SF's bike project ban is coming to an end

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The new green bike lane on Market could be the first of many new bicycle improvements coming soon to San Francisco.
Ben Hopfer

Despite high-profile recent improvements to San Francisco's bicycle network – including a half-dozen new bike lanes since last fall, a green bike lane on Market Street separated from cars, and new on-street bike parking on Valencia and Divisidero streets – the city is still prevented by a court injunction from creating bike lanes that have been sought for a decade. But that could change as early as next week.

On Tuesday, June 22, Superior Court Judge Peter Busch will hear oral arguments and consider whether to end the four-year-old injunction against the city executing any of the projects or policies outlined in its Bicycle Plan, a ban perversely created by the court finding the plan violated the California Environmental Quality Act because it wasn't subjected to a full-blown environmental impact report, which cost more than a million bucks and took two years.

Despite the fact that EIR was completed and certified last year, the plaintiffs who sued the city over the plan five years ago – anti-bike activist Rob Anderson and his attorney, Mary Miles – sued again, claiming the study was inadequate and decrying how the plan would take space from cars to improve bicycle safety.

In her brief, Miles noted how the EIR finds “89 significant impacts of traffic, transit, and loading but fails to mitigate or offer feasible alternatives to each of these impacts.” Referring to the near universal political support in San Francisco for making improvements to the bike network despite these impacts, Anderson told the Guardian last month,“It's a leap of faith they're making here that this will be good for the city.”

But the brief that the city filed in the case argues that leap of faith is a decision for policymakers, whether or not Anderson and Miles agree with it. The city position is that cars have ruled the roads for long enough and now it's time they shared some space with the fastest growing transportation choice in San Francisco, where the number of regular cyclists has nearly doubled in recent years.

“Petitioners are clearly disappointed that, despite the disproportionate number of drivers over bicyclists, City decisionmakers chose to implement improvements to the bicycle network that may inconvenience some drivers and some transit riders on certain streets at certain times. But the CEQA process does not approve or deny projects; it merely requires that decisions be made with environmental consequences in mind. By improving the City's bicycle network, the decisionmakers determined that the City would encourage more people to use a bicycle for everyday transportation,” Deputy City Attorney Audrey Williams Pearson wrote in her brief.

With oil continuing to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, the atmosphere becoming steadily more concentrated with planet-threatening fossil fuel emissions, and the politicians in Washington DC offering only hollow rhetoric about our stubborn addiction to oil-powered convenience, San Francisco elected officials from across the ideological spectrum took a small but important step in promoting safer bicycling.

Now, it's up to Judge Busch (who partially lifted the injunction last fall, allowing the handful of projects I mentioned above) to take the next step, which he will do probably within days (or weeks at the latest) after hearing from both sides June 22 starting at 9:30 a.m. in Superior Court, Department 301, at the corner of Polk and McAllister streets.

 

P.S. If you want to celebrate the impending end of the bike injunction with thousands of other bicyclists, walkers, dancers, and other non-motorized movers and shakers, show up on car-free Valencia, Harrison, and 24th streets this Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the latest installment of Sunday Streets.

Comments

"SF's bike project ban is coming to an end"

Steve, saying something will be so is no justification for ignoring the piss poor record that Dennis Herrera and the MEA have piled up at the behest of the SFBC.

We all want for the injunction to be lifted, but we all want for there to be no environmental impacts from public projects.

The Bike Plan EIR revealed that removing auto lanes for bike lanes would delay Muni in several intersections which is a legitimate environmental impact irrespective of whether LOS or another standard is used to evaluate impacts of autos due to a project.

By folding to short-sighted political pressure in green lighting a fast-track short cut for the Bike Plan, Dennis Herrera carried himself the same way that the Obama Administration did when they waived an EIS on the Deepwater Horizon because it was clear to them that the jobs and profits outweighed an improbable disaster.

In both cases, Herrera and Obama were wrong. Fortunately, in San Francisco, citizens sued the City to compel compliance with environmental law, which mitigated the impacts of bike projects on public transit, a good thing. The error was with the policy makers and advocates, not with a citizen exercising constitutional rights to ensure government follows the law.

Short answer: follow the fucking environmental laws.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 18, 2010 @ 9:08 am

The no wrong answer mindset down at the Guardian

"Despite the fact that EIR was completed and certified last year, the plaintiffs who sued the city over the plan five years ago – anti-bike activist Rob Anderson and his attorney, Mary Miles – sued again, claiming the study was inadequate and decrying how the plan would take space from cars to improve bicycle safety."

This from the paper who used a supposedly poor EIR to be outraged around the shading of parks that few go to, that is interesting.

Then Steve appeals to argument from authority (the city has decided its great) and argument from majority (everyone wants it). Strange arguments coming from progressives who oppose things such as; prop 8, this nations foreign policy, immigration laws, the JROTC etc...

Everyone is a hypocrite, but sometimes everyday being day one of year zero is a bit much.

The Guardian shows that being a progressive isn't about a coherent world view, but about getting what you want anyway you can. In this case the Guardian rhetoric isn't about some supposedly oppressed group, but about how the majority should get its way, because the Guardian agrees with the majority. Although that majority is suspect outside of the cities leadership. And that a person using lawsuits to get their way is tiresome when the Guardian agenda is stymied. Anderson's lawsuits are ridiculous, just as most of the Guardians smokescreens are, at least Anderson is honest about what he wants.

Also the stance that critical mass is just getting even with drivers, then turning around and saying "share the road" is a laugh.

Posted by mr matlock on Jun. 18, 2010 @ 11:57 am

Marc, I would quibble with your label of this wasteful lawsuit as "fortunate." The bottom line is this plan didn't change in any substantial way as a result of this EIR, and even though the court didn't agree, it was not entirely unreasonable for the city to give this plan a neg dec instead of doing a long, costly EIR that didn't end up mattering (except to now speed up some bike projects). In the end, the city found the same overriding considerations that they did before the EIR, namely that on some lanes within our finite roadways, it's a legitimate policy decision to sometimes favor bicycles over other modes of transportation. This whole episode was an abuse of CEQA, and I really don't think it's a fair analogy to compare this to letting big oil companies do dangerous work in a sensitive habitat without proper studies. 

Posted by steven on Jun. 18, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

... that seldom see any use is valid? Whining about an EIR because it doesn't address the infinite variations of progressive complaining is valid when it comes to a building "built for the rich," while obstructing and changing street patterns is not a valid reason to bring endless lawsuits?

If the city passed the plan to erect the building by the Transamerica building, and then some progressive outfit sued because of the EIR concerning the amount shade the building would cast. Would the progressive Bay Guardian say it was a trivial baseless suit, or would it keep up its classism and cheer the suit along?

Anderson's ongoing suits are tiresome, although comical in how agitated it makes the progressives, there is nothing that makes a progressive more happy then filing a trivial and useless suit just to get their way and waste money. These SLAPP suits from the left and corporations are so wasteful and idiotic. After the endless suits and threats of suits over all sorts of ridiculous things I think the Steve's of the world should learn a lesson.

Steve also claims argument from authority and argument from majority around this, while usually hating authority and loathing the majority much of the time.

Posted by mr matlock on Jun. 18, 2010 @ 2:44 pm
EIR

@Steven, when impacts to Muni of removing auto lanes for bicycle lanes were revealed by the EIR, MTA staff took steps to reconfigure what they could to mitigate what would have been more severe impacts on Muni speed.

So, yeah, the EIR that Anderson compelled via lawsuit forced the City to consider impacts they'd decided to ignore under political pressure, impacts that would have discouraged transit use and pushed more people into their cars.

Look, I ride for primary transportation but I've also been advocating for Muni, serving on the TEP CAC for 2 years. While we're trying to dig Muni out of a hole and put it on a sound footing, the last thing we need, in addition to development plans that will slow down the system, is for bike lanes to throw more soil on that digging out process.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 23, 2010 @ 8:00 am