Posted by: mixed terrain. | June 26, 2009

‘Scene’ at the SF Bike Plan Hearing–a serious & then flippant recap.

Sitting at the SFMTA hearing to consider a large number of bike plans today for six hours was arduous, informative, heartening, and of course entertaining.  An incredible range of people spoke, including families with children (often the children were in attendance, sometimes mauling their parent while they spoke), business owners, tech guys, financial district employees, and one or two people who seemed to have just stumbled into the room and began talking.  The only radical Leftist (self-identifiying as a commie and anarchist) had a charming, small Chihuahua with him.

Photo by Dustin Jensen.

Photo by Dustin Jensen.

All in all this was a good meeting, with a great amount of success to be happy about.  The SFBC’s organizing work payed off with about two hundred people showing up to voice their two minutes of support for the plan.  The board heard not just from the tough-lunged and able-bodied, but also the recovering, the ill, and the previously injured.  With the exception of the cab driver there to protest the 2nd street bike lanes, who cited a ‘love-hate’ relationship between cyclists and cabbies, and then proceeded only to hate on the bike plan and cyclists, expressing his hope for the for the success of the CEQA litigants (though he did attempt to commiserate with cyclists deeply overburdened by the compactness of the new fangled ‘green cabs’–their trunks, he opined, cannot fit a cyclist who gets a flat or does not want to ‘ride all the way’), the plan’s opponents were not the rabid anti-bike nuts we’ve come to dread and expect from the outsized and outspoken presence of litigious obstructionists Miles and Anderson (more on Miles below).

Now for the fun.  According to my notes, there were a number of entertaining reasons to be at the bike plan hearing today.  They are, in ascending order of fun, humor, and (non)suprise with all due respect to their human vehicles:

1) Bike plan proponent, handsome gray-haired business-guy type, introduces himself:  “Like the weather, I’m in my low-to-mid fifties.”

2) The guy who seemed to wander in near the end of the meeting and whose closing point to protest more bike infrastructure was:  “No pedestrian ever ran anyone over.”

3) The woman who seemed to just wander in and start talking but who was actually Mary Miles who some speculate is a closet Dadaist.  Ms. Miles, attorney and Rob-Anderson enabler used her two minutes to loop the following a few times:  ‘Cease this meeting now, this is illegal, the injunction prohibits…’ Repeat.  It was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to an attempt to make a ‘citizen’s arrest.’

4) Rincon Hill residents discussing the threats and resignation to living in their neighborhood as if they were Navajos confined to an arid and impoverished region of the Four Corners.  Rincon Hill unveils plans for Left-Turnaggedon bunkers.

5) Rob Forbes, founder of Design Within Reach and Russian Hill resident spoke up for the need for all people in the city to have bike access.  This rather well-off and savvy business man stood in line and said his piece with everyone else.  If anyone wants to promote a liveable streets cage match featuring rich guys, I’d suggest and bet on Rob Forbes against ‘Let them Eat Cars’ Don Fisher of Gap Inc. any day.

6) South Beach dude who spoke and unironically affirmed his own stereotype–brought a huge map showing his favorite driving routes, complaining that the 2nd street bike lanes would hamper his cruises to the “Marina and Pacific Heights.”  I shit you not.  (That said, maybe we should leave our mentions of ‘Rainbow Grocery,’ farmers’ markets, pot dispensaries, and our obsession with Zeitgeist on sunny Saturday afternoons out of our public comments as well.  Alright, no one actually mentioned Zeitgeist and the dispensaries, but there were a few Rainbow Grocery shoutouts…did you know you get 10% off there with a bike membership card? ahem.)

*Update* Adam (South Beach dude) and I had a bit of a back-and-forth in the comments (see below) after I posted this message, belitting his social interest in San Francisco’s wealthy but architecturally-challenged Marina district.   To counter the claim that I am insensitive and out-of-touch hipster critic who just doesn’t understand the appeal of a neighborhood with sports bars, bike shops with Range Rover parking, and made up girls in sex pants, I am posting these photos to demonstrate that I do indeed have friends that enjoy the Marina.  Jade’s got the shirt to prove it (see both photos).

His shirt is sarcastic, but this guy really does enjoy the Marina.

His shirt is sarcastic, but this guy really does enjoy the Marina.





  1. thanks for sharing this, and more importantly, chipping in two cyclists’ cents on behalf of those of us who couldn’t make it!

  2. Sweet! I’m the pinnacle of fun, humor, and (non)suprise! Though my fiancé now says I’m not allowed to cruise the Marina and Pacific Heights any more, curse you.

    Though it’s with some satisfaction that I note that in unironically affirming my own stereotype I apparently helped convince the Board that it would be a bad idea to add 3/4 of a mile to every resident’s trip back to South Beach from parts north and parts west.

    So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. I shit you not.

    • Dear Adam,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad to see that you didn’t take my caricature of you (assuming you really were the guy, which it sounds like you were) as an ad hominem attack.

      You’re right, you and your neighbors in South Beach / Rincon Hill were able to convince the board to delay and defer the 2nd street plan. I remain unconvinced of the validity of your neighbors’ claims that the no-left turn lane option would put undue stress on the area’s residents, especially its pedestrians–the oft-cited losers by the opponents of the ‘no-left turn’ option. While I remain unconvinced by their arguments, and think the board failed to consider the much greater degree of support for the project by those who testified yesterday and in the twenty six letters of support from businesses along 2nd street, I do think their appeal to pedestrian safety, etc. likely did sway the board. These are bad-faith arguments I think, but appealing to them did have sway. On the other hand, I do not believe that your particular argument about the inconvenience to motorists returning to their apartments via car influenced the board to the degree to which you believe.

      Your route to and from the northern and western neighborhoods is a product of recent history–the streets were set up in a certain way, often not planned well at all, taking into account the needs of all users. This plan would add 3/4 mile to your drive, and to the drives of your neighbors in South Beach that choose to drive in the city (I’m taking your word on this mileage, it seems right to me). That sucks–in an ideal world, I wish your drive to the Marina was much shorter, and to be honest, I wish it was in an underground tunnel–but that’s just me being fed up with the way traffic is shunted around our city, producing endless frustrations between cyclists, peds, and motorists alike.

      Unfortunately no big digs are in the work. So how can we possibly justify adding 3/4 mile to your driving route? Here’s how. In SOMA, Rincon Hill, and South Beach, there are no acceptable north-south cycling streets between 7th Street and the Embarcadero. This is unacceptable, as many of your neighbors and people who work in your part of town testified yesterday. Many of these people, myself included, often have to go very far out of our way to make it across town without fearing for our lives. Often it is a much more inconvenient trip than just 3/4 mile. At the end of the day there are many more of us who are inconvenienced by the road design and setup than you and your cohort of south beach motorists currently are. In terms of numbers alone then, the social good is on our side. Not to mention that as the tides begin to rise and encroach on areas like South Beach, encouraging and making travel by bicycle easier is probably a better idea than conserving your preferred, exact route in its entirety.

    • Adam, I think you’ll enjoy my update to the original post on the bike hearing. I had my friend take these photos just for this post.

  3. Justin:

    First of all, I don’t object to the bike lane. Just the left-turn prohibitions. What is it that you object to about putting in left-turn arrows at the Townsend, Brannan, and Bryant St signals? I don’t see how that would affect cyclists, unless you intend to ignore the signals.

    Second, you ignored my other major point which was that the City staff and MTA made ZERO effort to notify the residents about what — whatever you think about it — is a huge change. Note that there are only 16 residential buildings in South Beach, each of which has either a manager (for apartments), or a homeowners association. So it would have taken no more than 16 letters to notify all 3,000 or so residents. You can hardly argue that that would have been an excessive burden on the planners.

    Also, I didn’t hear any of my neighbors testifying yesterday, just people who cycle through the neighborhood where I live on their way to and from work or leisure.

    Finally, if the tides rise as far as you think, I hope you own a kayak. Cycling through standing water sucks. Without a fender your back gets all wet.

  4. […] Hundreds of ordinary citizens, as well as scores of environmental and bicycle advocates, packed the fourth floor of San Francisco City Hall today for the SFMTA’s hearing on the city’s long-awaited Bike Plan. […]

  5. That confused poodle-haired woman from yesterday’s SFMTA hearing also reminded me a little of this disoriented person:

  6. Hello,

    I a masters student in Perth, Australia studying Urban and Regional Planning. I am currently writting a term paper based around the planning theories of bike plans. I am looking into Fordism, post modernism, critical social theory and the role of the planner.

    I would love the chance to correspont will someone with serious ideas about this. In return I would be happy to share my paper and finding with all.

    hopefully hear from you soon,

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