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Friday, September 23, 2011

Alarmists Behind 'Homeless Haight Brigands' Myth Have a New Enemy: A Three-Block Bike Lane

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2011 at 2:59 PM

click to enlarge bikelane.jpg

Last year San Franciscans heard a repeated tale about a band of violent gutter punks who caused upstanding citizens to fear going out at night.

The story was bogus. Police were unable make a single case out of the supposed crime wave, despite blanketing the area for weeks.

The fabulists behind the story, the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, got what they wanted anyhow: Voters last November passed a law keeping people from sitting on the sidewalk.

Now, the owners of the $3 million mansions south of Haight Street are on to their next fictional scourge: Cyclists who are supposedly going to mangle Haight Ashbury traffic patterns if the Muncipal Transportation Agency goes through with plans for a three-block bike lane. 

"Impacting the commutes of thousands of San Franciscans to make more convenient the rides of an unknown number of bicycle commuters would be premature," the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association's Ted Loewenberg wrote in a recent letter to the Board of Supervisors. "MTA planners should not be simply promoting the wishes of a city group with an agenda, such as the SFBC."

The Municipal Transportation Agency has recently been holding community meetings to announce plans to create separated bike-ways intended to fill in gaps in the Wiggle route connecting the western neighborhoods to downtown. 

This is San Francisco's bike-commuting expressway, in theory: thousands of cyclists every day travel up Market, through the Lower Haight, up the Panhandle and into the Sunset and Richmond neighborhoods. Certain patches of the route are deadly, however. And one of the worst is the three-block stretch, where the DMV offices sit on the site of a former velodrome. Heading downtown from the Sunset and Richmond, travel east along the Panhandle until it ends, turn left onto four-lane Oak Street, and make their way down a street some motorists consider to be a high-speed freeway.

One would think that unobtrusive safety measures, implemented to make it easier for people to reduce congestion by switching from car to bike commuting, would be a snap.

And that's what the MTA has proposed: a three-block bike lane for this dangerous stretch of street.

But the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, fresh off successfully inciting panic over non-existent homeless brigands, has predicted that a bike lane might unleash fixie-fomented bedlam on streets around the Upper Haight.

Creating such a bike lane, Loewenberg wrote, would be tantamount to "launching an experiment that could prove to be a disaster."

The MTA's Mike Sallaberry was quoted on Streetsblog as saying that bike lane-striping may not occur for another year, so that the government can give a full hearing to alarmist scenarios such as Loewenberg's.

"We still want to do the outreach to the community, to do it correctly and diligently," Sallaberry was quoted as saying.

In the NIMBY preserve that is San Francisco, "correctly and dilligently" usually means years of stalling as hysterical homeowners grind everyone down, the public good is finally undermined, and the homeowners move on to the next bogus threat.

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Matt Smith


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