Monday, April 11, 2005

The Bicycle Plan will soon be part of the General Plan

Public Comment submitted today to the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors for a hearing before the board on April 19 in opposition to the Planning Department's proposal, rubber-stamped by a compliant Planning Commission, to make the Bicycle Plan part of the General Plan.
Public Comment By Rob Anderson
1516 McAllister St.
SF CA 94115

Public Comment on Appeal No. 050481, Exemption of project 2004.0420, the San Francisco Bicycle Plan, from CEQA Review

This document, The San Francisco Bicycle Plan, will have a significant impact on the environment of San Francisco.

This document is a “project” and as such should be subject to CEQA review like any other proposed project.

The San Francisco Bicycle Plan is a document that proposes wide-ranging changes affecting the streets and the buildings of San Francisco, including lane changes, traffic “calming,” parking, pavement painting, tree trimming, street sweeping, lane sharing, and funding for educational programs. Bicycle advocates in Planning want to “integrate consideration of bicycle travel into all roadway planning, design, and construction.” Not only that, but the Plan wants to ensure that “all current and proposed Area Plans’ objectives are consistent with the goals of the San Francisco Bicycle Plan,” which means that if you make the Bicycle Plan part of the General Plan, you are going to have a bike zealot at the table as virtually every planning issue in the city is discussed.

This is overreach. We need to put bicycle use in San Francisco in a rational perspective:

According to the DMV, as of last year there were 447,585 autos, trucks, and motorcycles registered in the city, while, at most, bike advocates represent 1-2% of the city’s population.

Planning’s Certificate of Determination says that one of the goals of the document is “to promote bicycling as a safe, healthy, cost-effective, environmentally beneficial alternative to auto use…” Riding a bike in San Francisco---or any city---is an inherently unsafe activity, regardless of how environmentally benign it may be. Only a small fraction of the city’s population will ever be willing or able to use a bike as a serious means of transportation in San Francisco. According to the Bicycle Coalition’s own safety instructor, Bert Hill, 45% of all bike accidents are “solo falls,” and only 18% involve other vehicles (“Mission: Not Impossible,” Paul McHugh, SF Chronicle, Feb. 17, 2005). That information is not in this document. No matter how many bike lanes are painted on city streets, riding a bike in the city is always going to be a risky thing to do. It’s irresponsible for the governing body of this city to encourage people to engage in what is an inherently unsafe activity.

Table 6-4 in the Bicycle Plan breaks down 1950 “Bicycle-Related Collisions” for the years 1998-2003. The Plan’s own numbers show a pattern of a routine disregard for both the law, their own safety, and the safety of others by cyclists in the city.

But the Bicycle Plan is not content with only encouraging adults to engage in this dangerous activity; it also proposes to indoctrinate the city’s school children in riding a bike in the city as a “positive lifestyle.” In Section 5 of this document, “Bicycle Education for Children, Youth and Adults,” the Plan mandates bicycle education programs for all children over the age of nine:

Bicycle and walking are the only independent transportation modes available to children. Bicycling allows children to explore their neighborhood, get exercise, and gain a valuable skill that is useful for a lifetime. Before the age of nine, most children do not have the maturity and developmental skills required to ride a bicycle in urban traffic situations…In addition to technical skill and traffic laws, bicycle safety education for children should promote bicycling as an enjoyable transportation method with positive lifestyle, health, and environmental benefits. Programs and practices that will make bicycling to school easier and safer, such as the Safe Routes to Schools Program, should also be promoted.[Emphasis added]

This document proposes encouraging children as young as nine years old to ride a bike in the city, which is a shockingly irresponsible thing for the city to advocate, let alone make part of the General Plan, thus giving this foolishness the force of law.

Note should be taken of a number of references to the city’s Bicycle Coalition in creating this document. This is an organization that, until recently, listed taking part in Critical Mass as a recommended monthly activity on its online calendar. They only took Critical Mass off their calendar after I mentioned it during last year’s campaign for D5 supervisor.

The Bicycle Plan document insists that bike riding in the city should be a “key component” of our transportation system. Realistically, bikes will never be anything but a minor part of our transportation system, regardless of how many bike lanes the city paints. Automobiles (367,570) and trucks (63,353) and buses will always be much more important than bicycles.

Objections to some of the specific changes advocated in the Bicycle Plan are listed below:

Action 2.7, which calls for the actual removal of traffic lanes to make bike lanes on some city streets.

Action 2.11, which calls for using a Shared Use Pavement Arrow on some streets to foster the illusion that bikes are equal to autos and trucks. This is irresponsible, since bikes will never be equal in any practical sense to much larger motorized vehicles. And it will not only put cyclists in more danger, it will also result in slowing traffic as passive-aggressive cyclists insist on “sharing” traffic lanes with trucks, buses, and SUVs.

Action 3.10, calls for amending the Planning Code to reduce parking spaces in buildings where bicycle parking is provided. In fact, the politically aggressive bike community has already undermined the city law that requires developers to provide a parking space for every housing unit built in the city. The less parking for cars in the city, the better the bike people seem to like it. Yet this shortsighted achievement will only lead to more competition for already inadequate street parking.

Action 3.15, wants the police to make bike theft a higher priority. The police surely have a better sense of their own priorities than the bike community and the Planning Dept.

Action 4.1, permits bicycles on Muni buses, even though our buses are already crowded, and Muni route cutbacks are being made.

Action 5.9, allows the bike advocates to proselytize in the city’s schools to encourage children to engage in an unsafe activity.

Action 7.3, wants permission to push the bike agenda on a captive audience of city employees.

Action 8.3, This action item should be called, “And Tomorrow the World,” since it ensures that “all current and proposed Area Plans’ objectives are consistent with the goals of the San Francisco Bicycle Plan.”

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