Stationary biking - Page 2

Bike to Work Day creates new cyclists, but the city still can't make them safer

For reasons of expediency, the decision was made to focus on a relatively vague plan, one that made all sorts of high-minded statements and offered lofty goals.

The plan was presented as an effort to radically transform the roadways to make bicycling a more attractive option, but it didn't include the detailed transportation analysis needed to support that effort — nor did it draw any conclusions about which car spaces to give over to bikes.

"The plan makes no decisions.... The plan has no measurable objectives anywhere in it," Snyder said, noting that the vague nature of the final product was the reason it was so uncontroversial. "Anytime anything passes unanimously, you know you didn't ask for enough."

Andy Thornley was chair of the Bicycle Advisory Committee when work on the plan got under way and now serves as program director for the SFBC, which was heavily involved on outreach for the plan. SFBC officials were shocked by the injunction but said the city should have devoted more resources to the project.

"It was a logical outcome to the city's undercommitment to the bike plan," Thornley said of the lawsuit. "There wasn't the commitment from the mayor on down to doing this right."

"We had discussions about what it means that the plan doesn't have any benchmarks," said Leah Shahum, executive director of the SFBC and a member of the MTA board. Sure, it had the goal of having 10 percent of all vehicle trips be by bicycle by the year 2010. "Only later did we realize that the 100 pages behind it didn't support that goal."

MTA public affairs managers wouldn't allow the Guardian to speak directly to Oliver Gajda, the main staffer on the bike plan then and now. They required questions in writing and answered the one about lack of city support for the initial plan by writing that "the court's decision was not based on resource issues."

Newsom's press secretary, Nathan Ballard, also resisted admitting that the city did anything wrong, responding in writing to a written question by saying, "Actually, the City moved forward drafting and implementing this bike plan quite ambitiously, even though there was a risk it would be challenged in court."

Yet it was clear to all involved that doing the traffic analysis and other work would have headed off the injunction.

"Dave Snyder was always an advocate that the bike plan should be a bike plan and lay out what we'll see for bicyclists," Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, told the Guardian. "But the decision was made to do a bike plan in the abstract, not laying out specific routes."

Nonetheless, bike advocates say they're happy with the commitment that city officials are now showing. "Now we're clearly and unequivocally doing a bike plan," Radulovich said. "To some degree, the city has had to commit itself."

Bevan Dufty, chair of the Transportation Authority's Plans and Programs Committee, has been demanding that bureaucrats report to him regularly to show progress on the plan.

"I think the fact that we're seeing them regularly trotted out before the committee is a good thing, because it makes them hit their benchmarks," he told us.

Dufty also overcame the MTA's restrictive approach to public relations and facilitated our interview with Peter Albert, who took on the job of deputy director of planning for the MTA 10 months ago.

"Right now we're just looking to do the environmental review to clear the bike plan," Albert told us.

He said that staff and consultants are now going through 60 proposed projects to determine what their environmental studies will entail.

Also from this author