Saturday, November 04, 2006

Newsom: homelessness, gay marriage---and bikes?

Mayor Newsom in last week's State of the City address:

So there is no misunderstanding---there's a lot of people that are concerned about this---let me make this clear. That ill-conceived lawsuit that's holding up our bike plan will not stop us. Whatever the judge's decision, we will continue our long-term planning efforts to create that citywide bicycle network, uniting our current patchwork of bike lanes into a unified and comprehensive system.
"Ill-conceived"? The litigation was "conceived" to get the city to comply with state law that requires major projects to undergo environmental review.

Newsom evidently still thinks that the ambitious, 460-page Bicycle Plan---which has had no environmental review so far---is a win-win deal politically. He struck gold with two other big initiatives---gay marriage and homelessness---but those were both surefire winners in SF, given the city's large gay population and widespread voter restlessness about homelessness.
His political instincts may have failed him on the bike issue. There may come a time when neighborhoods in the city learn what's actually in the Bicycle Plan, like taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes. What will happen then? And is the "we" in his statement just the royal "we," or is he actually under the illusion that the bike people are his political allies? (Like most other city politicians, Newsom of course only rides a bike on ceremonial occasions.) A moment's reflection should tell him that the militant bike people all voted for Gonzalez in the last election. Leah Shahum, whom he appointed to the MTA board, publicly insulted him after he vetoed closing Golden Gate Park to motor vehicles on Saturdays. And Steve Jones, SF Bay Guardian reporter, cursed him in person and in print over the same issue.

Earlier this year, the Mayor's office was implicated in rushing through a project that angered small businesses---taking away their street parking on Market St. to make bike lanes. The push from the Mayor's office was to get it done in time for Bike to Work Day. DPT's Jack Fleck told a BOS committee:

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.


It seems odd that Newsom is evidently willing to risk alienating an important part of his political base---the city's small business community---to appease people who have nothing but contempt for him. They didn't vote for him in 2003, and they won't vote for him in 2007.

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