The Chron Still a Podium for Willie Brown’s Anti-Bike, Pro-Freeway Garbage

Willie Brown’s successors don’t look so bad when reading the former mayor’s windshield perspective drivel in his latest Chronicle column.

Willie Brown. Image: ## 7##
Willie Brown. Image: ## 7##

It’s hard to imagine San Franciscans once again electing a mayor who responds to a spate of pedestrian injuries by lambasting everything but the primary cause: reckless driving. But according to yesterday’s column from the increasingly out-of-touch Brown, San Francisco wouldn’t be plagued by “increasingly unsafe streets” if only we had more freeways and fewer people walking and biking:

We have only ourselves to blame for San Francisco’s increasingly unsafe streets.

We tore down the Central and Embarcadero freeways and in the process dumped thousands of additional cars onto the already crowded streets, many driving at nearly the same speed they did on the freeways.

We encouraged more people to ride bicycles, then all but exempted them from following traffic rules.

We brought thousands of pedestrians into downtown, then allowed them to jaywalk at will, often with their heads buried in their latest mobile devices.

We tell the cops to write more tickets, then when they do, some supervisor accuses them of racial profiling or picking on the poor.

And now, in the name of tech, we’re allowing hundreds of ride-share gypsy cabs onto the streets without commercial driver’s licenses.

Ten years after Brown left office, even the SFPD is re-shaping its policies around what its data shows — that the vast majority of pedestrian injuries are caused by reckless driving. Not that we should expect data to be relevant to a man who seems to base his transportation and street safety views on no data or empirical evidence whatsoever.

Apparently, little has changed since September 1996, in Brown’s first year as mayor, when his limo driver hit Karen Alexander in a crosswalk. Hold on to your jaw as you read the Chronicle’s report of Brown’s casual dismissal of the incident:

“The car literally bumped me three times,” Alexander said of the Thursday morning incident. “I started out walking in the crosswalk and ended up on the hood.”

Alexander said the mayoral limousine, with Brown inside, struck her, bruising her leg. She said she was crossing Broadway at Kearny Street at 7:40 a.m. Thursday when the limo hit her at a slow speed.

“The driver was looking to the left and trying to turn right on Kearny. He didn’t even see me,” Alexander said.

“I was so shocked that I couldn’t even speak. It really galled me that they treated me that way.

“I had no idea who was inside, then I saw a window roll down and Willie Brown’s face. Instead of saying “Are you hurt?’ He said “You’re not hurt, are you?’

“Then they just drove off without waiting for my answer – like nothing happened.”

Brown could not be reached for comment Thursday night. He was quoted on KRON-TV saying that he believed that the woman walked into the car. The same broadcast showed a large red bruise on Alexander’s leg.

Yep. That happened.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Willie Brown column if he didn’t interject an irrelevant anecdote to illustrate his contempt for bicycle riders:

The other day as I was getting into a cab, a cyclist shot by at a speed that made my head spin.

The cabbie said: Where are you going?

I said: “I’ve changed my destination. Follow that bicycle.”

And we did, watching him weave through traffic and blow through stop lights like some kind of slalom racer.

Willie Brown, bicycle stalker.

As a reminder, Brown was the mayor who declared war on Critical Mass. So anecdotes like these come as little surprise, though they’re still chilling to hear from a city official, especially one who we’re naming the west span of the Bay Bridge after. Times have certainly changed, but Willie Brown, empowered by the Chronicle and the platform the paper gives him, is still a fount of poisonous invective.

H/T Fran Taylor for the 1996 article.

  • Gary Fisher

    Life in the limo makes you out of touch sir. Look at your outdated fashion!

  • This piece is a good response to Willie’s comments. However, I also think another reasonable reaction would be “Who cares what Willie Brown thinks?” In 2014, are people really sitting around waiting for his judgments, in the Chronicle no less? Ignoring him would probably be the best punishment.

  • Mario Tanev

    He has a prominent column in the paper of record in SF. So does Nevius and Streetsblog calls him out, too. He shouldn’t just be ignored. The people who read his column are not the people who read Streetsblog, and those people shouldn’t get their narrow minded views so easily reinforced. Streetsblog and advocates should pressure the Chronicle to cut off this drivel.

  • david vartanoff

    As I wrote him directly, his name should be on the un-necessary and mis-designed eastern span. Not only rail incompatible, but corruptly built from start to finish–leaks, cracks etc.

  • “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” –Max Planck

  • • Ah yes, the limo-first policy mayor. He declared war on Critical Mass and lost. Maybe we should mark the occasion by riding the Willie Brown Emperor Norton Bridge.

  • p_chazz

    Many commenters on Streetsblog are too comfortable with the idea of silencing people who disagree with the party line.

  • Mario Tanev

    People who spout bigoted nonsense contrary to evidence have no place writing a column for a prominent newspaper. This has nothing to do with opinions. He is absolutely wrong on the basic facts of who’s responsible for accidents.

  • murphstahoe

    I am very comfortable with Brown making a fool of himself – but a rebuttal needs to be present.

  • murphstahoe

    Word. I don’t have to convince you. I just need to outnumber you. While preserving your right to be outnumbered – of course.

  • murphstahoe

    I would, but now I can take BART to Oakland with my bike any time it’s open, because those against that simple form of transport lost that one too. Not that Willie cared about it because he probably doesn’t know what BART is…

  • I respect that point, although I also think he seems like a pretty egotistical guy- have seen others like that actually feed off attention, even when it’s negative.

  • mikesonn

    Why was his limo turning right from Broadway onto Kearny at 8am? If you are going east on Broadway and need to go south, you turn on Columbus. Kearny “dead ends” for southbound traffic at block south of Broadway at Columbus/Jackson. Odd.

  • mikesonn

    Also, how did his cabbie keep up with this scofflaw cyclists that was weaving through traffic and blowing stop lights??

  • bobster1985

    Yeah, but he did fix Muni….oh, wait….

  • jd_x

    I thought the Streetsblog headline was a little harsh … until I read the completely drivel Brown wrote. Wow, just wow. Yes, that is indeed complete garbage, so bad it actually makes Nevius look open-minded. Brown’s time has long since past — he needs to bow out and keep his anachronistic, selfish, irrational, and completely unsupported-by-facts brain droppings to himself. And come on, Chronicle: can you seriously not find somebody with opinions who actually has something worthwhile to add to the discussion?

  • p_chazz

    Nevertheless, pressuring the Chronicle to silence him is a thuggish, bullying tactic that is beneath the presumably educated and fact-based readership of Streetsblog.

  • NoeValleyJim

    How nice that you consider us educated and fact-based chazz, I am sincerely flattered. I agree with your sentiment about Willie too. I cancelled my Chronicle subscription 20 years ago and have not spend a dime on that rag since.

  • murphstahoe

    The Chronicle doesn’t publish a column by me. Are they thuggishly silencing me? No, they just aren’t giving me a podium. I don’t believe Willie should have this podium, others agree. If the Chronicle removes his column he won’t be “silenced” – he’ll just have to find another avenue for his opinions.

  • voltairesmistress

    Former Mayor Brown walks, or used to walk, the City a lot. It is or was his primary exercise, thinking and relaxing activity, etc. He wrote this in his autobiography. I have seen him often around Union Square, dressed to the nines and walking. His windshield perspective is at odds with his own pleasure in walking. Perhaps he can be attracted to a more pedestrian friendly perspective if appealed to through his better (walking) half.

  • p_chazz

    The only reason Brown and Nevius write such pieces is for clickbait. They know that it will get the Streetsblog crowd into a high dudgeon. Really, who cares what Willie Brown thinks anymore, except for a handful of Pacific Heights grandees?

  • Guest

    “…and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” To which we can add “but has its own biases and blind spots to deal with honestly” If it were easy to continue to rethink and change throughout life and if more were dedicated to managing societal change, more would be able to pull it off. There are far too many young people who are also entrenched in their pov and prejudices and unless they change their own trajectory, they’re fated to become as bitter and brittle as the oldsters they condemn.

  • The Chron Still a Podium for Willie Brown’s Anti-Bike, Pro-Freeway Garbage

    ^ Made your headline a little more concise.

  • murphstahoe

    Willie Brown does…

  • @mikesonn – His anecdote doesn’t pass any sniff test. He was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa years ago and his eyesight has degraded ever since. This has been advanced as a valid reason that he needs to be chauffeured everywhere. Yet somehow we’re supposed to believe he’s eagle-eyed enough to observe a scofflaw bicyclist run a bunch of STOP signs, from inside a cab that he didn’t observe doing likewise.

  • mikesonn

    I meant Pacific, not Jackson. But my point stands.

  • Nat

    Y’all are sure spending a lot of time talking about Slick Willy. I shook the mans hand and I wasn’t impressed, he is a taker. People like Alex Zuckermann really make a difference in the world. The east span bike path was dedicated to Alex and he was a giver.

  • baidi
  • FL

    I am not surprised to see people here still deny the truth that removing freeways will only put the cars on surface streets. More cars=more conflict. However, it’s not an excuse to drive recklessly though. (and please don’t start demonizing every driver as a killer)

    I am disgusted at the renaming of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge in his honor. I wonder how long the sign will last.


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