused on DATA THAT WAS NOT RELEVANT TO ME. Do you see why this shows a pattern of cycle hate?

              Show me the death and serious injury rate for cyclists who ride slowly and legally in areas with Dutch style design. Now we can honestly evaluate how I’d like to spend my life and risky this truly is.

              Finally, I will continue to cycle and no amount of fear mongering will stop me. Cities will continue to build cycling infrastructure. Once people discover how much money we can save, how happy we are, what social networks we create, how connected we are with cities, and how healthy we are when cycling, they are on our side forever. You can’t stop us from riding. Cities just choose how many of us get seriously injured and die by how much infrastructure they build. If you truly cared as much as you pretend to, you’d be 100% in favor of cycle tracks to all destinations in all of the Bay Area. Cycling is all upsides.

            9. M.

              Thanks, Fred – RA is fixed in his filtered worldview so guess we’re writing to dispel the image of SF as a town of beautiful bridges but too many who ‘live under’ them.

    8. Rob Anderson

      By the way, the “96%” increase in cycling in SF is a deceptive claim. That’s nothing but a cherry-picked percentage gain of cyclists counted during the annual count, not an increase in cycling in SF overall. In fact, according to the city’s own numbers, only 3.4% of all trips in the city are by bicycle. And that’s after more than ten years of anti-car, pro-bike propaganda from City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition!

      If the Bicycle Plan was ever on the ballot—and City Hall will make sure it never is—it would be rejected by the people of San Francisco, since cyclists are probably the most unpopular special interest group in the city.

      Reply
      1. M.

        RA wrote, ‘…cyclists are probably the most unpopular special interest group in the city.’ Clearly through your filter, RA (the person responsible for jamming progress for years). But that doesn’t explain why there are approx.1 bike shop per sq. mile and more springing up ongoingly, and why the electronic cycle counter on Market St. shows 1000’s commuting by bike every day. Nor does it excuse the frighteningly aggressive and scofflaw behaviour of drivers toward law-abiding cyclists and pedestrians alike. Back under your bridge, RA.

        Reply
        1. Rob Anderson

          Yes, to adherents of BikeThink, whatever the Bicycle Coalition wants to do to our streets is “progress”! Market Street now essentially discourages anything but buses and bikes from using the street, and it’s flat, unlike most streets in the city.

          There are “thousands” commuting by bike in SF every day, but they still represent only 3.3% of all city commuters, which is an increase from 2.1% in 2000 (Transportation Fact Sheet, page 3).

          Why the anonymity, M?

          Reply
          1. M.

            There are many (flat) streets parallel to Market that serve the same locations. Wanna live in a parking lot? Travel the 101 – or move to LA (tho they’re transitioning toward ^ transit and bikes, too).
            More facts:
            Increased percentages translate to geometrically larger numbers. re. ‘Anonymity’
            – M. was a nickname and is simple.
            – I’m clearly ID’d in my link to Momentum above.
            – I’ve offered to meet w/ you several times; you’ve refused
            – My work is mostly quiet; doing it *in spite* of the profile it creates, not because of it.
            – *I’m* not a publicity hound, RA

            Reply
            1. Rob Anderson

              Why would a private meeting with you shed any light on these issues? These are public policy issues based on public information. If you have something relevant to say, let’s hear it.

            2. Rob Anderson

              Clicking on the Momentum link above takes me nowhere. You think it’s okay to insult me anonymously? You’re not only “not a publicity hound,” but you’re hiding behind anonymity.

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