SFMTA Community Meeting: Oak and Fell Separated Bikeways

From SFMTA:

On Saturday, December 3rd, 2011, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will host an open house to discuss bikeway improvements on Oak Street and Fell Street between Scott Street and Baker Street. The purpose of the workshop will be to collect public feedback on the potential benefits and challenges of various design features of the proposed project. There will be a four-hour window of time in which the public is encouraged to drop in to review design options and potential project impacts. There will not be a formal presentation, so please stop by at any time between 10am and 2pm.

 

  • Rant:  I came home from going to the SFMTA community meeting on Fell and Oak Street bikeways. Now these proposed bikeways are important to me. I consider Fell and Oak between Scott and Baker The Three Blocks of Terror. They are the worst part of any trip I make to the west side of the city, which I do once or twice a week. So I made time in my day and took the 20 minutes to bike to there.

    First, it wasn’t a meeting, it was an open house. Okay. Second, though not mobbed by any means, there were enough people around, I could hardly get close enough to read the options on posters on the wall. Third, the way to give “input” was to attach sticky notes to butcher block paper. I mean, really. If I’m going to bike 20 minutes across the freaking city, you could at least let me fill out a survey and vote on something so there might be some small chance my opinion might count just a tiny little bit. I have zero faith that my little sentence drifting on that ocean of white paper will make any difference whatsoever.

    The whole thing reeked of an opportunity to let a few people vent about how hard it is to park in the neighborhood. Maybe this is indeed therapeutic for them, but I didn’t need to be there. It felt unfortunately similar to a town meeting for the Noe Valley Plaza a while back where I witnessed three or four people use a temper tantrum to blow up a civic process.  My opinion was never asked, and there was no opportunity for me to voice my support for the Plaza. If temper tantrums are the way to keep the status quo, they will always work, so why ask for input?  You can just let the two sides get in a screaming match and then calculate who puts out the louder decibels.

    Seeing people who live on Fell and Oak argue for keeping parking at all costs reminds me of lower middle class Democrats voting for Reagan in 1980. Why, why did they embrace what was going to decimate them? If you currently park your car on the street on Fell or Oak, face it, you’re unlikely to even own that car three years from now. If by some chance you make the economic sacrifices to keep it, you’ll be renting a garage for it. The lost parking spaces will be moot, and you will actually benefit health-wise and economically from adding a bike lane on this stretch sooner rather than later.

    Exhibit A: financial crisis. Deleveraging the world-wide oceans of bad debt has only begun. Bankers squirming out of taking their losses means you will be shouldering a highly unfair piece of those losses. At the moment this is evidently the American way (and the way of every country in the world except Iceland.) Income tax revenues will continue to fall; Americans will continue to deal with “austerity.” This will mean not enough money for roads, so taxes having to do with cars are bound to increase. (Gas taxes, vehicle registration taxes, parking permits, parking fees, traffic tickets, and probable introduction of a vehicle miles traveled tax.) Because world oil production has peaked, cost of gasoline will increase inexorably. (If Iran gets bombed, expect $5/gallon gas overnight. Maybe $6. If it escalates to the Straight of Hormuz, expect $10.) Food, energy and water prices are rising and are likely to rise some more. Though real estate in the suburbs will continue to decline, rents in the city are unlikely to offer relief because rising energy costs will push people to relocate closer to jobs, keeping rents resilient. Unemployment (real unemployment, not manufactured figures that pretend millions of people have voluntarily left the job market) will keep wages down. You are likely to get squeezed on all sides, and having a car costs you $8000 a year. But you are lucky–you live in a city where you can get by without a car by using Muni, City Carshare and/or a bicycle. When the economic pain gets too great, the car will go, and the lost parking spaces on Fell and Oak will be moot.

    Exhibit B: If you live on Fell and Oak, the exhaust from the cars is literally making you sick. It is giving you cancer and asthma and is reducing the functionality of your brain, making you less able to learn and perform complex tasks. (The vibrations and noise from the cars is also damaging your health.) One of the few ways to reduce car traffic on Fell and Oak is to replace car trips with bike trips. Creating safe bike infrastructure is a surefire way to induce bicycling. I myself have replaced hundreds of car trips along Fell and Oak with quiet, exhaust-free bicycle trips. Every bicyclist you see on Fell and Oak is making you healthier and saving you money, because by the time the cancer sets in, you are unlikely to have health insurance that will pay for the cancer treatment. (There is simply not enough money to pay for the enormous cost of medical care that Americans currently consume. Skyrocketing health care costs are one of the leading reasons why businesses are not hiring. At some point, in order to decrease true unemployment, we will de-link jobs and health care, and given the way things are going it’s unlikely we’ll offer any decent national heath care in its stead.) Avoiding illness and staying healthy is an extremely good idea over the next couple decades. Car exhaust is not your friend. Sacrificing parking spaces you’re unlikely to use in the future for cleaner air you are indeed going to breathe is a smart trade-off.

    Exhibit C:  cars parked on the street are highly vulnerable. As you no doubt already know, they are vulnerable to vandalism, slashed tires and broken windows. Items inside them can be stolen or the whole car can be taken altogether. They rust, they get scratched, dinged, dented, scraped and generally abused in a city. They can be set on fire or overturned during riots/political upheaval. Cars will be an economic liability and a poor store of value, but if you must have a car, it will be worth a lot to you, so keeping it in a garage will be the best option (again making the lost parking spaces moot.)

    End of rant.  Maybe I should have put all of it on a sticky note.

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