SF Responds to Bike Injunction With 1353 Page Enviro Review

Bike_Rider___Market_St.jpg
San Francisco’s Market Street.

Two
and a half years after a judge issued an injunction preventing the city
from adding any new bicycle infrastructure to its streets, the San
Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and the San Francisco
Planning Department have released a 1353-page Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the San Francisco Bicycle Plan. 

At
a cost of more than $1 million, the city has attempted to demonstrate
in excruciating detail what would seem to be the obvious: better
bicycle amenities contribute to increased cycling and an improved
environment.

Despite the significant time and money
required to produce the tome, Mayor Gavin Newsom struck an optimistic
note, citing the proposed addition of 34 miles of bicycle lanes to San
Francisco streets—a 75 percent increase over the existing 45 miles of
lanes. 

“We’ve accomplished a great deal together, but
much work remains to be done to improve the safety and convenience of
bicycling,” said Newsom. “I will continue to push for a better
bicycling environment as part of my deep commitment to improving the
health of our environment, our residents and our city.”

A public hearing on the DEIR has been scheduled for January 8th. The deadline for comments is January 13th. 

While Rob Anderson, the plaintiff
in the lawsuit that sparked the injunction, will surely continue his
befuddlingly successful crusade (a couple choice jeremiads from his
blog: cyclists as a special interest wielding inordinate political power or a frivolous mode of transportation akin to skateboarding), the city assumes the DEIR will be sufficient to lift the injunction. 

“The
Planning Department is confident that the DEIR fully satisfies the
issues cited in the superior court’s injunction and will enable timely
implementation of bicycle improvements that will enhance transportation
alternatives in San Francisco,” said Planning Director John Rahaim.

What
this means practically is a different matter. According to Andy
Thornley, program director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
(SFBC), even if the DEIR is certified by spring and the Bicycle Plan
goes before the MTA board shortly thereafter, the 60 projects
outlined for immediate implementation likely won’t begin until the
summer of 2009. 

“The Draft EIR is a very
expensive bow-tie that we’re going to attach to the Bike Plan itself. 
While it is a big deal, it shouldn’t be the only focus. The city needs
to build out the Bike Plan as soon as possible."

The
injunction held that the previous version of the Bicycle Plan had not
received sufficient review under the California Environmental Quality
Act (CEQA
). The Bicycle Plan DEIR identifies some potentially
significant impacts as defined by CEQA affecting traffic congestion,
transit operating delays, and loading activities for some project
options, particularly along portions of Second Street, Fifth Street,
Cesar Chavez Street, Portola Avenue and Masonic Avenue.

Though the city took considerable heat over the summer for revealing at a Board of Supervisors hearing that it had fallen behind its own schedule for releasing the DEIR,
the Planning Department delivered on its promise to release it by
Thanksgiving. Both advocates and critics of the Bicycle Plan will have
plenty to sift through over the long weekend (and likely through the
New Year).

Given the timeline of up to five
years for completion of the 60 near-term projects in the Bicycle Plan,
it is unclear whether Newsom, a likely candidate for governor in 2010,
will realize significant bicycle improvements during his last term as
mayor.

Photo: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

  • “At a cost of more than $1 million, the city has attempted to demonstrate in excruciating detail what would seem to be the obvious: better bicycle amenities contribute to increased cycling and an improved environment.”

    The details are indeed “excruciating,” but my first reading of the Draft EIR on the Bicycle Plan is that it proves what we’ve been saying all along—that when you take away traffic lanes on busy streets you’re going to make traffic worse on those streets. And, importantly, there are no real mitigations available where that is the case!

    You may be “befuddled” about why our litigation was successful, but no one who knows anything about the law is. The reality is that the city was obviously wrong about trying to push the 500-page Bicycle Plan through the process with no environmental review. It was an easy decision for Judge Busch. If it had in fact been such a bad decision, the city would have appealed but it didn’t because they knew they were wrong.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Streetsblog San Francisco is Coming to Town

|
How come so many posts on San Francisco lately? Let’s make it official: The Open Planning Project will be launching Streetsblog San Francisco in January 2009. After interviewing many highly qualified candidates during last month’s RailVolution conference, we’ve hired Bryan Goebel as the site’s editor and Matthew Roth as full-time reporter. Bryan is a veteran […]

The Economics of the Bike Boulevard

|
Live the dream. Photo: Mr. Rollers via Ingrid Peterson/Flickr There’s an interesting piece in today’s Los Angeles Business Journal by Richard Risemberg on the economics of the Bicycle Boulevard and why the city needs to begin installing them immediately . While it’s trues that Risemberg is a bike partisan, he writes the excellent Bicycle Fixation […]

CA Senate Committee to Consider Protected Bike Lanes Bill Tomorrow

|
A key hearing will be held in Sacramento tomorrow on legislation that would pave the way for more California cities to build protected bike lanes, also known as “cycle tracks.” Currently the California Highway Design Manual does not allow protected bike lanes, and state law requires local jurisdictions to follow Caltrans specifications for bicycle facilities […]

San Francisco Pol Wants to Ban Cars on Market Street

|
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that City Supervisor Chris Daly wants to ban cars from part of Market Street.  While transit would still be able to traverse the 2.3 mile stretch between Octavia Boulevard and the Embarcadero all privately owned passenger vehicles would be banned. Daly says that the idea of closing Market Street came […]