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Letters to the Editor 

Letters from December 27, 2000

Bikes vs. Cars

Making drivers pay: Thanks to Matt Smith for recognizing the tragic death of Chris Robertson, the bicyclist killed by road rage ("Breaking the Cycle," Dec. 13). Certainly, murder by motorized vehicle should receive the same penalty as murder by gun.

Perhaps our new slate of supervisors will take seriously the rights of the majority of San Franciscans who don't drive cars to work or school every day.

But we will need big investments to get people to kick the car habit. One proposal might be to add a $1 daily transit tax to every car parked in parking garages in the city. Most of these people live elsewhere but enjoy free use of our infrastructure. The revenues generated could be used to improve transit, make crosswalks safer, initiate safe driver programs, and create a real bicycle lane network.

Another revenue source could be raising the ticket for parking on sidewalks from the current measly $25 to, say, $250. Anyone who forces pedestrians or people in wheelchairs out into the street because they selfishly park on a sidewalk should be ashamed and fined, as Dick Cheney says, big time!

Brian Smith
Inner Sunset

Though they may cite you for littering: Thanks to Matt Smith for his excellent column on Chris Robertson's death and the abuses suffered by cyclists in San Francisco, and the great things they're doing in Marin County. How nice to have such a good example so close at hand. Cycling is a fantastic way to get around our small city. I love knowing that I'm not helping to pollute the air nor worsening our streets' congestion as I travel to work by bike. I hate knowing that if I were squished by a car, the police might not even bother to take a report, let alone bring the killer to justice.

Linda Atkins
Mission District

We're all glad you don't commute anymore: I used to commute to S.F. every day. I either drove or took BART to 16th and Mission or to Civic Center. Without traffic it took me 30 minutes, with traffic it took an hour. BART took an hour no matter what, plus the added risks of getting mugged walking past the housing project on Valencia or the annoyance of getting panhandled by the same street people who had a new sob story each week. I was better off driving.

I never witnessed any hostility or indifference to bicyclists by drivers in S.F. -- quite the opposite. Many was the time I was stuck behind a bicyclist going up Market Street at 20 mph, hogging the whole lane when he could have easily pulled enough to the right to have allowed me to pass. Critical Mass seemed like little more than a monthly festival for hating cars and drivers that was deliberately intended to screw up traffic for the rest of us. If drivers in S.F. act like bicyclists are the enemy, it's because bicyclists have been treating drivers as their enemies for a long time, along with much of the rest of the city -- traffic planners, meter maids, towing companies, etc.

S.F. has too many one-way streets, no-left-turn signs, serious shortages of parking and taxis, and mass transit that is overcrowded and chronically late. The cause of all these problems is not private cars, but city policy: tearing down freeways, limiting cab licenses and new parking garages, giving Muni employees anything they want, and scapegoating drivers.

Tim Starr

Why San Francisco is like a lab rat: It's great to see SF Weekly offering another perspective on urban traffic -- one that welcomes bikes, pedestrians, and a whole host of other vehicles. It's interesting to note that this broader view is the one held by most of the world. Europeans have always known that healthy urban density was incompatible with car dependence. Asian countries still enjoy an amazingly diverse multimodal culture where cars take their humble place in traffic.

Drivers and city officials alike need to remember that San Francisco is a lab rat stressed at the height of a relatively recent American experiment -- the car.

America's grand experiment has proven only one thing -- cars will consume every bit of space, money, and time that's dedicated to them, and still demand more. San Francisco must stop dedicating unlimited resources to cars; it only encourages them, and degrades our quality of life in the process.

Joe Speaks

Good Dog Bites

You had it right the first time: Thanks for putting out a perpetually sharp column (Dog Bites), and, as always, for your welcome, acerbic take on our miserable lives in this beautiful city (or is that wonderful lives in this ...?).

Derek Reimer
Richmond District


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