Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Screwing small businesses for Bike to Work Day

It's not just me. The more that people in the neighborhoods have to deal with the SF Bicycle Coalition and its agenda, the more they dislike both. The latest PR disaster for the bike fanatics is the city's rush to replace street parking with bike lanes on Market St. from Van Ness to Octavia Blvd., much to the distress of the merchants on that part of Market Street.

What's the rush? The Bicycle Coalition and their enablers at City Hall want to get it done in time for Bike To Work Day on May 18, during which city officials---it will be a major photo-op, so you know they will all be there, including the Mayor---and members of the Bicycle Coalition can ride bikes from Castro Street down Market Street as the TV cameras roll.

The Bike to Work Day deadline is not just speculation on my part. City staff confirmed it at the April 17 meeting of the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee. Jack Fleck, of the Department of Parking and Traffic: "This proposal we're bringing to you today is also one that we've been urged by various people to try to get in by Bike to Work Day, which puts us on a very tight schedule. That's why we're coming straight to you at the board."

Who are the "various people" urging DPT to rush this ill-considered project? Fleck tells us later in the meeting, when Supervisor Ma, troubled by the distressed comments from the neighborhood's business community, asks Fleck about the process:

Ma: Mr. Fleck, we've approved dozens of bike lanes before, and this is the first time I remember such a controversial process, where people are saying they haven't been given the opportunity, they would like to see compromise. I hear it on both sides, and I'm just wondering what the public process has been and who have you outreached to, who has attended and whether this has followed the normal course of establishing and approving bicycle lanes.

Fleck: The impetus for this specific plan, however, I believe just came up at the beginning of this year, and we were urged on behalf of the Mayor's office and other people who were pushing to try to get this through by Bike to Work Day...We normally hold a Department of Parking and Traffic hearing...And then we usually go through the Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation, which is an internal staff meeting. And then we also go through the MTA board. However, the Board of Supervisors certainly has the right and on other occasions introduced legislation directly to be heard at the board, which is the way it happened here today because of the attempt to try to get this installed by Bike to Work Day.

Halfway through the April 17 meeting, Supervisor Dufty, who was Chair, announced that "I will be on that bike ride." Once the local merchants heard that, they must have known it was a done deal and they were screwed.

Small businesses and other operations in the area---including a clinic for the seriously ill---that rely on street parking for their patrons are desperately trying to stop this power grab. A number of them pleaded with the Supervisors---Bevan Dufty, Ross Mirkarimi, and Fiona Ma---at the meeting to retain the street parking in front of their businesses. A partial list of the businesses and other operations on the 1600 and 1700 blocks of Market St. protesting the loss of parking: The Octavia Lounge, Moresi Real Estate, the Lyon-Martin Women's Health Center, Access San Francisco, Yum, Percent Jewelry, McRoskey Mattress, the Vision of Hope Ministry, Antiquario, Delession Market & Bakery, Art Deco Collection, Another Time, Retrospect Custom Furniture, Flax Art & Design, Union Music Co., Tax Matters, and Fast Frame #117.

The business owners testified with some emotion about the struggle they have had over the years in turning that part of Market St. into a lively neighborhood commercial district. These folks tried to explain to the supervisors how important street parking can be for them---the Lyon-Martin Center pointed out that they deal with people who are critically ill, who need parking near the clinic; several antique stores said that their customers need parking to load/unload furniture. After the owner of the Octavia Lounge testified against losing street parking, Dufty, incredibly, suggested that he explore the idea of valet parking instead!

As I say, the more the city's neighborhoods learn about the Bicycle Coalition's ambitious agenda, the less they like it. Other neighborhood fiascos perpetrated by the bike fanatics: the traffic circles on upper Page St., which were rejected by the neighborhood; taking away parking in Japantown for bike lanes, also rejected by that neighborhood; the no-right-turn onto the new freeway ramp from Market St. (this was supposed to be a six-month "trial," but it's beginning to look permanent, another bit of treachery by the bike fanatics and their enablers at City Hall); and taking away traffic lanes on San Jose Ave. for bike lanes. And of course there's the monthly Critical Mass demo that deliberately screws up downtown traffic during rush hour, making it difficult for working people to get home.

(You can view a video of the April 17 meeting by going to the SFGOV site, clicking on SFGTV, clicking on "Video on Demand," clicking on the Board of Supervisors, and then on City Operations and Neighborhood Services. You then need to "Jump to" item number 7 to avoid the rest of the agenda.)

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