Until further notice, please feel free to ridicule the Bay Area Air “Inequality” Management District


This memo was sent out in August to employees of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the government agency in charge of improving air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area, and revealed to the public on Jon’s Bikescape blog. Following is my response. Please feel free to write to the human resources officer at the address below, and post your letter in the comments section.

To: mrich@baaqmd.gov

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

Dear Michael Rich, BAAQMD “Human” Resources:

I understand you are the author of a memo (dated August 9th) that has gone out to BAAQMD employees telling them they won’t be allowed to cycle during work hours. By the grace of God, tell me this was a prank. A sick joke perhaps? A late April Fool’s Joke?

Now I’m beginning to fear this memo was actually for real. If this is true, do you realize how ridiculous this makes you look?

There are thousands of kids throughout the Bay Area who are suffering day and night from asthma because of motor vehicle traffic, and you are chastising the very employees who are living the kind of lifestyles that would begin to reduce this shame? Perhaps BAAQMD needs a fleet of Hummers to protect their employees when they go about the very important business of improving air quality in the Bay Area. Why not tanks?

Your memo is currently making the rounds on the internet and you have become a laughing stock. Congratulations. Can you even begin to see the absurdity of your words or are you and your agency simply too wedded to personal automobility at any cost? Perhaps you are suffering from carbon monoxide inhalation, and need a long bike ride down the coast to detox?  Oh but that would violate your policy wouldn’t it?

I know now why you call it the Bay Area Air Quality MANAGEMENT District- you don’t sincerely want to IMPROVE air quality- you just want to MANAGE it. Manage the toxic soup we are all forced to breathe at a level of toxicity where the federal government won’t take away our precious highway funding. Manage it at a level that will allow rich people to continue driving their 4×4’s through poor neighbourhoods and causing cancer, asthma, and premature death without mothers and fathers sisters and brothers picking up sticks and stones and confronting the blindly habitual motorists slowly killing their children and leading us into climate chaos for which we will be judged without mercy by perpetuity.

Perhaps instead of worrying about liability for collisions, you could provide cycle training to reduce the risk. And as you would know if you did any actual research on the topic, cycling is much safer than driving when cyclists ride safely and predictably. But I imagine that in your closed minded little world, cyclists are just in the way of your Lincoln Navigator.

Navigate this:

Your policy is shortsighted, uninformed, and counterproductive to the stated policy and aims of your organization, as well as your moral duty to protect our air quality. You are failing the taxpayers of the Bay Area who pay your salary. You should be fired. Better yet, the social norms that allow a memo like this to go unquestioned in an agency like yours should be systematically dismantled for good.

It is 2007, not 1955. Wake up.


Joshua Hart
Bay Area resident currently living in Bristol UK

(currently forwarding your memo to all my European friends. Do you hear that sound? It’s their chins dropping in disbelief, because they didn’t believe me when I told them that Americans could be this far in denial about cars and their impact on the environment.)


5 responses to “Until further notice, please feel free to ridicule the Bay Area Air “Inequality” Management District

  1. Hello Mr. Rich,

    I’m writing regarding your memo asking employees not to bicycle at work. Could you provide the primary sources you used that shows employees are at greater risk on a bike than in a motor vehicle? My own research turned up the following:

    “In Canada, more people die by falling out of bed (an average of 78 per year) than from cycling accidents; 5 times as many die from falling on stairs; and 2.5 times as many die from tripping and falling on level surfaces.”
    [source: Statistics Canada’s reports on external causes of morbidity and mortality, 2000–2003].

    For an organization promoting better air quality, the request is particularly perplexing.

    I’m also interested in a clarification of how the district “supports” bicycling if it requests that not be ridden.

    Thank you,

    Mark Stosberg

  2. Mr. Rich responded promptly:

    Dear Mr. Stosberg,

    I believe you’re referring to a memo that was sent out in August of this
    year. The matter you’re referring to is an internal, administrative
    issue concerning the way in which we assign our employees. As a matter
    of policy we do not discuss that type of internal, administrative
    decision with the public or other stakeholders. However, you appear to
    be raising this issue as a matter of public policy. For that reason, I
    feel it is appropriate for me to respond to your inquiry.

    When it came to my attention earlier this year at our employees were
    riding their bicycles in the course and scope of their employment, it
    raised a concern because it is something that we were not aware was
    occurring and that we had no program set up for. The purpose of the
    memo was to halt the practice until we could set up a program that would
    address safety and liability concerns. After we issued the memo we
    created a team of employees to develop a program that includes safety
    training and other measures that we felt were necessary, responsible
    steps that any employer should take if they are going to allow their
    employees to ride bicycles in the course and scope of their employment.
    This is especially true given that our worksite is on a street that runs
    perpendicular to Van Ness Avenue and two other major thoroughfares that
    have high volume traffic throughout the day. We hope to have the
    program in place soon, at which time employees will be able to ride
    their bicycles to meetings off site, etc.

    In reading your e-mail, it appears that you have the impression that the
    air district is advocating alternative modes of transportation for
    others, but not for ourselves. I can assure you that is not the case
    relative to the issue of our employees riding bicycles in the course of
    their employment. We simply felt that it was important to have a
    structured program in place to address safety and liability concerns.

    Michael Rich
    Human Resources Officer

  3. Thanks for that update Mark. I’m also waiting for news from someone who works at that agency in a non-PR-spin capacity. Good point you bring up that other common, everyday activities may have a higher risk than bicycling.

  4. My mother called the other day after reading this entry (yes she reads my blog….), and suggested that in future I take my aggression out on a pillow or something before writing ranty, aggressive e-mails to public officials. And yes- she’s probably right. But this memo IS totally fucked up. And I think it’s important that the BAAQMD don’t get away with this kind of shit without hearing some serious outrage from the public. Now where’s that SUV pillow?

  5. Pingback: Left In SF » Air Quality Solution: drive more!

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