Stationary biking - Page 3

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

Later this month that work will be presented during a scoping meeting, at which planners and advocates will decide whether some of the more complex projects will be eliminated from the plan.

"Our goal is to make sure this is as solid an environmental review as possible. We don't want to deal with any more legal issues," Albert said. "I feel right now there is a huge will to have this done correctly."

Yet advocates have a slightly different view of that political will, particularly given the projection of completed EIRs by July 2008, followed by the approval process, and maybe more court fights.

"We're not crazy about the timing, but the scope is good. We've moved to projects that we're planning to do," Thornley said. "So, in a backwards way, the commitment has come to the plan from the gun of the injunction."

"But we have real concerns about the timeline and scope getting shrunk," Shahum said. "Our fear is that we'll go from 60 projects down to 16."

That's because the plan will now look at the physical changes to roadways that are bound to get controversial once neighborhood groups grapple with the idea of losing traffic lanes or parking spaces.

"You've got a lot of people who are afraid of NIMBY opposition, and that goes from the mayor and the supervisors to the bureaucrats working on the plan," Shahum said. She added that the political leadership of San Francisco is more supportive of bicycling than it's ever been, "but you still have to work really hard for them to do the right thing in the end."

"Why did it take four years to get the Valencia Street bike lanes?" she asked, noting that the project has proved to be an unqualified success.

"They changed Valencia Street, and nothing [bad] happened, so that opened them up a little," Radulovich said of city officials. But only a little. "There is still a certain ad hoc quality to what they're doing, rather than being standards-based in how streets are designed."

City policy regarding bike projects — which the Planning Commission will revisit this summer when it considers changes to how it interprets traffic level-of-service (LOS) impacts under CEQA — is that anything that slows car traffic is considered a significant environmental impact that requires extensive study and mitigation.

"It's imperative for them to fix the way they do CEQA," Radulovich said. "LOS reform would help us in future projects."

Radulovich said that most California cities were built with a focus on automobiles before CEQA was even approved. Yet the law now requires expensive and time-consuming studies before those spaces can be converted to use by public transit, bicycles, or pedestrians.

"That's why, in some ways, CEQA has become an impediment to making us environmentally sustainable," Radulovich said. "It's turned into a tool that slows down the taking of spaces back from cars."

While the detailed EIR work is being done, Albert and others say the city is still committed to doing bicycling planning work, applying for grants, and making sure San Francisco can move forward quickly once the injunction is lifted. "We've been set back, but we're not stopped," he told us.

"The current injunction is frustrating because we want to be moving forward with bike improvements each month. While we cannot make physical changes such as bike lanes and bike racks, planning and design are continuing," Ballard said, also noting that the Mayor's Office is doing regular conference calls to ensure the bike plan moves forward quickly.

"I and the bike advocates are pushing to use this time to do the planning work so we're ready to go once we have an approved plan," said Sup. Chris Daly, the only regular cyclist on the Board of Supervisors.

Also from this author