letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: ‘Anti-Car is Anti-Family’


Every month I look forward to reading the Sunset Beacon cover to cover, including Supervisor Gordon Mar’s monthly column.  A recurring theme I see in his words, including in his February column, is a professed dedication to making San Francisco more hospitable to families with children. I don’t buy it.

If Supervisor Mar truly cares about families, why does he consistently support actions that make it more difficult and expensive for anyone who must drive a vehicle?

I raised two children in San Francisco, and know from first-hand experience that generally speaking, it is families, more than anyone else, who must drive cars. Bikes and buses simply don’t cut it when you have to drop kids off at school at 8:40 a.m. and still to get to work at a reasonable time that’s acceptable to one’s employer. The constant shuttling of children to soccer practice, dance lessons, doctors’ appointments, birthday parties, and the like doesn’t work on a bicycle.  Buying food at the supermarket to feed one’s family for a week costs $150 and results in far too many groceries to carry home on the bus. 

Each outing to the zoo, park, Exploratorium, or beach means lugging strollers, toys, sports equipment, shade structures, diaper bags, food, etc. Yet Supervisor Mar constantly supports policies such as road closures, lane removal, and less and more expensive parking options, which hurt families most.  Not to mention that when drivers are forced to detour out of their way because, for example, the Great Highway- – the safest north/south route for cars, having no cross streets- – or some other road is closed to cars, a far greater safety risk is created as frustrated drivers instead navigate through neighboring residential streets (burning unnecessary fuel to boot).

It’s one thing to encourage transportation alternatives to cars and efforts to curb auto emissions. Make Muni free. Establish free bike-share programs. Provide rebates and other incentives on bicycle purchases, and on electric and hybrid vehicles.  But if Supervisor Mar truly is concerned about the needs of families, he needs to stop with the policies designed to punish drivers. The belief that by making driving such an unpleasant and expensive experience that people will simply abandon their cars is not realist for anyone, but especially not for families.

San Francisco consistently “wins” all surveys of the least family-friendly big cities in the nation, and we all know families who’ve left the City because raising children here became too difficult. Anti-car is anti-family, and until he stops promoting policies that make it difficult for people who drive, Supervisor Mar should stop asserting that he is “pro family.” 

Charles Perkins, Sunset District

6 replies »

  1. When I was growing up I rode my bike to the park, soccer practice, the swimming pool. Isn’t that what we want? Our kids to be independent and safe doing so. Makes them healthier and happier and easier on the parents too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Our family does all of those things on bikes with three kids. It’s typically faster than a car and for that and many other reasons, our car doesn’t get much use. Families have different experiences and preferences. Maybe driving works best for you, and that’s fine. Bikes and other modes of transport work best for other families. Some families don’t get to choose — car ownership is expensive.

    When you claim that all the “constant shuttling” doesn’t “work on a bicycle” what you really mean is that it doesn’t work for you. It works great for us and dozens of families that we know. By saying “anti-car is anti-family” you attempt to speak for all families, which of course you don’t. A more productive approach would be to present your own point of view and your own experience for others to consider and stay open to the notion that others may have a different and perfectly valid perspective.

    I wonder whether making a fraction of 1% of San Francisco’s 1,000 miles of streets closed to cars is really such a great injustice for car drivers — families or otherwise. Perhaps that sort of allocation of scarce resources is an injustice to the 30% of San Franciscans who don’t own a car? Or perhaps it’s an injustice to the many families in San Francisco who value car-free spaces for their children to scoot, rollerblade, bike, and walk? I see a lot of smiles and joy on the Great Walkway, which is something we could all use more of these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have serious cognitive dissonance whenever I hear or see people saying San Francisco is anti-car. There are a half million registered vehicles in San Francisco and over 800 miles of on-street parking. Sounds very pro-car to me and judging by the proportion of pedestrians maimed and killed by drivers here every year the fact is San Francisco is very anti-people city.

    Maybe the REAL problem is there are too many cars, and if we gave people other options by:
    A. Making it safer to walk.
    b. Making safer to bike,.
    C. Making it easier and more convenient to take transit.
    …we could have fewer cars, and breath less fouled air, and deal with less traffic noise, and have streets that are safe for kids to play in and for seniors to navigate.

    Anthony Ryan -9th and Fulton
    (proud car-free resident of the Richmond District who performs child care 2X a week for some bomb ass 6 year olds with a bicycle.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think the above comments don’t take into account families with parents that work outside of San Francisco, or that have kids that go to school across town. Doing the above A, B, C options really don’t address the thousands of residents who don’t live in these ideal bubbles, where their kids go to school close by and they live near a place where they can purchase food. It’s a very simplistic point of view and glad you can live in that bubble, but for the majority of residents, it simply doesn’t work. What happens when you need to do a home repair? Do you ride your bike to Home Depot to pick up supplies? You may have a corner store for groceries, but many senior citizens cannot ride their bike to the corner store. And groceries for a family of 5? Doesn’t work.


    • For what it’s worth, I’ve biked our kids across town for school. You’d be surprised how many groceries (for a family of 5 even!) you can carry on a cargo bike. Home depot doesn’t come up that often, so we don’t structure our family transportation plan around that. If we needed to haul lumber I guess we’d rent a van? We do own a car but don’t use it much… though one use case which does come up is traveling longer distances for work like you mentioned… long commutes are the worst.

      I’m not suggesting in my comment above that you should adopt this same transportation plan as we’ve adopted in our family. And while I don’t consider our situation to be an “ideal bubble” as you mentioned (I wish!), I do recognize that some neighborhoods are easier for car-free or car-light families than others. But let’s please be careful not to confuse “doesn’t work for me” with “doesn’t work for anyone”.

      I’ve seen the number of moms and dads on cargo bikes in SF running errands and transporting kids grow a lot in the last few years, and cargo bike and cargo e-bike manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the demand for family-friendly bikes. I think that’s something we should all celebrate whether you ride a bike or not — family-friendly bikes take up less space, are environmentally friendly, and have a ton of public health benefits. It may not be what you prefer to use to get around, and that’s totally fine… just be open to the notion that other families may have different and perfectly valid preferences.

      Liked by 1 person

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