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Street Fight

Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Street Fight
    Book Description:

    Faced with intolerable congestion and noxious pollution, cities around the world are rethinking their reliance on automobiles. In the United States a loosely organized livability movement seeks to reduce car use by reconfiguring urban space into denser, transitoriented, walkable forms, a development pattern also associated with smart growth and new urbanism. Through a detailed case study of San Francisco, Jason Henderson examines how this is not just a struggle over what type of transportation is best for the city, but a series of ideologically charged political fights over issues of street space, public policy, and social justice. Historically San Francisco has hosted many activist demonstrations over its streets, from the freeway revolts of the 1960s to the first Critical Mass bicycle rides decades later. Today the city’s planning and advocacy establishment is changing zoning laws to limit the number of parking spaces, encouraging new carfree housing near transit stations, and applying “transit first” policies, such as restricted bus lanes. Yet Henderson warns that the city’s accomplishments should not be romanticized. Despite significant gains by livability advocates, automobiles continue to dominate the streets, and the city’s financially strained bus system is slow and often unreliable. Both optimistic and cautionary, Henderson argues that ideology must be understood as part of the struggle for sustainable cities and that three competing points of view—progressive, neoliberal, and conservative—have come to dominate the contemporary discourse about urban mobility. Consistent with its iconic role as an incubator of environmental, labor, civil rights, and peace movements, San Francisco offers a compelling example of how the debate over sustainable urban transportation may unfold both in the United States and globally.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-260-8
    Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology, Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: San Francisco’s Politics of Mobility
    (pp. 1-16)

    The poet lawrence ferlinghetti is an icon of San Francisco’s countercultural politics. During the 1950s and 1960s Ferlinghetti and the poet-activists who gathered at his North Beach bookstore, City Lights, invigorated political culture in San Francisco, establishing the city’s reputation as a bastion of civil rights, environmentalism, and world peace. Ferlinghetti and the bohemian activists of the beat era were part of a wider challenge to the corporate and militarist agenda of the United States. Although they sometimes remained aloof from the local day-to-day politics of San Francisco, they cherished and defended the city’s unique tolerance of dissident values. Like...

  6. CHAPTER ONE How We Get There Matters Ideologies of Mobility
    (pp. 17-37)

    My aim in this book is to focus attention on ideology. An enduring legacy of transportation studies is that scholars, planning and engineering professionals, policymakers, and advocates suggest that movement can be decoupled from ideology. This tendency is especially evident in quantitative, data-driven methods in which there is often a claim of apolitical, dispassionate, objective, and unbiased professionalism in transportation analysis. For example, the planners and engineers who built the Interstate Highway System asserted their detachment from politics and presented an armor of objectivity.¹ Today many engineers, planners, politicians, and everyday people also profess to be nonideological when it comes...

  7. CHAPTER TWO San Francisco’s Mobility Stalemate A Historical Geography
    (pp. 38-53)

    Traversing san francisco’s sunset district on the west side of the city is 19th Avenue, a mundane six-lane arterial roadway. To the south, it is the gateway to the regional freeway system in suburban San Mateo County. To the north, 19th Avenue enters Golden Gate Park and becomes Crossover Drive and then Park Presidio Boulevard before merging onto the Golden Gate Bridge and suburban Marin County. The avenue is designated as Highway 1, and the California State Department of Transportation (Caltrans), owns and operates it as a regional highway. About eighty-five thousand vehicles a day use the road, passing through...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Second Freeway Revolt Removing the Central Freeway
    (pp. 54-86)

    On october 17, 1989, the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake shook down several Bay Area freeways. The Cypress Freeway, a doubledeck, 1960s-era freeway in the working-class neighborhood of West Oakland, collapsed, and forty-two people were killed. A section of the upper deck of the Bay Bridge collapsed onto the lower deck, killing one motorist. In San Francisco the Embarcadero Freeway and sections of I-280 in Mission Bay were damaged, and in Hayes Valley the Central Freeway was shut down.

    The loss of life and the destruction were devastating, but to many people in San Francisco the disaster had a silver...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Between Walkability and Freeways The Politics of Parking in San Francisco
    (pp. 87-111)

    In the late 1990s, as the Central Freeway debate was finally settled, new housing construction accelerated in San Francisco, and the dot-com boom transformed South of Market, the Mission, and parts of Hayes Valley into hip, urbane alternatives to the low-density, homogenous office parks in Silicon Valley.¹ These neighborhoods were near the southbound freeways, and since most software and Internet jobs in Silicon Valley were accessible only by car, there was pressure for new housing with ample off-street parking. Real estate speculators sought investments in the core of the city on formerly industrial and warehousing spaces, on surface parking lots,...

  10. CHAPTER 5 “We Are Not Blocking Traffic, We Are Traffic!” The Politics of Bicycle Space in San Francisco
    (pp. 112-138)

    Bicycle space—an interconnected, coordinated, multifaceted set of bicycle lanes, paths, parking racks, and accompanying laws and regulations to protect and promote cycling—has been extremely difficult to implement in the United States, even in San Francisco.¹ Detractors often object to bicycle space because they claim bicycling is childish or not a legitimate form of transportation, or that Americans will simply never replace driving with bicycling because it is too hot, too cold, too rainy, or too hilly or because most places are too far to get to by bicycle. Despite what seem like insurmountable arguments in opposition, the San...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Transit First? The Politics of Financing Muni
    (pp. 139-159)

    Relative to the rest of the United States, San Francisco has a good reputation for public transit use. While nationally 5.1 percent of workers commute by public transportation, the San Francisco–Oakland metropolitan area has the highest transit share of commuting (15.5 percent) of any metropolitan area outside of New York City.¹ It is among the few metro areas, followed in descending order by Washington, Boston, and Chicago, with a transit commute share above 10 percent. Portland, which also has a reputation for green transport modes, lags behind even Los Angeles, with about 6 percent of workers using transit.² Moreover,...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Disciplining Muni Revanchism and the Gentrification of Transit
    (pp. 160-191)

    Revanchism is the recovery of lost territory or status. Used in critical geography, the term refers to the neoliberal and conservative undoing of the redistributive social policies established in the New Deal and through the 1960s.¹ In this sense revanchism means a return to the original liberalism of nineteenth-century capitalism unfettered by regulation and progressive policies and enabling markets to dominate the organization and allocation of urban space.² With respect to livability, revanchism includes the strategies of disciplining certain aspects of the city, making the city “safe” for gentrification through such policies as removing the homeless and displacing social services....

  13. CONCLUSION: San Francisco as National Bellwether
    (pp. 192-202)

    Pessimistic political realities notwithstanding, if sustainable urban transportation is to work for people, many disparate pieces must come together in a synchronized way. Reducing automobility requires not only good transit, but higher-density, walkable residential patterns, more public spaces rather than private space, and more mixed uses within the urban fabric instead of single-use districts. Bicycling has enormous potential for short-range urban trips but needs good transit as a regional complement. Safe, practical walking and bicycling require that cars not only be slowed and tamed but also that they be less obtrusive, bulky, and menacing. Concomitantly, if urban transit is to...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 203-230)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 231-241)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 242-244)