Saturday, May 30, 2009

Your Space Or My Life?

I am sick of the words "parking" and "bike lanes". They have lead me to drink!

Today was one of the last public meetings before San Francisco's long overdue bike plan is put up for a final vote. When I say "long overdue", I mean it. San Francisco has been under an injunction for several years that has left us legally incapable of changing anything about bicycle infrastructure anywhere in the City. The injunction is about to be lifted, and there are now 56 bicycle lane projects being proposed.

Of course, there must be hearings. And hearings. And hearings. From these hearings we find that there is really very little opposition to new bike lanes in SF. There are no hoards of car wielding zealots out to destroy the two wheeled freaks. After all the yelling and all the hearings it comes down to one stupid word- parking.

Parking. The world has become so unbalanced and blind, the ability to warehouse vehicles for free on our limited street space is more important than the lives of people. We have become so confused by carbon monoxide ingested in traffic jams that the word "parking" has changed its definition- it is no longer a place one can keep one's car, it is now the battle zone in the war of "fuck you, this is mine and you can't have it".

So, today I lift my glass to those who feel that parking in front of their destination is the height of American Freedom, because, tomorrow... it is back to the battlefield. There is no way that I will leave my children a world where 18 feet of space parallel to the sidewalk is more valued than their lives.


  1. I've been thinking more and more lately about how much public space is devoted to automobiles, and how little to actual people. In Portland we're on the high side of having public space devoted to people, relative to the rest of the U.S. - but still, roads feel like places you're either really not supposed to be unless you're in a car, or only supposed to be in, given that you're not in the way of a car. I'm ok with there being cars, they serve a very useful purpose, but it would be really nice if we could reclaim streets, and make them the property of everyone, places which feel like you are allowed to be in them. They used to be, back before cars took over our entire transportation infrastructure.

  2. Unfortunately this is so true. The biggest concern of the city council in Vienna by rebuilding the dangerous ring bike path is not it's safety, but not to lose parking space. That was even their official argument and nobody (expect bike lobbies of course) stood up to say that this is rather, well, stupid.

    If seen this very same ring road last year during the EURO 2008 where the whole city center was closed down for traffic (even bicycles) for nearly a month. Nothing happened, no traffic chaos - nothing. Everybody was happily walking all over the place and people said how much they enjoyed the car-free ring. But to the city council it was still not proof enough. Bloody wimps.

  3. I'm wondering whether you might compare the number of cyclists passing per hour versus the number of cars utilizing the parking facilities. If there are many more cyclists, you might argue that the space is better used for them, as parking is an inefficient use of resources. Businesses may also find this argument interesting, as they are always looking for more customers.

  4. These arguments are presented all the time. Merchants in areas with higher bicycle numbers have presented their increased sales numbers to merchants who fear loss of business to no avail.

    SF has a million cars a day enter the City. There are only 800 thousand people who live in SF and there are not 800,000 parking spaces. There is no way to create parking for every car in the City. There is simply not enough square footage.

    Even if we were to maintain every space currently in SF, there would not be enough parking, and even less in the coming years with the City's plans to greatly increase high density housing through out the San Francisco.

    Using money as the reason we need to maintain or decrease parking is a red herring- there is no way to give enough space to meet the demand.

  5. Just as of this Saturday, riding in the south-peninsula made me feel more vulnerable than I have in the last few years in the city. The city needs this and it takes all of us cyclists to not only think about what would be great, but advocate, participate, inform and actively be involved in this.
    it will happen, is just a matter of time. ride on!

  6. If the ability to park directly in front of your destination is the height of American freedom, then all true Americans should be riding bikes! It's one of the main advantages; not having to circle the block looking for a spot. In contrast to the conflict you are experiencing, one of the many measures that Copenhagen has taken to reduce traffic congestion in the downtown area is to remove a percentage of the parking spaces every year. If there's nowhere to park, people get there without their cars - a tried, proven, and effective strategy. Val

  7. This is effectively what is happening in SF. Where every residential space built prior to the last 2 or 3 years had to have a 1 to 1 ratio of living unit to parking space, the new zoning requirements are more lower. Now you will see a 100 unit building have only 75 or 80 spaces provided.

    The United States has been a place of unlimited space since the days of the Frontier, it is hard for people to adjust. They will, eventually.