Pedal Power

Two politicians put their interests before a world-class event and a world of possibilities

Just as odd were the economic impact study, the audit, and ensuing calls for more analyses still.

In matters that haven't been artificially infused with bogus political ideology, San Francisco rarely spends money to conduct up-to-date, thoroughly vetted economic impact studies.

Last month's professional World Golf Championship at Harding Park sucked up millions of public dollars in the name of economic development. No economic impact study was needed.

As the flap unfolded last week, supervisors asserted that race organizers left just under $90,000 unpaid for last year's police patrols. Race organizers said that they'd received a bill for $63,000, which they paid, and that they'd received the additional, $90,000 bill only days ago.

Whatever the case, Peskin says this all means that the race fell afoul of the 2002 law he championed specifically in order to stymie the S.F. Grand Prix.

"This is a joke. It's a sham. It's not worth the paper it's printed on. We gave them an inch. They've taken a mile. This is preposterous," Peskin was quoted as saying.

To emphasize Daly's contrived take on this "struggle" -- between whether the race should pay a little more, or a little less, for police patrols -- a few months ago he held a protest rally at City Hall in the form of a pretend bicycle race, denouncing the mayor's desire to accommodate the S.F. Grand Prix as "corporate welfare," which, he and the other protesters he recruited somehow argued, was given at the expense of tsunami victims.

Chris Daly's anti-fat cat rhetoric begs the question: Should San Francisco analyze all privately financed public amenities, such as the de Young Museum, the opera, the symphony, universities, churches, free concerts, sporting events? If any rich people or Republicans turn up among the backers, should we shut them down?

Given the lengths Daly is willing to go to harm the city in the service of bogus rhetoric and power-enhancing grandstanding, I'm not sure he would disagree with such a policy, no matter how badly it impoverished the rest of us.

Peskin, in defense of his personal contribution to the cancellation of the S.F. Grand Prix, suggested the loss of the race was no big deal because an unrelated race, the Tour of California, will hold a leg of its event in San Francisco in February.

"The net is that San Francisco will be just as well off," he was quoted as saying.

Peskin's tortured logic is as stunning as Daly's: It's fine to ruin good things about San Francisco, as long as there are still other good things left.

Like works of art hanging in a museum, tree- and vine-covered parklands, or beautiful urban architecture, downtown bicycle races have the power to awaken inside the people who watch the idea that the world is grand and within one's grasp.

When I was a grammar-school kid in Colfax, a Placer County town halfway between Sacramento and Reno, our family would bring a picnic every Father's Day to the nearby town of Nevada City, spread it out on the grass next to a municipal building, and watch what used to be, prior to the S.F. Grand Prix, the biggest bike race in California.

I remember the whizzing sound and gust of breeze that came from the 200 or so spinning, spoked wheels when they rushed by, as riders completed 50 hilly, one-mile laps of Nevada City's tiny downtown.

All this created in my mind a sense of possibilities, which for a chubby Colfax fourth-grader was different than anything I'd felt before.

This may have been a sui generis experience in its details, but not in its general thrust. It used to be quite ordinary in America for grade-school children to grasp their role as protagonists in this world when they pedaled their first five miles from home.

Now, San Francisco even discourages schoolkids, citing a misguided safety rationale, from riding bikes to class. I believe, however, that if fans still crowded into bike racing tracks that used to be everywhere in San Francisco -- at Mechanics Pavilion Velodrome, the Polo Fields Velodrome, Dreamland Auditorium, Civic Auditorium, or the banked track promoters set up for a while on Treasure Island -- youngsters' drive to assert themselves in this way might be impossible to resist.

Failing that, having the greatest one-day bike race in the Americas take place in San Francisco, as it has for the past four years in the form of the San Francisco Grand Prix, is a wonderful second choice.

Somehow, however, some narrow-minded politicians have gotten it into their heads that it's a bad idea to reopen San Francisco to this possibility. They, rather than the race, should have been stopped.

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