Former California Mayor Calls New Bikeway “Urban Rape”

"The rape will not be performed by a male penis, but by thousands of inanimate bicycles guided by individuals who will have absolutely no understanding of that precious tranquility they will be destroying," said former San Luis Obispo mayor Ken Schwartz.

Ken Schwartz was mayor of San Luis Obispo, California, from 1969 to 1979. Photo:  Heidi Harmon
Ken Schwartz was mayor of San Luis Obispo, California, from 1969 to 1979. Photo: Heidi Harmon

Oh boy. I’ve seen some completely unhinged reactions to bike lanes through the years, but this statement by Ken Schwartz, the former mayor of San Luis Obispo, California, is headed for the hall of fame.

Schwartz, who was in office from 1969 to 1979 and remains well-liked locally, is very concerned about preserving the tranquility of this town of roughly 45,000 on the central coast, about midway between L.A. and San Francisco. And he sees the Anholm Bikeway Plan, which calls for safer cycling connections on the north side of town, as a serious threat.

In testimony to the City Council that was published in the San Luis Obispo Tribune before a vote on the bikeway, Schwartz used some very colorful language to express his dismay:

Tonight, you (San Luis Obispo City Council) have before you a request for permission to assault that tranquility in order to create a gigantic urban rape. Yes, rape! No other word would be proper. The rape will not be performed by a male penis, but by thousands of inanimate bicycles guided by individuals who will have absolutely no understanding of that precious tranquility they will be destroying in their mindless focus of getting from point “A” to point “B” with the least possible inconvenience to themselves.

This is an opportunity for each of you to demonstrate your humanity as well as your understanding of just how precious neighborhood tranquility is to San Luis Obispo citizens. Reject this proposal!

We’ll never know if Schwartz’s testimony was the decisive factor, but the City Council did vote to delay action on an important part of the plan that calls for replacing 58 car parking spaces with a two-way protected bike lane.

Hat tip: Bob Gunderson

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