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Breed Defends Record on Safer Streets for Biking; Plus: Other Supes Respond

Supervisor London Breed has issued a statement explaining her Twitter comments yesterday on safer streets for bicycling which led her to delete her account. Breed had responded to an inquiry sent out by Twitter user Patrick Traughber to every city supervisor and a few other city officials, asking, "In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to creating safer streets for bicycling in San Francisco?"

Then Supervisor Breed on Bike to Work Day in 2013. Photo: SFBC

In her initial answer, Breed cited "the bad behavior of some bicyclist," which led several people to respond in protest. Breed tried to clarify that she's "not blaming anyone," and that she's "been fighting to help make streets safer for all," but then shut down her account minutes into the discussion. Breed has a record of making abrasive comments on Twitter, arguing with constituents and getting press attention for it.

In her written statement, Breed defended her record of standing up for street redesign projects like Masonic Avenue and Fell and Oak Streets in the face of anti-bike vitriol. Here's what she had to say:

I suspended my account because I realized twitter can be extremely time consuming and it's too hard to have nuanced policy discussions in 140 characters. I want to take some time to think about how I use this medium in the future.

With respect to the bike exchange, my record is clear! I have been a consistent and effective advocate for bike projects in our city. I got the Oak and Fell bike lanes implemented well ahead of schedule. I led the effort to fund the Masonic Blvd project which includes dedicated bike lanes, and I've voted for every bike project that's come before the Transportation Authority, including the popular bike share program just implemented in our city.

My point was not that I think bicyclists' behavior should be an impediment to new projects. My point was bicyclists' behavior is the complaint I hear most often from those who oppose the projects. So as a practical matter, those behavioral concerns -- whether you think they're accurate or inaccurate, right or wrong -- make it harder to get new projects moving, harder to win public and political support. But that absolutely has not, and will not, stop me from fighting to win that support.

I've faced a lot of fire, a LOT of fire, over the Masonic blvd project and I've stood strong in my support. That's my record. So it does bother me to see Masonic supporters criticizing me over a twitter post. But it is my fault for being unclear about a complicated topic on an inappropriate medium. That is why I am taking a break from that medium.

Breed deserves a lot of credit for supporting those safety improvements. And judging by her statement, she doesn't think that policymakers should decide whether San Franciscans get to have safer streets based on the perceived behavior of people who use a particular mode of transportation.

Traughber's question on Twitter yielded responses from a few other supervisors and District Attorney George Gascón, offering a glimpse into those officials' understanding of how to make streets safer (or just how willing they are to respond to tweets).

Supervisor John Avalos nailed the answer. Though he ran on a pro-bike platform in the most recent mayoral race, he hasn't been the most active supe on bike issues since, and it'd be great to hear more of this on the board:

@ptraughber Weak political will to prioritize funding and implementation. Need greater autonomy for cycling division within MTA.

— John Avalos (@AvalosSF) September 19, 2013

@ptraughber @AvalosSF insisting that rash of cyclists injuries & deaths is ongoing emergency demnds internal reorg w/n MTA & rapid response — John Avalos (@AvalosSF) September 19, 2013

@ptraughber Drivers have 2 understand what its like 2 bike in SF. Hard 2 look out 4 bikes if you've never considered bikers vulnerability

— John Avalos (@AvalosSF) September 20, 2013

Supervisor David Campos didn't do too badly either:

@ptraughber I believe that there are a number of things needed, including better infrastructure, more enforcement, & more public education.

— David Campos (@DavidCamposSF) September 19, 2013

@ptraughber Overall enforcement of traffic laws, which @sfbike identified as issue, & education of public, including motorists, bike riders

— David Campos (@DavidCamposSF) September 19, 2013

Campos didn't respond, however, to Traughber's follow-up question: "How about infrastructure. What's the obstacle there?"

Next at bat, Supervisor Scott Wiener:

@ptraughber lack of funding, confusing designs in some areas, and lack of awareness about safe sharing of the road. Ok, that was 3. — Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) September 20, 2013

@ptraughber and I'll add a profound lack of traffic enforcement. — Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) September 20, 2013

And finally, an answer from DA Gascón, who seems to believe that dangerous streets are just an inevitable consequence of population density, though as Traughber pointed out, some cities like New York are leaping ahead of SF in implementing protected bike lanes and street redesigns to improve safety, despite being much more dense. The key difference is in political will.

@ptraughber SF's population density. There are more motorists, bicyclists & pedestrians than ever. Everyone needs to use more caution.

— George Gascón (@GeorgeGascon) September 19, 2013

Officials who were prompted by Traughber but didn't respond: Mayor Ed Lee, SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin, Supervisors David Chiu, Malia Cohen, Eric Mar, Jane Kim, Mark Farrell, and Norman Yee.

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