Bicycle Coalition's ballot bluff
It doesn't surprise anyone who's actually familiar with the Bicycle Plan---a huge, ambitious project that will affect hundreds of city streets---but the environmental impact report ordered by Judge Busch is going to take a lot longer than the city's bike people expected. They are very cross about that, as we learn in this week's Bay Guardian (Backpedaling):
Bicycle advocates and some members of the Board of Supervisors are calling the bureaucratic delays unacceptable, and they're actively exploring ways to speed things up. Frustrations are running so high that some activists are now talking about taking the plan directly to voters, noting that initiatives are generally exempt from the strictures of the California Environmental Quality Act, under which the bike plan was successfully challenged last year by antibike activist and blogger Rob Anderson.
The talk about putting the Bicycle Plan on the ballot is a bluff, but exactly who do they think they are bluffing? Even Leah Shahum, Steve Jones, and Andy Thornley must have an inkling that the bike people aren't very popular, even here in Progressive Land, except in a few prog enclaves in the Mission and the Haight-Ashbury. It wouldn't be the "strictures" of CEQA that they would have to worry about; many city voters would love the opportunity to rebuke the arrogant folks responsible for Critical Mass and other annoyances on our streets, like the ban on the right turn onto the freeway at the Market and Octavia intersection. And if the people in the city's neighborhoods ever find out what's actually in the Bicycle Plan---like taking away neighborhood street parking and traffic lanes to make bike lanes---it's defeat would be assured. This "anti-bike activist" says, "Go ahead, make my day. Put the Bicycle Plan on the ballot!"
Jones writes that Ross Mirkarimi wants to blame Mayor Newsom for the latest delays, but that won't wash. If Mayor Newsom was responsible for the delay, it would simplify their political problem, but the fact is the mayor has given the bike people everything they've asked for, except for his veto of the Healthy Saturdays ordinance a few years ago. And he vetoed that only because, unlike the politically obtuse bike people, he understood that there is serious opposition in the avenues to closing the park to autos on Saturdays. In any event, Newsom quickly arranged a "compromise" measure that closed a different part of the park to autos on Saturdays, and even that still rankles with people in the avenues.
It appears that those who are actually responsible for doing the EIR on the Bicycle Plan understand that it's a big undertaking, since they are dealing with a 527-page Plan that will affect hundreds of streets all over the city:
But project staffers say their work is both complicated and unprecedented. "No one has ever done an environmental review quite like this," Oliver Gajda, bicycle program manager for the MTA, told the Guardian. "It's a fairly complex document that no city has done." That's because San Francisco's bicycle plan is the first to be successfully challenged under CEQA. Gajda said the latest delays stem from expansion of the work scope and in coordinating with various neighborhood plans in the city and with other agencies like the port and redevelopment districts. "We're trying to capture everything we can foresee in the entire city," Gajda said. "We are trying to make this the most solid environmental document possible."
Gajda understands that if, like most EIRs, the EIR on the Bicycle Plan is nothing but a cut-and-paste, pro forma exercise, those pesky "anti-bike activists" will challenge it in court, Judge Busch will send them back to the drawing board, and that will further delay the implementation of their bogus "improvements" to our city streets.
Gajda now admits what we've been saying for almost three years now: The Bicycle Plan is a huge project for which the city should have done an EIR in the first place. Instead, with the SF Bicycle Coalition and the Bay Guardian cheering them on, both the Planning Commisssion and the Board of Supervisors irresponsibly voted unanimously to implement the Plan---and make it part of the city's General Plan---with no environmental review at all.
To view an online version of the Bicycle Plan: Go here, click on "Bike Updates," then scroll down and click on "Bike Plan Environmental Review," and scroll down to "Draft San Francisco Bicycle Plan." I've been describing the Bicycle Plan as a 460-page document, but the online version is 527 pages.