Mayor Lee's vanishing bike lanes

The mayor's resolution to create better bike lanes was exciting -- until he broke it

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By Morgan Fitzgibbons

OPINION When Mayor Ed Lee announced in February 2011 that he understood both the critical importance and the severe dangers inherent in the current bicycle infrastructure along the dual three-block stretches of Fell and Oak between Scott and Baker, a shot went through the community of people who had worked for so long to bring awareness to this troubled path.

Finally, it seemed, we had a mayor who understood that if San Francisco was serious about living up to its own nearly 40-year-old pledge to be a transit-first city, a narrow bike lane sandwiched between parked cars and fast-moving traffic on Fell Street and a complete absence of any bicycle infrastructure on Oak simply wouldn't do.

Finally, we had a mayor who wouldn't be satisfied with mere words on a page, who had the courage to carve out one single safe bike route from the east side of town to the west, to create a viable alternative to automobile transportation, to prepare our city for the inevitable challenges presented by climate change, peak oil, and economic collapse, and to do it in the face of the predictable objections from a few small-picture citizens who couldn't look at the 60 square feet of a parking spot and imagine anything other than a privately owned two-ton pile of steel taking up precious public space.

The community of people who had waited nearly 40 years for the city to live up to its own word kept on waiting throughout 2011, patiently allowing the Municipal Transportation Agency to perform its due diligence, attending multiple public meetings in the hundreds, and delivering a resounding verdict: bring us our separated bike lanes. Make this neighborhood a better place to live. Begin the long work of preparing our city for a way of living that doesn't center around the automobile.

With the public process complete and the calendar turning to nearly one year since Lee called for the MTA to "move quickly" to create separated bike lanes on Fell and Oak, the MTA handed down a jarring announcement. The Fell and Oak Bikeways were being delayed because the agency needed to take extra time to do all that could be done to find nearby replacements for the 80 parking spots set to be removed for the bike lanes.

That's right — in a city that has for 40 years had an explicit policy of giving preference to transit options that weren't the automobile, in a city that, nevertheless, has over 440,000 public parking spots and zero safe, accessible bike routes from the east side of town to the west, the creation of a separated bikeway that the vast majority of the community wants, and that the mayor's own newly appointed District Supervisor, Christina Olague, is in support of, was being delayed by nearly a year so that the loss of private automobile parking would be as small as possible.

How does this happen? In a word: fear. The mayor and MTA are afraid of ruffling a few feathers to do what they know is right.

Cities like New York, Portland, and Minneapolis are leapfrogging us in building the cities of tomorrow. Chicago is creating 100 miles of separated bike lanes in the next four years. Don't call us America's Greenest City — you're thinking of the San Francisco of 40 years ago.

Morgan Fitzgibbons is co-founder of the Wigg Party, a Western Addition neighborhood sustainability group

Comments

the more provisions they get, the more they seek. They are on a self-indulgent journey where the only thing that will really satisfy them is when there is no way to get around town except by cycle.

They want to take us back 100 years in time simply to indulge their hopelessly idealistic and naive world view. A pox on them.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

The last scheme of the goofy left to bring a halt to any sort of "progress" is the environmental impact report lawsuit, now this deep thinker Morgan is bemoaning it.

I don't agree with Rob Anderson's views on bikes, but I certainly enjoy his beating these idiots at their own scheming legalese game. I ride a bike all over the city, I did a few miles before I sat read this ode to entitlement by Morgan. I see bikes as a valid way to get around, I don't see it as a white liberal entitlement to bike lanes and the removal of parking like Morgan.

Morgans ravings about community are just amazing too. A bunch of entitled carpet baggers feel that they are owed something because they showed up in SF, this is community now? Decontextualizing words is the new power color.

The use of language by these people is amazing, "and something that we as a city need in order to continue functioning as a society." Yes, we should let man children tell us what we as a society need.

Posted by ME ME ME ME ME ME on Feb. 16, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

First, re: New York "building the cit[y] of tomorrow." Mayor/Fuehrer Bloomberg does whatever he wants, caters only to Manhattanites above a certain income level and pouts when he doesn't get his way. The new bike lanes in NYC are largely unused and unwanted by residents of the neighborhoods they are carving up.

Drivers and cyclists alike (no, not all of them) tend to ignore pedestrians and behave dangerously around them, and cyclists are worse than drivers of motorized vehicles. Perhaps they feel they can't do as much damage, or maybe it comes from their arrogance, sense of entitlement, habit of ignoring traffic laws and traffic lights, and lack of accountability.

In the meantime, pedestrians (including 80+-year-olds, like my parents, and the disabled, like me) risk their lives to the impatient (again, not everyone) people on wheels. They must be very important folk to be in such a rush!

Posted by XSF/XNY on Feb. 17, 2012 @ 6:51 am

I biked for the first time in Manhattan last year. I don't think that any street users have a monopoly on batshit crazy conduct on the streets. Even bicyclists fuck with bicyclists.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 17, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

laws that they are so keen to impose on the rest of us. The worst examples I see of bad and dangerous road behavior are invariably from cyclists who, seemingly, don't feel they have to stop at red lights or go the right way on one-way streets.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

When proposed to Steven Jones I thought he'd have an embolism - he nearly dissolved in a paroxysm of rage at the very thought of cyclists having to pay ANYTHING.

Motorists have a lot of resentment at bicyclists because it's perceived that they're selfish and want to dictate transportation policy without actually monetarily contributing much towards it. The easy and simple answer is to charge a very, very small registration fee to bicyclists of $10 per year - that'd go a long way towards ameliorating the emotional issues involved in this discussion.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

I should know because I'm a motorist. there is nothing more hypocritical than a motorist complaining about cyclists breaking traffic laws. motorists break traffic laws constantly, just like cyclists, and just like pedestrians.

if you are a motorist saint who does not routinely break traffic laws, then you are the only one on earth. i have never met a motorist who does not break the speed limit. EVERY driver in this city breaks the speed limit, constantly. I have been driving for 15 years in this city. there is more speeding in this city than everywhere else I have ever been. I and everyone else on the road speeds here with impunity, every single day.

I roll through stop signs, every single day, and so does everyone else.

but i haven't had an accident in years. i roll through a stop sign only when it's safe to do so. just like everyone else.

everyone, be they a biker, a motorist, or a pedestrian breaks traffic laws constantly. but people only do it when they are quite sure it is safe. are they always right? well, probably not. but that doesn't stop them from doing it. every. single. day.

you exceed the speed limit, talk on your cell phone, and roll through stop signs. admit it. and then get over the fact that bicyclists will never heed red lights just like motorists never heed speed limits. fact of life.

Posted by Oh please! on Feb. 19, 2012 @ 10:53 am

cyclists to blow thru red lights and stop signs, ride the wrong way along one-way streets and ride on the sidewalk.

We need registration, licensing and insurance for cyclists. One killed a pedestrian last year.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

Dude, it doesn't matter or really hurt anyone when you drive 6 miles over the speed limit or slowly roll through a stop sign when all is clear. Likewise 99.999% of the time it hurts no one nor inconveniences anyone when a cyclist rolls through a red light or stop sign when all is clear. And when "all is clear" is exactly when 99.99% of cyclists roll through lights. They don't wanna die afterall.

A motorist crying about cyclists rolling through lights is just silly. It harms no one. And motorists certainly haven't a leg to stand on unless they obey all traffic laws, which none of them do. Do you obey traffic laws when you drive your car? Of course you don't, and frankly i don't care because no one, repeat NO ONE (driver, biker, and pedestrian alike), yourself included, always obeys traffic laws. And frankly we don't need to. The vast majority of drivers speed and roll through stop signs when it's safe to do so. Just as the vast majority of bikers roll through stop lights when its safe to do so.

Why should cyclists be held to some higher standard than anyone else? Oh because ONE cyclist hit and killed ONE pedestrian last year? You cannot possibly be serious. It took me two second to google these random stats.

"In 2009, 3,745 people were injured or killed in traffic accidents in San Francisco. That total included 736 pedestrians, 293 motorcyclists and 522 bicyclists."

How many of those nearly 4,000 people were killed by bicyclists in 2009? None. How many were killed by cars? Pretty much all of them. A single death from bike impact last year is a statistical anomaly and it helps prove my point, not yours! How can that not be obvious to you?

But basically it all comes down to this. Unless YOU sir or madaam, obey traffic law every time you get in your car, then you a blatant hypocrite and no one should listen to you. Thanks.

Posted by Oh please! on Feb. 19, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

As someone who does both, the sense of self righteousness of both sides has always been a laugh.

Bike riders feel that they are single handedly saving the earth, they also seem to really enjoy bikes. This enjoyment makes them think it's so great to ride a bike that everyone else is too stupid to get it if they don't ride bikes up hills in the snow booth ways to yoga.

Car drivers obsession with bikes breaking the law is also a mystery, I would suppose most of that comes from attitudes like those of the author, massive entitlement. Moronic operations like critical mass certainly don't help increase self awareness.

Mos everyone drives a car, while not everyone rides a bikes and has such a sense of being owed by the world for their personal choices.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 19, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

total disrespect for the law.

As such, you won't gain any respect from me and the majority of other road users, who continue to be appalled by the juvenile attitude of cyclists.

And as the most vulnerable of all road users, why on earth would you want us to have no sympathy for you?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2012 @ 9:30 pm

What's your justification for your blatant disregard for the law? No answer? Didn't think so.

As a motorist you break the law constantly. All motorists do. Motorists and cyclists are both human beings, it turns out, share the same DNA, and act in very similar ways. Do you think juvenile behavior is limited to cyclists? Please. When is the last time you screamed at a fellow driver, flipped someone off, cut someone off, or worse? I have seen drivers get out of their cars wielding blunt instruments threatening to kill other drivers for next to nothing. I have seen drivers gun the accelerator in residential neighborhoods. You 've seen it too. In fact you've probably done it a time or two in your day.

There are countless juvenile-behaving drivers are the road. My guess is the percentage of juvenile-behaving drivers is exactly the same as the percentage of juvenile-behaving bikers. Many of them are the same people, because, believe it or not some people actually ride bikes AND drive cars both.

Your hatred and disrespect for cyclists is irrational, ignorant, and hypocritical.
You haven't been able to refute any of my points or answer a single one of my questions. I think it's clear I win this argument. Thanks!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

you say both drievrs and cyclists break the law. I agree. And so both should be held accountable under the law. Problem?

Right now, drivers receieve a lot of tickets - cyclists rarely do. There are no license plates on bikes to identify them.

So if you're so keen to enforce the law, do you support the licensing of bikes and cyclists?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

Pedestrians FIRST!!

Ban the monthly critical mass!

Protect pedestrians and Enforce traffic laws on bicyclist!

dramatically increase bike lanes in SF!

Posted by sf T party on Feb. 19, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

I do not bike or want to bike or will ever be convinced or bullied into biking. I ride the bus to work but walk as much as possible in SF and agree that the majority of SF cyclists have little respect for pedestrians and behave like big giant pompous a-holes.

However, I agree with Morgan here. As a pedestrian, I avoid Fell and Oak because the noise from cars is absolutely deafening. Noise is a real health problem for urban residents and anything that reduces the use of cars is a reduction in noise here in the city.

Posted by Hope Johnson on Feb. 19, 2012 @ 10:03 pm

I see cyclists all the time on Page and it's quiet, safe and peaceful.

If you bike on Fell or Oak, bike lane or not, you're insane.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2012 @ 8:58 am

Because cyclists need to ride up a steep hill to get from the Panhandle to Page, that's why they use Oak when headed east.
BTW, bravo to "Oh, please!" You nailed it! The hypocrisy and sheer nastiness of motorists who hate cyclists is a truly strange and worrying phenomenon.

Posted by steven on Feb. 21, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

there are other entitlements here in the city that I can take advantage of as a good progressive.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2012 @ 10:10 am

Might I suggest the more rural environs of Marin or Humboldt counties to you?

Cities are noisy - if you'd ever lived in New York City you'd KNOW what noise is. That's part of an urban lifestyle. I've never understood people who move from the suburbs to the city and then bitch about the noise from cars, people on the sidewalks and emanating from restaurants, clubs and bars - what'd they think they were gonna get?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

wow... so much hate here. i drive and ride a bike. If an intersection was unsafe for motorists, the city would have to find some way to fix it out of concern for public safety - even if a couple parking spots are lost. the same goes for commonly used bike routes. 3.5% of san franciscans commuting by bike doesn't sound like a lot - but remember thats over 26,000 bikes on the road.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

You have got to be kidding. This Rob A. guy is an obvious setup made to make people who aren't into biking look bad; a plant by the SFBC perhaps. Even the people(guests) who comment on his posts look made up. Pretty easy to see that if someone rides a bike and doesn't drive a car then there is one extra parking spot for someone else. Even if biking only took young healthy people out of parking and and traffic jams, it is obviously good for everybody else. This should benefit drivers most. If this Rob A. guy is real, he looks to have some real issues probably only loosely tied to this bike stuff.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

You have got to be kidding. This Rob A. guy is an obvious setup made to make people who aren't into biking look bad; a plant by the SFBC perhaps. Even the people(guests) who comment on his posts look made up. Pretty easy to see that if someone rides a bike and doesn't drive a car then there is one extra parking spot for someone else. Even if biking only took young healthy people out of parking and and traffic jams, it is obviously good for everybody else. This should benefit drivers most. If this Rob A. guy is real, he looks to have some real issues probably only loosely tied to this bike stuff.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 23, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

Pedestrian talking here. I'd sympathize with you bike people, if you weren't always trying to run me over at intersections, and making me dodge out of your way when you're riding on the sidewalk in SOMA (where I live) because it's a one way street going a different direction than you want it to, and you're too goddamn lazy to go around the damn block.

I'm a privileged white young-ish person, progressive environmentalist, urbanist, pro-transit, anti-car. I should be on your side. But no, I'm not. Because most of you just piss me the f•ck off.

The only good thing about bicyclists is that when they act like entitled *ssh•les, they're less likely to kill us pedestrians than car drivers are. But most of them have the exact same screwed up attitudes ("I can go fast! Get out of my way!")

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

I ride a bicycle every day and love it.

Posted by h brownnose on Mar. 06, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

Most people who own bicycles also drive a car. This is not a competition between bikes and cars. The issue is over parking spaces and the SFPark policy of eliminating them so they can force drivers to compete for metered spaces. The residents of San Francisco supposedly voted the SFMTA into being. They can vote them out. If the SFMTA doesn't start listening to the taxpayers who fund their high level salaries, they will find themselves out of a job, and if the city representatives don't pay attention to the voters, they may find themselves out of work as well. Public service means listen to the public when the public complains. The public is complaining loudly.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2012 @ 3:20 am

Rob, you are - based on having lived in SF for 40 years- representative of the Baby Boomer generation in San Francisco and complaining about how difficult it is to park your car, which I presume you own. And you're talking about sense of entitlement??? That's rich.

Please explain to me how college students, working people, or service industry folk who need a low-cost transportation alternative from the (more affordable) west side of the city to downtown are displaying a sense of entitlement.

Posted by Dperl88 on Mar. 13, 2012 @ 11:05 am

His opposition to the world of entitlement that a small bike minority have managed to perpetrate on this city is predicated on the fact that that often disadvantages public transit.

The very young, old and disabled cannot ride bikes while everyone can take Muni. Bikes, in the end, are the ultimate in private transit since they transport nobody but the rider. A car with four people in it makes more efficient use of road space than a bike.

Posted by Anon-y mouse on Mar. 13, 2012 @ 11:47 am

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