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Dear Peter Hartlaub: A reader conversation about who gets left out of bike utopia

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Pricey Peter Hartlaub: A reader dialog about who will get omitted of motorcycle utopia

Once I bear in mind The Chronicle’s Throughline part, I’m going to consider Harold Chabner. The nine-week particular part exploring San Francisco’s post-pandemic potential all the time felt like a dialogue with readers. Whereas writing about all the pieces from a bike utopia to a cultural crisis at a burrito shop, I’ve obtained stronger e-mail suggestions than I’ve from any undertaking in current reminiscence. Most correspondence was constructive. And all — together with the letters from indignant golfers — was appreciated.However nobody put in additional effort than Chabner.

After studying my July 10 Throughline project, “Again to the drafting board: A map to make SF a motorbike and pedestrian utopia,” the incapacity rights advocate who makes use of an influence wheelchair despatched an 11-page letter (single spaced!) that challenged a number of of my factors intimately, made a case in opposition to a car-free San Francisco and included block-specific grievances — whereas nonetheless conveying an inextinguishable love for town.

“I vastly take pleasure in strolling by San Francisco, usually rolling a number of miles in a day,” Chabner wrote. “I don’t really feel unsafe as a pedestrian, besides once I encounter a nook and not using a curb ramp and have to enter the road.”

Chabner agreed to proceed the author/reader change of concepts with a telephone interview, excerpted right here. My unique undertaking, and his complete response, is linked within the on-line model of this text.


Q: I obtained plenty of responses to my piece and yours was by far essentially the most complete. I wished to begin by thanking you for the constructive suggestions. I learn each phrase.

A: You’re welcome. I feel your piece was bold and really macro, but additionally some micro. I feel plenty of thought went into it. … However I felt actually strongly as you’ll be able to inform about plenty of it, so I put a while into writing my ideas.

Q: When did you begin utilizing an influence wheelchair?

A: I’ve muscular dystrophy, so I began utilizing an influence wheelchair in 1990, after which, in 1996, I started utilizing an influence wheelchair full-time.

Q: What was it like for you within the Nineties. Did you are feeling protected shifting round San Francisco?

A: There have been so much fewer curb ramps. You possibly can inform from my letter that curb ramps are a fairly large deal. As any person in a wheelchair which means you needed to exit on the street extra. That’s a lot much less the case now nevertheless it’s nonetheless way more than it must be.

Muscular dystrophy is a progressive situation. Strolling grew to become more and more troublesome, so I finished crossing busy streets once I was nonetheless in a position to stroll. … The buses weren’t wheelchair accessible at that time. So I relied so much on a automotive again then, as I do now.

Q: My piece targeted on methods to gradual automobiles and improve pedestrian security. After studying your letter, I want I didn’t omit curb ramps.

A: At every nook on a standard intersection, there must be eight curb ramps, one on every nook. If there’s a nook with no curb ramps in any respect, then you find yourself having to backtrack to the closest driveway and even all the best way again to the block the place you had been coming from.

About three years in the past in the summertime I used to be downtown at Stockton and Sutter and on the northwest nook there was just one curb ramp, so you must exit into site visitors. There was a giant bus coming southbound out of the Stockton Tunnel, and it got here pretty near hitting me. It wasn’t the fault of the bus. It wasn’t rushing or something. It was simply the configuration.

I’d additionally say that for blind folks or these with low imaginative and prescient, curb ramps are essential, as a result of there’s the textured (anti-slip) floor. In the event that they’re utilizing their cane, they will really feel they’re approaching a slope. The explanation the floor is yellow, is that’s the best coloration for folks with low imaginative and prescient to see.

Q: Over time, what has gotten higher and what has gotten worse for the mobility disabled in San Francisco?

A: I might say public transportation basically has turn into way more wheelchair accessible. I do suppose being a pedestrian is fairly good right here. I dwell (north of the Panhandle) and it’s a reasonably walkable space. They’re finishing a giant undertaking on Haight Road to replace all of the curb ramps and put in new sidewalks. And I consider they’re altering from cease indicators to site visitors indicators.

I feel total issues have gotten higher, apart from the truth that it’s gotten tougher to personal and function a automotive right here.

Cyclists ride on the bike lane at the Panhandle at Fell and Baker in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, July 25, 2020.

Q: You reside near my previous neighborhood, the Higher Haight. It was hell for parking again in 2000. Inform me about parking loss within the final 5 years.

A: There was the Masonic bike lane project which eliminated all the road parking on Masonic Avenue on each side, from Fell (Road) all the best way to Geary (Boulevard). … And actually the bike lanes are hardly used. That’s a big effect. There have been some areas eradicated for the Google or company buses on Fell. There have been areas eradicated for short-term automotive rental firms like Zipcar and so forth.

So it’s kind of dying by a thousand cuts. It has been harder to search out parking.

Q: How does that impression you?

A: I might say we don’t keep out as late as we used to. After all I’m 63, and at that age you don’t keep out as late as you used to anyway. However the problem to find parking, particularly at evening, has impacted that. My spouse is a ceramic artist and painter, and he or she has a studio within the Bayview. … She doesn’t keep at her studio as late as she used to.

We’ve had conditions the place somebody is coming for dinner and it takes a very long time, they usually’re nearly prepared to surrender. That sort of factor.

Q: I’ve been fairly loudly celebrating Sluggish Streets, closures to Twin Peaks and JFK Drive. How do these modifications impression your potential to take pleasure in San Francisco?

A: Attributable to COVID, I’m out a lot lower than I was, so I don’t have a lot first-hand expertise with the Sluggish Streets. However I do have expertise with JFK Drive being closed.

Personally, since I dwell solely three blocks from it, it’s advantageous. However I feel for many individuals with disabilities and many individuals who’ve extra problem shifting round, it has impacted entry to Golden Gate Park. … I feel that these are all experiments and they need to be seen as provisional. I feel that it’s simply too early to inform what issues might be like.

Cars and a bicyclist drive on Masonic Avenue between Fell Street and Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, May 25, 2016.

Q: I felt studying your letter that we had some widespread floor. I’m a bicyclist and need a metropolis with higher, safer bike infrastructure. You need a metropolis that understands the wants of the mobility disabled. Do you suppose we will have each?

A: Certain, I feel we will. However I feel it needs to be carried out in a sensible method, not such an ideological method. I get again to the Masonic bike lane undertaking. There have been many individuals who opposed it, and a number of other of the actually large opponents had been avid day by day cyclists. They strongly felt that Baker Road (a number of blocks east) is the higher route. And I feel time has proved them proper.

However, very lately the bike lane on Fell alongside the Panhandle seems to be a hit — not less than throughout shelter-in-place. It appears to be usually used.

Q: You’ve stayed in San Francisco for many years. Do the positives nonetheless outweigh the negatives for you?

A: They positively do. I’m from Chicago initially. I really like Chicago, it’s an awesome, nice metropolis. However my spouse is from right here and her household is right here. One of many major causes that I moved is to be someplace with no snow. With a mobility limitation, it’s very difficult to dwell someplace that’s snowy and chilly.

San Francisco is culturally actually fascinating and wealthy. The eating places are nice. We’re in proximity to such stunning areas. I feel the professionals outweigh the cons. I feel that due to the pandemic and all of the modifications, it’s onerous to know what San Francisco might be like a yr from now. However I feel a few of that’s true anyplace.

Q: Thanks for writing, and for studying The Chronicle. I really feel higher about the way forward for San Francisco when persons are having considerate discussions. That was my feeling once I learn your letter.

A: Is that on the file? (Laughs.) Thanks. I’m actually glad that you simply responded to my e-mail and we began this dialogue.

Peter Hartlaub is The Chronicle’s tradition critic. E-mail: phartlaub@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @PeterHartlaub

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