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In today’s paper (I assume, it’s online, that’s all I know) Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius trains his eye on San Francisco’s attitude towards bikes and their riders. A timely piece, in light of the ink spilled recently on the Board of Supervisors’ approval of San Francisco’s bike plan Environmental Impact Report and last weekend’s bike sharing meet-and-greet at Golden Gate Park.

His argument seems to the the basic utilitarian one familiar to anyone who made it through to the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (“At the core of this is a simple proposition: the wishes of the few versus the needs of the many”) leading him to assert that “the idea of significantly reconfiguring the city (to accommodate cyclists) isn’t realistic.” Which, whatever. Y’all can fight that one out in the comments, if you’d like.

But the part of his piece that really jumped out at us:

“Want a cheap, easy way to get to the office? We have one. It is called a bus.”

Is this a trick? Really? Is he going there? There are entire, award-winning websites devoted to how non-easy riding Muni is. I’m having a hard time finding any on how unpleasant it is to ride a bike here. Hardly the ultimate answer, when trying to gauge ease of use of a mode of transit, but COME ON.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • Muni Diaries

    omg! nevius’s argument is asinine, to say the least. i just can’t figure out why, to be all Rodney King about it, San Franciscans can’t accept that we all need to exist here. buses, bikes, cars, pedestrians, strollers. and i’m guessing Nevius hasn’t ridden a bike in this city in a while. It’s ridiculous how dangerous and hazardous (the shitty quality of the roads tears the crap out of your bike) the streets are here. buses should NOT be an option to riding your bike, and this comes from a Muni-website operator 😉

  • raqcoon

    Although I’m a strong advocate of everybody staying home at all times to avoid interacting with anybody, I myself find that practice unrealistic. Essentially we need to not give a phuk what everybody else does if it doesn’t adversely affect us. One love, one vibe, Jah!

  • Jamie Whitaker

    I hope pedestrian safety gets some ink other than news about the latest fatality or injury due to a motorist driving excessively fast and colliding with a pedestrian. Happy to read 19th Avenue is getting countdowns, but SOMA could use some lovin’ from SF MTA for pedestrian safety. The DPW is going to be repaving Harrison Street from Main west to 8th Street in a few months, and not a single pedestrian safety/traffic calming change is being added …. and there’s a 5 year moratorium in regards to touchin the fresh asphalt following repaving. I have to keep shouting in City Hall that there are thousands of folks now living along Harrison Street where condos have gone up following the Embarcadero Freeway teardown courtesy 1989’s Loma Prieta earthquake. The bedrock that helps to anchor the Bay Bridge makes a good spot for buildings in an area surrounded by landfill … but we badly need streetscape updates for pedestrians to safely get around.

  • cedichou

    @Jamie Whitaker: concerns over pedestrians are overrated, since, what’s the sentence I’m looking for here, oh yeah, there are few pedestrians and many more car commuters, and one should not privilege the wishes of the few over the needs of the many.

    Anyhow, Eve, why do you get all early-birdy, early-wormy on me? I’m posting this only to find out that a link here would suffice.

  • Eve Batey

    Ced, your tardiness is excusable, as you have a day job. But I like yours, wish I’d read it before I wrote this one. I will say that I do think Chuck takes BART in to work pretty regularly, so he should get credit for that. And, how do I say this, I think his concerns, by and large, represent those of the Chron’s readership. But even the crankiest Gate commenter isn’t going to advocate Muni as “easy.” Not even them.

  • cedichou

    In a way, how Chuck gets to work is not really relevant. My (ethics) question about this was a matter of disclosure/disclaimer. He does drive (and admits so in his email, “Many drive cars, although in a perfect world we would not.”) and advocates pro-driving policies (anti-bike, anti-congestion pricing). Note that he totally dodged the question in the email, meaning that…I’ve got a point? I’m no journalist, and yes, many commuters share his opinion, but at what point should you acknowledge that you are using your pulpit, writing as if above the fray, in a self-serving manner?

  • Eve Batey

    I dunno. I don’t think that Chuck has those opinions — and we’re heading deep into the land of speculation, here — because he’s thinking “man I want this thing to fail because it’ll be harder to drive to work.” I don’t think he’s being disingenuous when he uses the Spock Is Dying line. I think he believes what he’s saying.

    If we really want to get down to it, I think his coverage of the Daly move does fall into your critique of Nevius — as you and I discussed offline, he all but admitted that it was personally motivated, because of Daly’s slams on Chuck as a suburbanite. I was pretty surprised the glass office folks let that one by — not that I have a problem with reporters taking on their critics, but that’s hardly been the Chron’s MO and seemed out of character.

    So, is Nevius above “using (his) pulpit, writing as if above the fray, in a self-serving manner”? Probably not, but I don’t think that’s what he’s doing in this case.

  • mark roquet
  • cedichou

    But if he was a financial journalist, and owned some stock in CarCommute Co.- because he really think for real it is a good value – and then dissed the competitive product, Biketowork Inc, for reasons he really believed into, he’d still had to disclose ownership in that stock. I don’t doubt he genuinely believe that SF should be car-commuter friendly. For an obvious reason!

    What I mean by writing as if above the fray: “How did it get to this point? The same way as always: opposing groups of people who are absolutely, positively convinced they are right.” Sounds like bemused impartiality to me. Or “We just need a little more time,” she said. “Just a little give and take on both sides.” Unfortunately, giving a little is not something that happens often here. Not when people are absolutely, positively convinced they are right.

    Of course, all claims of above-the-fray impartiality disappear when you realize that the only time environmental concerns are addressed, it is to say: Liddell says eliminating left turns on Second Street would create more traffic, backups and pollution. More bike friendly = more pollution!

  • PhilD

    I’ve taken MUNI to and from the Financial District everyday for three years now – part of that time on the 38 and more recently from Powell Station. It WAS and IS easy. Glad we could clear that up.

    I’m completely opposed to this city spending any more cash to make bicyclists happy – at least as long as MUNI is in the shape it’s in. Somehow pro-bike tunnel vision makes proponents blind to the fact that huge swathes of San Franciscans simply can not ride a bicycle. And not just because they’ve forgotten how (like me) but because they are elderly, disabled, obese or just economically unable. All of these people can ride trains and buses. And if congestion is the concern, nothing clears up the streets like an underground rail line.

    Ok, I take it back – bike-sharing is a brilliant idea and can’t be implemented soon enough. How about in exchange for a well-funded bike sharing program, SFPD puts a stop to Critical Mass? Everyone is happy.

  • John Murphy

    PhilD – if you are concerned about moving money to MUNI, you can either steal from a very tiny pot of money that would be used to make some bike lanes, or you can try to get some of the billions with a b going towards cars. Take for example, Cash for Clunkers – 3 Billion and counting to subsidize private car ownership, under the guise of economic and environmental benefit. Were that money put into America’s mass transit systems, it would also have economic benefit (transit systems are laying off, and more importantly cutting back service which impacts productivity for any who use the system) and more environmental benefit than a slight upgrade of a car while destroying the spent energy that was used to make the original car.

    And don’t give me economically unable, bikes can be had from goodwill for less than a MUNI pass.

    I don’t think you’ll hear many bike advocates getting all antsy about bike sharing, but Nevius only uses that as an introductory story line to rehash his same tired old complaints.

    And his article was nothing compared to the brilliance of Phil Matier. Blogged at http://holierthanyou.blogspot.com/2009/08/stopping-at-stop-signs-is-law.html and at http://sf.streetsblog.org/2009/08/06/extra-extra-nevius-and-matier-serving-up-steaming-piles-of-journalism/

  • PhilD

    Hi John Murphy

    I won’t claim to know much about bicycle purchase and maintenance, but somehow I imagine it is a little more involved than “buy $20 bike at goodwill, ride bike for remainder of life”. Theft, if nothing else, could entirely wipe out an investment, be it meager or extravagant. But it’s a moot point, bike sharing largely resolves that issue.

    What disturbs me is the idea of spending money to remake streets for the creation of new bike lanes. I honestly have no idea where bike lane money would come from – but yes, I say redirect it to MUNI. Is it a small amount? I doubt major road construction is ever a small amount, but even if it is, redirect it to MUNI. Our city’s fine cyclists can wait this one out for a few years until revenues come back up and Federal stimulus money works its magic. Too many people, especially at-risk communities, rely on MUNI for their income, health and basic necessities. A bike lane won’t help them, it would primarily help a small component of our city’s population that, as far as I can tell, are able to get from point A to point B on existing roads.

  • marcos

    Elsbernd supports this, there is no controversy here about redesigning a 50-odd routes to accomodate bicycle facilities. The City is bound to make the streets safe for cyclists under California law. If it tolerates unsafe conditions and people get hurt, the City would stand exposed for negligence.

    @Jamie Whitaker, wasn’t Harrison just repaved within the past five years towards 8th street? The WSOMA planning process had designated that as a city serving street/freeway frontage and prefered to focus improvements for pedestrians on Folsom, Howard, 8th and 7th instead of 9th, 10th and Harrison/Bryant.

    It will be always be more difficult to challenge auto dominance so long as the Muni is bled dry and allowed to enter into a death spiral.

    Bike lanes are just paint, very cheap, not a measurable budget hit, the major bottleneck is painting capacity.

    And Chuck Nevius does not live in San Francisco. His concerns are not valid, democratically, because he is a hack paid to write an opinion column about what suburbanites think about San Franciscans, a poor man’s Ken Garcia.

  • Mike

    I’ve been spending time at 850 Bryant this week, and I hear you. I hate walking down there. Too many corners where you have to cross over to the other side to make the freeway easier for car drivers.

    For example, the 19 Polk drops you off at the NW corner of 8th at Bryant (nearside stop), but to get to 850 I have to cross to the south side of Bryant, then walk down to 7th and cross back to the north side, just so cars can have speedy access to the onramp at 8th and Bryant.

    Also, the 27 and 47 board at the NW corner of Harrison at 7th (farside stop), but if you are heading north on the east side of 7th, you can only cross to that corner by first crossing Harrison and then 7th. I’ve missed the bus I wanted twice because I couldn’t cross the other way (7th first, then Harrison) due to the freeway onramp.