One man shuts down SF bicycle improvements

August 23, 2008 at 11:15 pm | Posted in biking | 4 Comments
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I can’t stop thinking about the Rob Anderson story in San Francisco.  This evil little man has apparently brought implementation of millions of dollars worth of new bike routes and other infrastructure to a screeching halt, by suing the city.  His point, that by effectively decreasing vehicle capacity we will cause an increase in traffic congestion and thus air pollution is difficult to disprove, I guess.  Even though I know he’s wrong, and his positions are based on faulty assumptions.  So now there will be a temporary shutdown while the powers that be try to arbitrate his claims. 

It kind of reminds me of Reagan telling us [in a 1980 speech] that trees are the source of pollution. 

Stories like this should make us question all of our beliefs.  In a way I don’t mind that backers of the bike initiatives should have to prove up the worthiness of their plans.  But Anderson’s unfortunate assessment is that everyone who rides a bike into the city is an enemy of the people, a radical, militant lunatic trying to get all cars off the roads.

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  1. I think that a good deal of vehicular traffic comes from what’s called “latent demand”: driving people don’t really need to do, but that they do once easy traffic routes become available.

    I can’t remember which book I read this in, nor even the specifics of where or what — which makes the evidentiary value of this almost nil — but…

    Some time ago, I think within the past two decades, a major bridge (or something) in a big (California?) city had to be shut down. Engineers predicted increased traffic on all the other means of getting from one place to the other. As it happened, some small proportion, like 25%, of the expected increase actually occurred. Seventy-five percent of the traffic simply never re-materialized. That 75% was latent demand.

    The amount of automobile traffic on the streets and roads is at an equilibrium governed by how far apart people like to choose their destinations and by how convenient the drive is. Maybe people like to live in isolation — but if the drive is inconvenient enough, few will, and there won’t be many on the road.

    Not having read the story, I wonder whether Anderson is a car-loving jackass, or just an ill-informed environmentalist.

  2. Paul, it is definitely the former. If you can stand it, check out all the details at Anderson’s blog.

  3. Okay, I haven’t checked out all the details, but he does seem more in the jackass camp. However, I have to grant that he lives in San Francisco, which has a different biking culture. Maybe the cyclists there really are a bunch of angry, provocative, rule-flouting twits.

    It’s an interesting question, whether we pollute more by making driving convenient or by making it inconvenient. I suspect we already know the answer.

  4. Maybe Anderson’s case will make it to the 9th Circuit Court, and they’ll rule against him. And he’ll appeal to the Supreme Court and they will affirm the hegemony of the internal combustion engine vehicle in a 5-4 decision. Will be fun to watch, eh.


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