Tuesday, July 22, 2014

With Regrets as I Plan to Cancel My Bay Area Bike Share Membership.

Dear Bay Area Bike Share, 
Last year I was an eager early founding member of Bay Area Bike Share (#243). As a dedicated rider and bicycle advocate I was and am excited about the potential for bike share to help transform our cities and make our citizens and planet healthier and safer. Sadly, in the first year of operation I have barely used Bay Area Bike Share. There are no stations near my home (26th and Mission Street) or indeed within 2 miles of it even though I live adjacent to one of the busiest bike corridors in the city. I would love to take Bay Area Bike Share shopping, to the park the library or any of the other many errands I use a bike for but with the density of stations all clustered in the downtown area I know it will never happen. Reviewing my usage for the entire time since BABS started you can I have barely used it for more than 2 hours total. 
Therefore, as my renewal approaches I am sad to say I will cancel my bike share membership. I could maybe justify the membership as a donation to a cause I care about but it does not make sense, there are many other worthy causes and this is something I sincerely hoped eventually to get some practical use from. I hope in the future BABS will become available and useful to more of the city and I have reason to rejoin. 

Anthony Ryan

Monday, December 23, 2013

Our ridiculous holiday card!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Letter to Recology SF Regarding Pedestrian and Cyclist Deaths in San Francisco.

Dear Mr. Negron,

I am a resident of San Francisco, an artist, a university and community college instructor and a safer streets citizen-activist. I am also a non-car owning San Franciscan who gets around on a bicycle a majority of the time. Like many members of the San Francisco artist community I have supported the Recology Artist in Residence program over the years by attending exhibitions and applying periodically for a spot in the program. I am also active in promoting the program among my students and to friends and colleagues. I hold a lot of good will for the AIR program and several of my colleagues and friends have been selected for it. I am also, as all residents of SF are, a Recology customer, I pay two bills a month to your company, one at my home, and one at my studio.
It is as a bicycle commuter however that I have seen the dark side of Recology. I have, on two occasions in 2013 been aggressively intimidated and put in danger by Recology fleet drivers. In spring of this year, while cycling to a doctor's appointment on Octavia Boulevard at Market in San Francisco I was forced into the lane of traffic by a construction crane in the frontage street bike lane. I signaled with my arm and exercised my legal right to the lane by safely entering traffic. Just then, a large Recology garbage truck exited I-101 from behind me. Not only did the driver accelerate to within only a few feet of my bicycle while I was riding up hill, he then proceeded to blast his air horn. The situation was jarring and, fearing for my safety, I quickly worked my way around the construction site and returned to the bicycle boulevard/frontage road next to Octavia, a maneuver I would have done anyway if the driver had given me a chance. But he did not notice my obstruction; instead he was intent on intimidating a more vulnerable street user, presumably for his amusement. At the next stoplight I tried to explain the situation to the driver but he laughed and ridiculed me. Less then a week later 21-year-old Dylan Mitchell was killed by another Recology truck, I was chilled to think it might have been the same callous, heedless driver who threatened me the previous week.
On a second occasion in San Francisco several weeks later as I was commuting from my studio to my home in the Mission District, I approached Mariposa Street from Indiana St. heading north, intending to take a left turn, as I approached the intersection to stop a Recology pick-up truck sped around the corner to my left onto Indiana, executed an illegal U turn behind me and then, as I came to a stop at the stop side drove up to my left at the stop sign, intentionally crowding me and cutting off my turn. When I mentioned this to the driver he ridiculed me and told me to stay off the road before speeding off in front of me.
As a cyclist in San Francisco I am constantly on guard against the dangers of reckless, distracted drivers who are legion. More rare are the cases where I am outright intimated and threatened by drivers, but in two of these rare occurrences this year drivers for Recology have been responsible. They have done so in a year where Recology drivers are responsible for killing three vulnerable street users.. To review: three citizens have been killed, and one small child maimed by your drivers in 2013. These events and my personal experience denote a company culture of wanton and heedless disregard for public safety. I will work to see that you are made accountable to the citizens of San Francisco and also to see that members of San Francisco’s Art community who have given so much of them selves to Recology’s AIR program join me in calling for change.
I call upon San Francisco City leaders to make Recology’s contract conditional upon its ability to stop killing and maiming members of the public. Any new events of this sort should result in immediate revoking of your contract. Until concrete changes are made, I will boycott any Recology events and encourage my friends in the art community to join me in doing so and to explain to you why.

Anthony Ryan
Lecturer, Fine Arts Department, San Francisco State University
Instructor, Art Department, Diablo Valley Community College

Anthony Ryan

Mayor Edwin Lee

San Francisco Board of Supervisors:
District 1 Eric Mar
District 2 Mark Farrell
District 3 David Chiu
District 4 Katy Tang
District 5 London Breed
District 6 Jane Kim
District 7 Norman Yee
District 8 Scott Wiener
District 9 David Campos
District 10 Malia Cohen
District 11 John Avalos

Tom Nolan, Director, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority

Recology Artist in Residency Program:
Deborah Munk
Micah Gibson

Sharon Spain
21 year old Dylan Mitchell, killed by a Recology truck this year on his bike.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My letter to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the Office of Sustainability at SFSU where I teach.

Hi Janice,
Thanks for reaching out to SFSU. Any program that addresses mobility in this part of the city has to address the campus there. With a school of this size the potential for reducing auto traffic is huge however students traveling here are faced with cumbersome, indirect transit choices, harrowing pedestrian accommodation and even worse bicycle infrastructure in the adjacent areas. The high level of student car traffic, ( a huge segment of which is students searching for parking by in the surrounding neighborhoods) overlaying the already overburdened 19th St. corridor is appalling but holds many promising potential areas for improvement. 
For example, Holloway Avenue is my commute route to the Fine Art Dept. at SFSU but when I travel there or leave my night class I battle car traffic using the street as a short cut to 280 and the City College area. I also see scores of students hiking from Balboa Park Bart along this route, students who could be on bikes but are most likely put off by the unsafe conditions. Currently the route has sharrows and speed humps but it is not enough. Many times cars have accelerated unsafely past me in the dark against oncoming traffic over the speed humps to make time. Holloway is designed as a quasi-bike boulevard but is actually a very unsafe auto shortcut.
I have proposed at the August meeting of the San Francisco Bicycle Advisory Commitee that this route have traffic diversion at a key point, Ashton Avenue. This would make the street a true bike boulevard, the area would only be open to local residential traffic and bicyclists would feel much safer traveling there. 
Furthermore this would provide a crucial bicycle link between City College and SFSU, it is frankly a no-brainer. 
The success of such a diversion and the resulting bike-friendly boulevard would increase bicycling to SFSU from the eastern parts of the city and BART exponentially. The success of such a diversion could also lead to similar improvements in other parts of the city. It could be a watershed bike improvement project in the history of San Francisco's move towards a low-carbon sustainable future. 
I would be happy to lead any interested parties on a tour of the street and point out the obstacles to safe bicycling there.  
Anthony Ryan 
Lecturer, Fine Arts Department 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I just spent the morning having my front teeth glued back in my head. Long story, it is fallout from being struck by a car in San Francisco almost 2 years ago. The driver who hit me was definitely running a red light, was probably speeding and I have little doubt was distracted by a phone. When I returned home from the dentist I saw a facebook post about another cyclist death in my city.

So far details are skeletal but, on Folsom St., one of the probably 2 busiest cycling commute corridors in SF a 30 year old woman was killed by a right turning driver. In a good sign the police have impounded the vehicle, presumably as evidence.
 I am shaken and angry and well, angry.
It is scary to ride a bike in the City, drivers have never been more distracted, texting while driving is ubiquitous.
I want to see change, I want to push communities to push for vulnerable user ordinances, like the one recently adopted in Sebastapol CA.

I may try to organize a vigil tonight but I have never done that before so, we'll see.

What do I do, make a sign?



Street theater? That can be great but also awful.

What would I accomplish? Simply acknowledging the fact of an unfair loss of life, of someone who was trying to make a positive contribution, killed by a poor road design? distracted driving?

Is that enough?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

In Formation:
Showing work at Berkeley Arts Passage through KALA Offsite, a series of public exhibitions curated by KALA Art Institute. Froebel toy sets, basketry constructed from printer's castoffs.
Through 1/18/13.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cars Are Hard, Bodies Are Soft 

Nine months ago today I was riding my bicycle from the Balboa Park Bart Station to San Francisco State University to do some prep for a printmaking class I was teaching. It is a distance of just under a mile and is a route I've ridden dozens of times.  This day I changed my route and (in a moment of carelessness? confusion?  bad luck?) was struck by a car, landed in the street on my face,  shattered my front teeth and broke my jaw. I am mostly on the other end of this experience thanks to the support and love of my family and friends,  and the skill and commitment of many medical professionals. I want to share the experience here so that people I know can have an idea what I went through, sort through their own feelings and views about cyclists and drivers, and the importance of the choices we make about how we get around and the way in which it determines how we relate to the places we live.

In the morning I left my house in the Mission District of San Francisco for downtown Oakland to observe and support the Occupy action that day which was focussed on shutting down the Port of Oakland. I had some free time and figured it was finally time to show up.  I remember recognizing Rupert Garcia on the train, the great Chicano printmaker and activist and former SJSU Painting instructor (he led me on a tour of their program in the mid 2000's).  I was too late for the port action although I cycled around the port road to see the police barricade. Mostly I milled around with a moderately sized group at Oscar Grant Plaza and met my Studio mate Josh. I ran into a family friend who I was surprised to learn was an active member of the Occupy movement (She is a full-time paramedic and a single mom so next time you hear people say the Occupiers are lazy call bullshit.)  

Josh and I had lunch nearby and then I headed back to San Francisco on BART. I was wearing an old denim Carhart  jacket from my carpenter days, steel toe boots and a tweed cap, my longshoreman's drag I guess. I had my bike helmet with me but on the train had taken it off and strapped it to the front rack of my bike on the train. For whatever reason I did not wear it when I left the BART train. This day, also for some reason I will always regret, I decided to take the busier Ocean Ave. to SFSU instead of my usual route of Holloway, (a quieter quasi-bike boulevard). This is a complicated, busy urban space that borders a suburban part of the City. Ocean Avenue is a four lane street with Muni (San Francisco Municipal Railway) light rail (the K Ingelside) in the left lanes . My intention was to take a left from Ocean Blvd.  onto Victoria, a side street that dead ends into Ocean. As I approached the intersection in the right lane the light turned yellow. Cyclists will be familiar with the maneuver I then attempted, I slowed down and waited for the red-light for traffic in my direction, intending to use it to cross the street and complete a left turn. I've since heard it called "boxing the intersection". 

I crossed the intersection and turned to the left. I looked up at a walk signal that showed it was safe to cross, as I turned to my left it was too late, a car that was coming from behind me in the left lane was going through the intersection at  the very last second moving fast, as you'll do when you are beating a red. The driver may have been texting, it's possible their vision was obscured by a Muni shelter in the intervening space. I know she was running the red because I saw the walk signal and because another witness was stopped in thier car at the red light in the other direction. That driver heard me hit the street and described a sickening crunch, she thought I was dead and stayed in her car calming down the child in the backseat of her car.
I remember everything, spinning in the air, being thrown from my bike, hitting the ground and  getting up to see my teeth scattered in the middle of the street. I immediately got up and turned to see if the driver would flee, I saw their car pull over about 2 blocks distant(!?). Pedestrians come to my aid and guided me to the curb, lots of blood, someone gave me my tweed cap and told me to hold it to my mouth. I sat and watched while the light changed and cars drove over my teeth, I tried to get up and get them  and people where forcing me to sit back down. I looked at someone and said, "I guess I'm in shock". 

What followed is that surreal disruption of your normal reality, the chaotic theater of onlookers, police, fire engines and paramedics, with me in the lead role. I gave a statement to the police and remember the female driver on the periphery giving hers, "…I never saw him".  I was totally lucid, knew the President's name and the date, where I was gowing and where I was coming from. I was designated a trauma patient and rushed to San Francisco General Hospital, our county hospital, which in addition to providing primary care for scores of low-income and indigent people is one of the best trauma centers in the country.  The paramedics where awesome and sympathetic as was every health care worker I encountered that day, I am so grateful for the people that want to do that work. 

I arrived on a back board in a neck brace, with oxygen and IV fluids for the ride. At SFGH I was "Trauma Beta" and got to hop the line. In the ER I was once again the locus of frenzied, focussed activity. There seemed to be general relief at my lucid state (when I rattled off December 12, 2011 the doctor said "I don't think I would have got that"). They asked me if I wanted to let someone know where I was, "I guess I should let my wife know".
CT scans, neurology tests, intravenous painkillers, first morphine then Delaudid. A dental surgeon came and pulled out the remaining broken teeth and many bone fragments in my upper jaw. At one point he was on top of me yanking out the remains of my right incisor like he was pulling a nail, even with a truckload of Lidocaine and Delaudid that hurt. He stitched me up and I was shunted off to a corner of the the ER, floating on a warm river of embryonic fluid  when Sarah showed up. I was still in neck brace, and they had cleaned up none of the blood, real horror show. When Sarah saw me she inhaled sharply and held her hands to her mouth. She checked herself in that way you do, not wanting to disturb the injured party more (It didn't matter, I did not really care about anything at that point) and recounted the story of her friend Stacy, who lost her front teeth in a pogo stick accident (true story, it was at work and she got workman's comp) and had since got implants.

There are some things people will do for you that you can never repay, like Sarah spooning me in my hospital bed that first night. I was at General for three nights. Surgery on day two to wire my lower jaw (a lateral fracture had caused my lower front teeth to flap like an old door). While I knew I was lucky to be alive, The initial prognosis was not encouraging. I had hairline fractures in my sinuses. I might have permanent pain management issues. I may lose the bottom four teeth in addition to the top five. 

In the end my lower teeth healed remarkably well. I have had inserts installed in my upper jaw along with bone and tissue grafts. I probably will have to wear braces for a year before the final (five) teeth are installed. The past nine months have been a constant stream of calls to insurance companies, appointments with lawyers, doctor's appointments. Some people know the drill. I am very lucky to have not had a very medicalized life so it is fairly new to me. Adjusting to wearing dentures, or going in public with no front teeth has been challenging. Since I can't eat with my denture I tend to avoid social eating with people I don't know well. In restaurants I position myself to face a wall so that I don't have to feel self conscious. Pretty minor stuff but it helps me feel admiration for  people living with disabilities or disfigurement. I have pretty crappy insurance and the payout from the driver was a small fraction of the total bill. I am lucky to have generous relatives but I can see how people in a more vulnerable position would have a trouble bouncing back from something like this. 

Two years ago I ceased being a car owner, and get around on bike and public transit almost exclusively. This has mostly been a quality of life choice, I would rather experience my City  in this way than by driving through it. I also want to contribute to our society's evolution away from car-based transit. I don't want my story to scare people away from riding bikes, I still do, although more cautiously than before. 

I am writing this to fill people in on what this year has been like for my wife Sarah and I, the legal issues are settled so I don't need to be careful about what I say. Mostly I would like people to be careful on the roads. I am as guilty as anyone else at times but I am mostly talking to drivers, to stop cutting corners and taking chances, pay attention and SLOW down. The life you save could be my own.

About Me

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San Francisco, CA, United States
I am an artist and teacher in San Francisco, CA.