Bernal Writer Wonders, “Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists?”

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Writer Dan Duane is a proud resident of Greater Cortlandia, and in last Sunday’s New York Times, he wrote a provocative essay about imbalances in the US legal system that allow many motorists to face few penalties when collisions with bicyclists occur.

Cycling has become a much more popular way to get around town, yet as Neighbor Dan writes:

The social and legal culture of the American road, not to mention the road itself, hasn’t caught up. Laws in most states do give bicycles full access to the road, but very few roads are designed to accommodate bicycles, and the speed and mass differentials — bikes sometimes slow traffic, only cyclists have much to fear from a crash — make sharing the road difficult to absorb at an emotional level. Nor does it help that many cyclists do ignore traffic laws. Every time I drive my car through San Francisco, I see cyclists running stop signs like immortal, entitled fools. So I understand the impulse to see cyclists as recreational risk takers who deserve their fate.

But studies performed in Arizona, Minnesota and Hawaii suggest that drivers are at fault in more than half of cycling fatalities. And there is something undeniably screwy about a justice system that makes it de facto legal to kill people, even when it is clearly your fault, as long you’re driving a car and the victim is on a bike and you’re not obviously drunk and don’t flee the scene. When two cars crash, everybody agrees that one of the two drivers may well be to blame; cops consider it their job to gather evidence toward that determination. But when a car hits a bike, it’s like there’s a collective cultural impulse to say, “Oh, well, accidents happen.” If your 13-year-old daughter bikes to school tomorrow inside a freshly painted bike lane, and a driver runs a stop sign and kills her and then says to the cop, “Gee, I so totally did not mean to do that,” that will most likely be good enough.

“We do not know of a single case of a cyclist fatality in which the driver was prosecuted, except for D.U.I. or hit-and-run,” Leah Shahum, the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, told me.

IMAGE: Art bike in Bernal Heights, by Telstar Logistics

Lost: Young Aviator Seeks Assistance in Aircraft Recovery Effort

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Well, independent of anything else that may be going on in the world right now, I think we can all agree that this is no fun: Neighbor Nasen got his remote-controlled airplane stuck in a tree over the weekend:

Hello. This is Neighbor Nasen. I’m eight years old and I live in Bernal. I just got a new remote controlled airplane called the Firebird Stratos. I accidentally flew it into a tree at St. Mary’s Park on Sunday morning. This was it’s first-ever flight. If you see it on the ground or if it’s possible to get it down, please contact me. Here’s a video of how it happened:

Rats. As the young aviator is heard to say on the video, “That stinks.”

Totally. Please keep your eyes out for Neighbor Nasen’s spiffy airplane if you happen to be near that tree in St. Mary’s. As an added incentive, Bernalwood and BASA will gladly offer a grateful reward to anyone who recovers Nasen’s lost aircraft.

PHOTOS: via Neighbor Nasen

Muni Bus Backs into Parked Car, Ruins Morning for Bernal Car Owner and Many Commuters

Muni backs up into my neighbor's car in slow mo as he yells, "stop, hey! What the hell are you doing!"  @bernalwood

There was gnashing of teeth (and sheetmetal) on Mission Street this morning as a 14 Limited Muni bus evvvvver sooooo slooooowly  backed into a Bernal neighbor’s parked car — while the owner of the car reportedly watched in horror, shouting “”Stop! Hey! What the hell are you doing!”

Added Bonus: The accident also caused major congestion on Mission at 30th Street, as the stricken bus blocked several lanes of traffic while waiting for the SFPD to arrive. Much honking ensued. Good times…

PHOTO and NEWS TIP: Nathanael Johnson

Parked Motorcycle Is Rorschach Test for Nearby Neighbors

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It’s not just cars that attract snippy notes about long-term parking; motorcycles receive them too. Neighbor Fiid noticed a running series of notes plastered on a motorcycle on Bennington Street.

Apart from the initial complaint written on the note above, notice also (at the very top) the plea for leniency based on the bike’s classic stature.

Indeed, on top of all the other notes, the motorcycle even attracted a purchase offer:

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So is it a motorcycle, a nuisance, a classic work of design, or a potential acquisition target? Or maybe all four?

PHOTOS: Neighbor Fiid

Muni Plan Will Give Bernal Heights the Short Bus

67BernalBusNeighbor Keith is a valiant regular aboard Muni’s 67 Bernal bus line, and he’s rather unthrilled about a service change announced this week:

As a daily rider of the 67 – San Francisco’s friendliest bus route – I’m used to getting up close and personal with my Bernal neighbors. But, at the end of yesterday’s particularly packed small-bus sardine-a-thon to 24th Street BART, our very friendly regular driver happened to mention that Muni has decided to take all large buses off the 67 route for the next three months.

I asked our bus driver about the 67 Short Bus Switch™ again this morning, and she told me that the drivers haven’t been given any reason for the decision (apparently, they are normally told if it’s due to something sensible like the construction on Folsom). So who knows what Muni is thinking in this instance (or, for that matter, ever).

Overcrowding is already an issue most mornings and evenings, and using small buses will only make things worse (unless, of course, Muni is secretly planning to increase bus frequency).

Being squeezed in so tight is obviously unpleasant, but also seems unsafe – those twists and turns can get quite exciting when trying to hang on to a stroller and toddler.

In good neighborly fashion, I’ve submitted a complaint via the online 311 service, but  some noise from Bernal neighbors could help grease the wheels of progress.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

 

Persistent Neighbor Declares Victory in Bus Shelter Quest

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There’s a sexxxy new bus shelter on Mission Street at 30th, and you have Neighbor Robert to thank for it:

I forwarded a note to you many months ago, as I was looking for community support ahead of a city permit hearing for a new shelter at Mission & 30th/Inbound.

Well, just wanted to let you know that last Friday morning I turned the corner onto Mission, and there it was, finally! The new bus shelter! Over two years in the belly of the bureaucratic beast, but now it’s a reality! Wavy rain cover, uncomfortable seats, Next-MUNI display; it’s got all the bells and whistles.

Impressive! Non-trivial! Successful! Congrats and thanks to Neighbor Robert for his persistence in making this new bus shelter a reality.

ADDENDUM: In light of Neigbor Robert’s obvious talents, perhaps he might consider rallying to facilitate the construction of the much-coveted 30th Street BART infill station? Just a suggestion.

PHOTO: Neighbor Robert

Bernal Journalist Publishes New Story About Madman Who (Literally) Drove Around the World

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Here’s a locavore longread to carry you through the weekend.

Bernal Heights writer and anticool motorist James Nestor has just published a terrific new story over at the Atavist. It’s a true tale of adventure and obsession (though not necessarily in that order), and it’s called Half-Safe:

In 1948, a young Australian mining engineer named Ben Carlin set out to do the impossible: circumnavigate the globe, by land and sea, in a single vehicle. The vehicle in question was an amphibious jeep developed by the U.S. Army, which Carlin christened Half-Safe, after a deodorant slogan. It was a mechanical mongrel that was supposed to move with equal ease across land and water but in practice wasn’t much good for either one. Undaunted, Carlin and his wife Elinore set off across the Atlantic Ocean with dreams of fame and fortune, and of carving a small notch in history. What happened next is one of the most bizarre, remarkable, and forgotten adventure stories of the 20th century. In Half-Safe, author James Nestor endeavors to uncover Ben Carlin’s fate and finds a gripping story of love, danger, and extraordinary perseverance that spans three oceans and five continents. Half-Safe takes us from the eye of an Atlantic Ocean hurricane to the sweltering Sahara to the impenetrable jungles of Southeast Asia—and into the mind of a man who could overcome everything but his own demons.

Half-Safe costs as much as a cup of coffee, and you can download it for iPhone, iPad, Google Play, Nook, Kindle and probably any other e-readermadoodle you might favor — although be advised that it looks most sexy via the Atavist apps for iOS or Android.