Tens Would Suffer
Your crossword is a little messed up this week. I know crosswords are getting meta-tricky, but really? It looks like they didn’t quite finish, and you just went ahead and printed it. The box left of 20 has no number, but needs one for a clue and a word going across (hence the name “crossword”). For 52 across there is no clue.
Of course, I can handle, no problem, really, it’s the usual snooze-level Reader crossword otherwise. But please do not morph it into some “almost factual news” type of thing. There are tens of us out here who would suffer grave disappointment.
Thank you for publishing this article (“Stop the irrational Bike Bias,” August 25 cover) as the problem is getting worse and the outcry greater.
I used to bike everywhere, and was known as “the bicycling barrister.” But, I eventually realized in my bicycling and in my representation of bicycling-accident victims, that it is unreasonably dangerous to bicycle with or without motor vehicles and that the workplace could not afford or appreciate generating profuse sweating.
In a colder climate like Great Britain or San Francisco, bicycling has a greater chance of factoring into the workplace, but definitely not in Southern California. This is a frivolity seemingly perpetuated by brainwashed true-believers.
Anything They Desire
“Stop the Irrational Bike Bias” is well overdue, but it could have been more objective. It seems like all the bicyclists figure they should be entitled to anything that they desire on everybody else’s dime. Watching them erode the roadways with their bicycle lanes that are used by less than one percent of the vehicles on the roadways is less than the right way to go in my opinion. Thanks for the great article.
- Name withheld
- via voicemail
The Letters? Not So Much
The article “Stop the Irrational Bike Bias” was thought-provoking because two respected experts were cited. These men have authored academic articles citing facts and figures to support their views.
Not so the letters in response, particularly those opposed to the views expressed. While the letter writers were quick to put down the experts cited in the article, they offered no cogent data to support their views, only opinion.
These writers need to be reminded of a well-known statement from W. Edwards Deming: “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” Deming understood that improving industrial process required facts, not opinions. His statement is frequently quoted when important decisions affecting public policy must be made for the same reason.
I would be interested in the data the pro-bike folks have to offer, not their opinions.
Let’s Get Real Here
At first glance, like many other readers, I thought Moss Gropen’s cover story was some sort of joke or funny take on cycling and alternative transit in San Diego. But, no, Gropen really set out to challenge those “hipster cyclists” (his words), who he tells us are mostly younger, liberal and backed by “city planning types” who, in Gropen’s world, are going to turn the 21st Century into a place where, heaven forbid, city dwellers stop using cars and actually walk, bicycle or ride alternative transit, and maybe lower greenhouse gas emissions, and help address climate change. Can’t let that happen, so Gropen cherry picks three “experts” carefully chosen from the libertarian, right wing-influenced Cato Institute, the conservative Reason Foundation (funded by the Koch brothers), and one anonymous online commentator in the U-T newspaper!
Let’s get real here, Moss, starting with your subtitle: “The Case for Car-Centric Planning.” Hello? As if car-centric planning is a new thing? The entire 20th Century, indeed the core of the city planning profession in the United States over the last hundred years, has been nothing but car-centric planning!
Check out the master plan of every major U.S. metropolitan area: zoning for suburbs, freeways, shopping malls and sprawl. We are at the very beginning of a new century in which the overwhelming consensus is that we need a new model — one that is driven by sustainable development, compactness, new forms of transit, new ways of living.
To cite statistics about cycling at the dawn of a new era is disingenuous to say the least. And then quote two hand-picked commentators who claim cyclists are “smug” (“like vegans!”)? Really? And that San Diego has “forlorn buses” with their “handful of riders who appear old, crippled and poor.” Hey, Moss, ever hear of Bus Rapid Transit? It’s the cutting edge of transit technology that has already changed the way millions travel around cities across the planet. It’s slowly catching on in the U.S., in cities like Portland, Denver, and Las Vegas, though you kind of left that part of the story out.
Your article reads like a screed to scare San Diegans about evil government and socialist city planners who are going to take their cars away from them by creating more space for cycling or transit that will only be used by those “hipster bikers” who you think should just stay in “rural hippie enclaves of college towns like Davis, California and Ames, Iowa” and let San Diego remain a city of freeways and horizontal sprawl. Dream on.
- Larry Herzog, Professor,
- School of Public Affairs, SDSU
I’m a second generation native San Diegan, and long-time reader of the Reader, which I find hilarious, informative, informational, and controversial.
That said, this article is probably going to bring some pretty interesting responses from the one percent who are going to be angry about this article. But the truth of the matter is that it’s true. Unfortunately, our city council only wants to do what’s good for one percent of the people. But they’re used to that because they already do that. The only one percent they care about is themselves and each other, not the other 99 percent of the City of San Diego.
A good example of this is where I live. They demolished a large industrial park to make way for condominiums. My neighbor worked at that industrial park and normally walked or rode his bike there. Now he has to drive all the way to San Marcos due to San Diego City Council votes and planning. I don’t see how that makes things any better.
Not only that, our mayor drives the largest SUV manufactured, a Ford Excursion. On top of that, I occasionally see Scott Sherman at our town hall meetings, and I don’t think he rode a bike there. He lives right down the street and can see that demolished industrial park from his back yard. Basically the city council is trying to bully the citizens of San Diego into this plan. Just goes to show it’s the one percent they care about: themselves and each other.
I’m really waiting for the letters to roll in because it’s going to be hilarious. Fine job you’re doing it. I’ve always enjoyed the Reader and even got a girl from back in the Classifieds days.
- Name withheld
- via voicemail
They Do Pay
I have to disagree with some of the article, “Stop the Irrational Bike Bias.” First of all, many bicycle commuters and cyclists own motor vehicles. They do pay for the roads, and the paint, and the stripes. I own and have registered 10 motor vehicles. Bike paths and bike lanes are just paint.
I try to commute by bicycle three days per week. My commute is a minimum of 22 miles each way. I commute for fitness and try to incorporate it in my daily schedule.
I have had two injuries due to cars. In my first crash (November, 2011), a small car was being waved through by drivers of stopped vehicles northbound on PCH at Encinitas Boulevard waiting for a light. A small Saturn was waved from a left turn lane from the opposite traffic lanes and I T-boned him at 20-25 miles per hour (downhill) in the bicycle lane. My right knee and left shoulder hit the vehicle as I flew over the car and landed on my back about 20 feet from impact. My bicycle was damaged, my right knee was broken, meniscus torn. I have had injections in my knee for the last five years every four months or so.
About 5000 cycling miles later, on the 19th of August 2016, I had another crash on PCH in Solana Beach and am currently recovering from injuries to my right knee and left elbow, and again my bicycle is damaged. A quarter mile of vehicles were stopped during commuter traffic on northbound PCH. A few were a foot or more into the bike lane for no reason (there is no right turn anywhere close by) with big extended mirrors protruding into the bike lane. I generally swerve to avoid the mirrors. Unfortunately, where I was swerving, the asphalt ridge at the concrete gutter joint was much higher than the concrete and caused me to crash. Two-wheeled vehicles at speed turn by leaning. I was leaning, but the front wheel wouldn’t follow.
I obey the traffic laws. I get mad when other cyclists don’t, just like any driver would.
As a baby boomer, I grew up during a time when there were no bike lanes in the Los Angeles area. Everybody rode bicycles to school. We rode everywhere. My parents did not drive us. We weren’t lazy kids. We had to know the rules to stay alive and avoid tickets.
I am sure some readers might enjoy my crashes. Many drivers are just frustrated at sitting in traffic (usually alone) and get mad when they see bicycles and motorcycles getting through traffic. But on both occurrences it was the drivers of the motor vehicles that were at fault. People need to get educated about bicycle laws, and the new motorcycle lane splitting law as well.
I pay for these roads. I should be allowed to cycle safely on them. I pay more than the average car driver for these roads due to my registrations, insurance, taxes and fuel.
- Bill Perry
- La Costa, Carlsbad
Broad Roads, Plenty of Stables for Horses
Whether Leonardo da Vinci is the true inventor of the bicycle is as mysterious as Mona Lisa’s smile. I’m curious what the 16th-century Renaissance man would think of the August 25 Reader cover story, “Stop the irrational Bike Bias.” In his vision of the Ideal City, Leonardo proposed broad roads and plenty of stables for horses, which today would equate to an abundance of parking areas. He also said, “Only let that which is good looking be seen on the surface of the city.”
Too bad the City of San Diego Planning Department is not gifted with the creative talent of the Italian genius. Rather, the Planning Department is known for producing highly impractical, complicated, and costly tangled webs of plans and regulations, often driven more by a political, financial, or other special interest, rather than by the true needs of the citizens.
Driving through downtown San Diego’s hustle and bustle or finding your way out of one-way streets is challenging already. Are the promoters of the Mobility Plan hoping that reducing the surface currently used by cars and squeezing a bike lane into chronically congested streets is a good solution? It’s a bit like trying to get inside a packed elevator! We all know how uncomfortable and unwelcoming that feels. Is that how we wish tourists to remember their visit to our town?
Looking at the Mobility Plan, I agree with Mr. O’Toole’s statement that the streets would become “more automobile-hostile than bicycle-friendly.” The proposed plan will likely slow down traffic flow, making car drivers frustrated and impatient, possibly increasing accident rates. Oh well, let’s be grateful we are not in India, where the traffic often stops to accommodate the pace of a peacefully walking sacred cow.
For 30 years, I have been part of the S.D. minority: car-free and using my bike every day for transportation, rain or shine. So, from the perspective of an insider, let me say that the idea of driving downtown through the newly proposed bike path grid appears to be a highly stressful and unhealthy experience. Consider the impact of pollution on one’s lungs, skin, and eyes, or the constant noise affecting one’s nervous system, hearing, and reactivity.
As a seasoned yoga therapist, I’m very concerned. Everyone has to breathe. Our streets have to breathe, our city has to breathe! Breathe, vibrate, and revive with truly innovative, lively, well thought-out and tested solutions. We need a terrific transportation plan, a masterpiece that we could proudly stand by, one that could be a model for other communities and for other countries, and will not need another fix or amendment in a few years.
I’m not sure if or how much of our precious city funds should be allocated for any bike-topia project. I am certain that I will vote no on a bike-tire tax proposal. It would set a dangerous precedent. What may come next? Will my shoes get taxed for taking a walk, or my glasses for looking out? Let’s use a little logic!
The impact on the road, the years of wear and tear from even the smallest, lightest cars is much greater. Some contribution for resurfacing may be appropriate. But a bike tire? Seriously? Then I’ll have to reserve my place on the bus, joining the “old, crippled, and poor,” as Mr. O’Toole labels us, perhaps forgetting that destiny is not always kind and that everyone deserves respect!
Did anyone consider building a fast cycling ring around Downtown with several entry points, all leading towards the center (similar to the Great Ring Junction in Rome, Italy)? This solution may be more enjoyable, safer, and perhaps even quicker than driving through the center, where there is a lot of traffic and traffic lights. Instead of a being on ground level, some portions of the new bike path could be elevated, especially at intersections. Smooth traffic flow and space for cars will be preserved. A brand-new bike path might be a great motivation for more people to bike. After all, being a little closer to the sky and stars feels more liberating than trying to steer your way between the exhausts of the buses, cars, and jaywalking pedestrians.
A light, narrow pathway is quicker and more economical to build then any freeway or underground metro. Simple, fine design, cleverly engineered could add a unique architectural feature to our city. A futuristic bike path may even attract tourists, urban planners, and cyclists from all over the world. Just imagine what a boost to our City budget that could be!
Frothy Demographic Stereotypes
The Reader chose to address the issue of traffic engineering to accommodate bicycle commuting by giving a soapbox to its resident clown, i.e., the writer of the Reader’s weekly satire page — locally renowned for its coarse brand of humor; a writer who uses the name Moss Gropen.
The libertarian screed (prompted by a transportation plan recently adopted unanimously by the San Diego City Council) didn’t even interview experts with contrary points of view. It would be a fool’s errand for the proponents of the traffic accommodations to spend a lot of time arguing transportation policy in this forum.
What we should focus on instead is how readers’ intelligence was insulted by cranky, paranoid arguments that fly in the face of political and sociological realities that most Americans have observed around them for the last generation.
It was alleged that Americans avoid living in downtowns, and therefore there is a hidden plot by urban planners to incentivize relocating to downtowns, and part of the strategy is making driving harder. In truth, for three decades it’s been common knowledge that living in downtowns is fashionable. It’s called “gentrification” — a word strangely not used by Gropen. Aside from that, downtown doesn’t have enough room, even with high rises, to accommodate the depopulation of the North Parks, Clairemonts, and University Citys.
It was alleged that cycling accommodations in areas of congested car traffic are a triumph of bike commuting yuppies (another well-established colloquial term eschewed by Gropen) who know how to work the system. It was stated that in San Diego, bicycle commuters represent 0.8 percent of commuters. We are to believe a few thousand yuppies have outwrestled and outmaneuvered the combined business establishment and city and county elected officials? The perennial convention center boondogglers? The crowd that’s winning the battle (closely followed by the San Diego Reader) to build the parking garage in Balboa Park? The crowd that torpedoed the community plan to reduce toxic shipyard emissions in 2014 (particularly, Mayor Faulconer, former Mayor Sanders, and the shipyards)? A crowd of over-40s that is vastly richer and better connected than the yuppies?
Increased car congestion would inconvenience those who make their living downtown, and their customers. That’s bad for business! The city and county governments are headquartered Downtown. For intergovernmental agency meetings, officials and staffs have to cope with driving in and out of there!
Aside from these two scurrilous arguments, the article abounds with frothy demographic stereotypes of cyclists. Present day urban cycling advocacy was misrepresented as being a youth-driven movement. Actually, frequent riders are substantially older, on average, than occasional riders, who are in turn older than infrequent riders. A libertarian think-tanker was quoted as joking, “One way to increase cycling is to kill off or force out all the old folks.”
In truth, according to market research by the Gluskin Townley Group, based on 2010 data, “Older riders ride more ... riding days for men tend to increase after they reach age 65.... The bicycle industry has prospered over the last few decades by catering to baby boomers.... Among bicyclists, male boomers and even older men are the most enthusiastic ‘geezer jocks.’” Men ages 45 and up represent about 40% of all cyclists; but in the 45-54 age group, women ride even more than men, slightly.
To judge from the above source and a 2013 Forbes magazine article on “the four types of cyclists,” leisure cyclists outnumber the daily commuters, and they possibly account for more sales too.
Incidentally, Gropen’s figure of 0.8 percent applies to 2006. The 2011 figure is 0.94 percent (source: Governing magazine).
Dividends for Future Generations
Questioning the economic logic of various transportation policies is fine. Misrepresenting the facts, not so much. Asserting that there are no subsidies for motor vehicles and their users ignores the failure to force auto and truck operators to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions, the tremendous law enforcement costs associated with managing traffic and drivers, the eye-watering military spending aimed at protecting fossil fuel supplies, the gap between road construction/maintenance costs and gas tax revenues, the impact on society of the injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents and the costs that vehicle congestion imposes on the economy.
Most of the many, many billions of dollars these impacts impose are not paid directly by vehicle users but externalized to general taxpayers. Subsidies to cycling are trivial compared to these gigantic sums.
While bicycles may struggle to compete with the cars needed to get to work or school for those trapped in the inconvenient SoCal suburbs, the point surely is to make biking (and walking) safer, more convenient, and logical for the many situations where it can compete (neighborhood trips, fitness, fun) and to help build a constituency that clamors for a planning and public investment process that helps, over time, to make getting around by bicycle for work or play, cleaner, cheaper, healthier and more convenient. The modest annual amounts needed to advance this agenda will pay dividends for generations to come.
I realize San Diego is a conservative place and that a newspaper must reflect its readership, but your August 25 cover story, “Stop the Irrational Bike Bias,” really pushed the envelope. The article goes to great lengths to refute some of the most obvious and sensible advantages bikes have over cars. It manages to do so without even fleetingly acknowledging the problems the automobile has caused: environmental degradation, traffic congestion, obesity, and a general decline in the quality of life.
The movement towards increased bike-ability is a response to these problems, not some frivolous notion dreamed up by a sinister hippie cabal. The author says, “that’s what Americans prefer,” as if the concept of societal improvement is off the table. By that logic, I suppose we should be perfectly happy with cancer and obesity rates where they are, too. That’s just what Americans prefer, I guess.
So, you gave great prominence to some patently retrogressive ideas, as stated by anti-taxation reactionaries. Yes, I realize today’s journalistic modus operandi is to give equal time to both sides, regardless how stupid one of them may be. (That’s how the Republicans ended up with a fascist-clown presidential candidate.) But shouldn’t there also be an editorial imperative to filter out some of the truly dopey dross?
What will be on your next cover, a defense of climate change denial? Remember: the guy who claims 2+2=5 is not equally correct as the one who concludes that 2+2=4.
Where’s Jerry Sanders in All This?
This past Wednesday, I sat directly in front of Bonnie Dumanis as she wormed and squirmed on the witness stand, lying to the judge, the jury, the public — everyone — about her involvement of tyranny during her 2012 bid for San Diego mayor in the Azano federal corruption case (Obermeyer).
I sat next to Dana Littlefield, who had a wonderfully accurate report of Dumanis’s 90 minutes on the stand in Thursday’s U-T. At the end, the cabrone snuck out the back door — with bodyguards — same door she snuck in.
This past Monday, the court system even put up an extra checkpoint system right in front of Judge Anello’s courtroom door! Who’s paying for all this special treatment? Where in all this is Jerry Sanders, the San Diego mayor, during this whitewash? Don’t tell me he didn’t have anything to do with this. He can smell money a thousand miles away.
- Nancy Cuskaden
- via voicemail
A Really Cool Place to Grow Up
Thanks for writing about my town, Manhattan Beach/Hermosa. I was born and raised there as a “hell’s on wheels” chick in the ’60s and ’70s. Luckily my parents, also raised in the South Bay, decided to stay in town and have kids.
We were blessed to roam the Strand, downtown, play volleyball all day, and work our way back home close to dark without a hiccup, always having a blast! (This was summer time!) I’m still friends with my classmates to this day— a really cool place to grow up!