Extra! Extra! Nevius and Matier Serving Up Steaming Piles of Journalism
1:52 PM PDT on August 6, 2009
A couple of real stinkers over in Mainstream Medialand today.
Let's start with Chuck Nevius's column, which tries to argue that San Francisco will never be bike friendly. Forget the fact that San Franciscans are riding in greater numbers than ever before despite the fact that the city has implemented only one positive bicycle infrastructure component in three years. Forget the data that show one of the major impediments to increasing bicycling is lack of infrastructure. San Francisco will never be bicycle friendly because Chuck Nevius says so.
It's really that simple. There are more words in the column, but they don't make a better point.
Chuck: "At the core of it is a simple proposition: the wishes of the few
versus the needs of the many. There are a lot of bicyclists in San
Francisco. But there are far more drivers and public transit commuters."
It's been a long time since that logic class in college, but this argument sounds a lot like the fallacy of the appeal to common practice,
which says that if most people do something, it must be right.
Nevius ignores nearly a century of policies that have promoted the state of automobility we find ourselves in now and makes it sound as if the needs of drivers were protected civil rights.
Trouble with cars is we now know that congestion won't go away by widening roads and the stuff coming out of those tailpipes is not good for the planet. We have to get smart about how we use our streets and bicycles are one component (as are private vehicles) in an integrated transportation system.
In cities around the world, when bicycle infrastructure is added, more people ride. The question for San Francisco is whether the city wants to build
infrastructure and make policy decisions that support bikes and multi-modalism.
And the answer has already been enshrined in the city charter as the Transit First policy.
The problem is that traffic managers haven't done what's needed to make the city Transit First. Bus-only lanes are routinely blocked with cars, signal prioritization efforts have not been executed well, bus spaces need to be consolidated on many lines around the city, pre-pay boarding should be the standard to reduce dwell times, and of course the Bike Plan should be implemented (we know the injunction, the injunction). When MTA brass give up their personal parking spaces at 1 S. Van Ness or when the Mayor and the Supes give up their free parking around City Hall and in the Performing Arts Garage to ride a bicycle or actually get on Muni, then we'll see changes. So long as they see the world from behind the wheel, we'll have more of the same.
You're sitting comfortably in the majority position, Chuck. If you've ever ridden in that small crevice between the door zone and speeding traffic and wondered why a mode of travel you've chosen should feel so fraught with peril, you'd empathize with the need to make cycling safer.
It's going to look like you're losing something because you are. The cars have the space, so if the city is going to make room for bicycles (and transit), cars are going to lose the space. This is the San Francisco of the future, not the suburbia of the past.
There are other gems in Nevius' column, starting with his trashing of bicycle sharing in far-away places like Montreal, Paris, and Washington DC. He apparently
uses Streetsblog's stories critical of SF's bike sharing proposal (has anyone else has written negatively about it?) as evidence that it won't work. Not the details of the proposal, but the fact that it "is being mocked for being too timid and small."
And of course there's a dig at Critical Mass. What would a story on bicycling in San Francisco be without haphazardly conflating everyday cyclists with participants of this monthly event?
You could probably shoot a few more fish in that barrel, but I want to move along to Phil Matier and his outrageous piece on how AC Transit and the Alameda County Sheriff's Department have the gall to enforce no parking laws in bus zones. This "drivers-are-victims" story is so deeply buried
behind the windshield perspective, I'm surprised Phil didn't report it
from his car.
In a welcome move, the sheriff's department has assigned 20 special units to enforce no parking laws in bus stops, an initiative coordinated with AC Transit to keep buses moving smoothly along their routes.
So how in the world is it news that deputies are enforcing the law? I guess only if the law is so routinely flouted that busting scofflaws would shake up the status quo.
Matier feigns outrage during his report that drivers stopping in bus lanes, even if they're in the vehicle, could be slapped with a $250 ticket. He finds a stop that has a broken sign and then wonders aloud how the poor driver could possibly know that they are breaking the law?
Hmm, how about because you're theoretically supposed to know basics like that to pass driver's ed and get your license? How about because there are signs at every bus stop saying the same thing, in most every city around the country?
When a transit operator actually works with the enforcement entity in a city (hello MTA and SFPD?) to keep bus lanes clear, they get trashed by morons with microphones. Thanks Phil!
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