What Loren Mooney Gets Wrong About Cycling in San Francisco

[UPDATE: In fact, the big rise of cycling in San Francisco occurred during the four-year or so period the bicycle plan injunction was in effect, right? I don't think there's any disagreement about that. (Coincidental with this was the rise of the fixie, which of course is no longer rising since these days K-Mart sells them for $99. Before then, MTBs were the savior of the industry - ask a bike store owner about sales trends over the decades, if you want.) So how could this big rise be due to cycling infrastructure improvements? Also, in fact, John Murphy posted reTweeted my home address on Twitter because, because why? To get back at me? (It wouldn't even occur to me to post his address someplace. Anyway, I Blocked him on the Twitter for that, actually.) Did he have the same occupation at the same company at the same time as Kim Flint, and they both used the same cycling software - is that what he's so emotional about? That and the Chris Bucchere speeding accident. (Which I call an accident because Bucchere didn't do it on purpose. Yes, he had the yellow and didn't run a red but he was reckless nevertheless, IMO.) Mmmmm. But I digress. On with Loren Mooney's press release for the horrible, horrible SFMTA, written by a woman who just might might love love a job working for ... the SFMTA. Consider though, if this blog post is really for you - it might not be.  Don't give a thought as to how it's even possible that the SFBC has declining memberships and declining membership dues, how it's run by marketing mavens, how it's become a cheerleader for SFGov, now its major funder, how its initiatives are not so popular with longtime San Francisco bike riders. And oh, speaking of marketing mavens, on with the show...]

From the Voice of the San Francisco Establishment, luxury magazine San Francisco Magazine, it’s The Bumpy Road to Biketopia” [And look, no tags on this post - it will soon fade from view of any Google searchers, just saying.]

“[Introductory throat clearing omitted.] In the parlance of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, this arterial biking corridor is an LTS 4: the maximum level of bike traffic stress, ‘tolerated only by the strong and fearless.’”

Oh man, where to start. IRL, cycling on Market Street is a piece of cake. And it has been for the time I’ve been riding it. The biggest danger? Vehicles operated and regulated by… the SFMTA. (Speaking of which, the SFMTA does a horrible job of running MUNI, does it not?) I’m suggesting that taking any of the SFMTA’s politically-motivated statements at face value is horribly naive. The SFMTA says that Market Street is tolerated only “by the strong and fearless” for its own purposes. Of course the #1 goal of the SFMTA is simply to grow the SFMTA. It’s operated primarily for the benefit of the employees and agents of the SFMTA, right? And I’ll tell you, what the SFMTA really wants is a “household tax” on everyone who lives in San Francisco, something like $100-$200 per year for starters and then growing at nice eight percent a year or so.  And if the SFMTA thought that saying that Mars is purple would get this tax on the books, then it would. But Mars wouldn’t really be purple, right? So blindly quoting the SFMTA is not the right thing to do. And oh, welcome to the 415, Loren Mooney. Bienvenue.

“Now, imagine a similar scenario—except with more than twice the bicyclists. This is San Francisco in four years, at least if the city’s transit vision is reached.”

This goal, like the previous goal of increasing bicycle trips fivefold by the year 2020, WILL NEVER HAPPEN, just saying. It’s pie in the sky. If you don’t understand why this is true, then you don’t understand SFGov politics.

“Part of the stated goal of the city’s plan, which was conceived by the SFMTA, is to increase cycling by 157 percent.”

Ever more meaningless pie in the sky. Why not instead say 157.893 percent, would that be even better?

“While that’s an ambitious project, bicycling is already by far the fastest-growing mode of transportation in the city, with bike trips up 96 percent from 2006 to 2013…”

Indeed, bicycling is up a lot since the mid-oughts. But the reason for that has to do primarily with … the rising popularity of fixed-gear bikes. This trend has nothing at all to do with “cycling infrastructure,” right? And in fact, the big increase mostly came at a time when San Francisco was prevented from doing pretty much anything cycling infrastructure-wise, right? I’m referring to the four-year injunction that came about due to local SF politics. You see, SFGov imagined something to be true (that a grand mal EIR was not required) and then somebody outside of SFGov (a judge, in fact) put a big NOPE stamp on that idea by ruling that the required EIR was actually required. So what I’m saying, Loren Mooney, is that you come off as naive when you rely on text instead of subtext. And those numbers compare apples to oranges, altered to show a bigger increase, right? If you put me in charge and I chose a rainy November to measure the stats, would cycling have gone down IRL? No. So you need to take these numbers with a few grains of salt…

“But there’s one big problem: The city doesn’t feel safe, let alone friendly, for bikers.”

Feelings, whoa whoa whoa feelings! So the focus here isn’t on safety, it’s on perceptions of safety? If you say so.

“Today, many of San Francisco’s most heavily used bikeways can’t accommodate the incredible swell of riders.”

False. Any support for this at all?

“Take the popular bike corridors on downtown Market, Polk Street, and Folsom Street. “There is infrastructure,” says SFMTA transportation director Ed Reiskin. “It’s just that the volume of cyclists quickly overruns that infrastructure.”

This is Ed Reiskin’s fantasy. It’s not actually true IRL. Ed Reiskin needs an example of overrun infrastructure in town and he points to a dozen cyclists at a red light on Market. OK fine.

“That, or motor traffic is still too heavy and fast. All three streets have had plans in the works for years to install larger, protected bike lanes—but none will be finished for years to come.”

What are the pros and cons of these proposals? Perhaps that has something to do with why they haven’t been implemented?

“The Market Street plan in particular would both allow for more cyclists and reduce bike traffic stress to practically nothing, but its estimated completion date isn’t until 2018, when rush hour could bring packs of 30 or 40 cyclists—like Critical Mass every evening.”

What’s this called, “framing the issues?” Of course there is no limit to the number of cyclists on Market Street. All comers are “allowed” right now. And since when is “bike traffic stress” a metric? (Should it be the most important yardstick of SFGov performance? Discuss.) And Market Street will never have anything like Critical Mass every light cycle, of course. And MUNI bus drivers will still be a protected class of negligent drivers, right? 

“For many would-be cyclists, 2018 is not soon enough.”

A new fantasy demographic – the “would-be” cyclist! Do tell more!

“Personally, what makes me feel safer are separated bike lanes,” says Supervisor Jane Kim, who learned to ride a bike just two years ago.”

Where to start here. If Jane Kim doesn’t want to ride a bike, that’s OK, right?

“She is exactly the type of rider to whom the city must appeal in order to meet its ridership goals.”

As stated, the City will never meet its goals. If it there were a chance of that, it would quickly alter the goals for politically purposes.

“Folks who have been biking don’t need to be convinced to bike more,” Kim says. “But I still have to convince myself every time.”

I’ll tell you, somebody like Jane Kim will never ride on a bike on a week when it drizzles/rains every day. And that’s OK, right? Also, this focus on potential riders is why the SFMTA / SFBC doesn’t care how unpopular the new JFK Drive bike lanes are with people who used to ride their bikes on JFK, for instance.

“The city has plenty of beautifully designed protected bikeways in the works. But the problem, according to Supervisor Scott Wiener, is that “our system is completely broken. Because of our political process and bureaucratic resistance, it becomes incredibly hard to implement these improvements in a timely manner.”

I’m sure Scott Wiener thinks every last thing he proposes is an “improvement.” But should we assume something is an improvement for all before it’s even done?

“In last year’s most high-profile incident, 24-year-old Amélie Le Moullac was riding to work in the bike lane on Folsom Street at 6th when she was killed by a truck turning right across the lane.”

That particular part of the particular intersection was not-too-long-ago “improved” with a pedestrian bulb out. Was it even possible for a large truck to merge into the new, quite narrow “traffic lane” and then make the turn legally? IDK. Was this intersection designed well? Is anybody interested in this type of question? I don’t think so. And in real life, the most high-profile incident was this SFMTA vs. cyclist accident. I could tell you more about it, but the sainted, all-knowing SFMTA famously suppressed the police report.

“After pressure from Kim and the S.F. Bike Coalition, and following a botched police investigation, the city quickly announced the approval of a $253,000 stopgap, a temporary separated bike lane on Folsom from 6th to 11th Streets while the full project continues to make its way through the bureaucracy.”

(This is what Supervisor London Breed would refer to a “chop shop project,” one that supposedly “isn’t done in San Francisco.” Just saying.)

“[Blah blah.] It’s likely that this new lane will lead to increased usage and improved safety.”

FTR, Folsom is more dangerous than Market. Before, and currently.

“But it came at an unacceptable human cost. City bikers—and everyone else, for that matter—are left to wonder what it’s going to take to make the city’s streets feel safe.”

I can’t imagine this simplistic essay actually accomplishing anything the writer wanted to accomplish.

Oh, and this explains a lot:

“An experienced and in-touch content strategy and development expert with proven ability to grow and engage audiences across platforms (print, digital, social, live events) for a wide variety of brands, from niche enthusiast to regional lifestyle to mass market. Consistently recognized as a positive manager and skilled cross-team collaborator. 

Specialties: Content development; creative direction; increasing audience engagement; developing new brand extensions; budget discipline; effectively communicating brand values, internally and externally; creating a positive environment where teams are excited to come to work and achieve results.”

8 Responses to “What Loren Mooney Gets Wrong About Cycling in San Francisco”

  1. Riley says:

    Market Street will never be a great place to ride a bicycle even if ALL other vehicles were eliminated from it.

    The problem is limited lateral movement. Nearly ever block there is a Muni boarding bubble that funnels bicycles into a single narrow lane. Too often, the only to that constraint is to ride on Market’s treacherous skin-shredding ventilation grating.

    For roughly two years my five-days-per bike commute included a ride on Market. I regularly detoured over to Mission. And today I believe that a segregated bike lane on Mission, not Market, would be a far superior biking route.

  2. sfcitizen says:

    Well that’s the promise from the SFMTA project leaders and SFMTA-funded SFBC – a stress-free Market Street for cyclists. To achieve this goal, we’d need to ban all other traffic (including cross traffic) and fence off the peds. It’s an absurd promise.

    I’ve been on very wide tires for the duration – I would’t recommend small tires for Market.

    Some elements of the SFMTA wish to put bikes on Mission and get them off of Market. It’s controversial.

    I preferred Market before it was “improved.”

  3. Rob Anderson says:

    Good post, Jim. It’s remarkable that the MTA has an anti-car bike guy as its head. Who makes $294,000 a year for successfully screwing up city traffic.

    With more than 5000 employees, the MTA is more of a jobs program than a transit agency.

    Still waiting for some of those employees to issue the annual Collisions Report, which is months overdue. City Hall and the MTA are trying to figure out how to deal with that UC study that shows how the city has radically under-reported cycling accidents by relying only on police reports and ignoring all such accidents logged in at SF General, the major trauma center for the whole city.

  4. John Murphy says:

    Also, in fact, John Murphy posted my home address on Twitter because, because why? To get back at me?

    Not a fact. I recall that fake account who took offense to you for some reason and posted your name and address, but no idea who that was. Presumably this didn’t result in some hipster-fixie guy coming over to whack you in the knees with a u-lock.

  5. sfcitizen says:

    No way of knowing at this point, so you’ve earned an update.

    Why would a hipster-fixie guy come over to attack me? A mystery.

  6. John Murphy says:

    “No way of knowing at this point”

    Surely the google machine? I don’t know your address so you’ll probably have to search for the tweet….

  7. sfcitizen says:

    No way of knowing who started up the account that you just happened to discover, somehow. You seemed delighted at the time, back before Chris Bucchere was a convicted felon. AFAIK, Twitter is not all that Google-search friendly. They don’t state how far back their own archive search goes, FTR.

    Try not to freak out too many more grandmas – I know mine would be freaked if you chased down her Hyundai…

  8. John Murphy says:

    search “@murphstahoe ” , and you’ll have your answer.

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