Friday, January 04, 2008

Mr. "Mean-Spirit" Replies to Mr. Bike Nut

Robin Levitt's letter (below in italics) to the Bay Guardian neatly packs a lot of arrogance and disinformation into a short letter. Levitt, a former member of the SF Bicycle Coalition's board of directors, assumes that anything the city wants to do to our streets to support cycling in the city is ipso facto an "improvement." And, of course, he already knows that the 527-page Bicycle Plan can't possibly have any effect on the city's environment. If only Judge Busch had talked to Robin before issuing his decision against the city, he would have set him straight! It must amaze the city's bike people that somehow we were able to bamboozle two very intelligent Superior Court judges---Judge Warren and Judge Busch---about the real issues involved.

Let's once again sort through the same old insults and deceptions that Levitt and the city's bike people continue to deploy long after they have been discredited:

* "While I agree that a four-year delay to complete the Bicycle Plan environmental impact report is unconscionable, the real issue for me is that a couple of mean-spirited antibike, antitransit people can take a process intended to protect the environment and turn it on its head to hold up the Bike Plan for years."

What's really "unconscionable" is how the city and the SF Bicycle Coalition tried to rush the ambitious Bicycle Plan through the process without doing any environmental review. It was also unconscionable for both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors to play a central role in the attempted deception. And it's even more unconscionable that people like Levitt---who surely knows better---continue to defend the city's actions, which are morally, politically, and, as it turns out, legally indefensible. If the injustice is so great and the issue so clear, why didn't the city appeal Judge Busch's decision? Who's really being "mean-spirited" here, those in city government responsible for the attempted deception or those of us who blew the whistle on it?

The California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA) process was designed to determine the impact projects may have on the environment before they are implemented. Doing an EIR on a project doesn't predetermine whether the Plan will have a negative impact on the city's environment. But a project that proposes changing streets all over the city to make bike lanes surely may have such an impact, which is all we needed to convince Judge Busch of before he ordered the city to do an environmental review of the Bicycle Plan.

The fact that bicycles don't burn fossil fuel seems to be what Levitt et al have in mind when they pretend that the far-reaching Plan can't possibly have any effect on the city's environment. But if, for example, you take away traffic lanes and street parking on busy city streets---not to mention eliminating the level of service (LOS) traffic studies for all proposed projects---to make bike lanes, you will almost surely make traffic worse for everyone driving a motor vehicle in the city---including, by the way, Muni buses and emergency vehicles---thus leading directly to increased air pollution, as drivers sit in traffic jams and/or look for scarce parking spaces.

* "Just think about how San Francisco staff and their consultants' time could be used to make real transportation improvements rather than writing a report to analyze the environmental impacts of painting bike lanes, installing bike signage and bike racks, etc. Imagine how the hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be poured into producing that document could pay for those bike improvements many times over."

Robin Levitt is a pretty dim bulb, but even he knows that the Bicycle Plan involves a lot more than painting bike lanes, installing bike racks and bike "signage" (what's wrong with plain old "signs"?), as I explained in the previous paragraph. It's just a lie---and "unconscionable"---to continue to pretend at this stage in the process that that's all the Bicycle Plan involves.

* "We need to call our state representatives and officials to adjust California's environmental review process to ensure that the EIR process in the future does what it was originally intended to do---protect the environment, and not be used to stop projects that will improve it."

This is a reference to the strategy the desperate bike people would like to employ to save their ambitious anti-car plan in San Francisco: get state politicians to change the law so that bicycle plans are exempt from environmental review. Like putting the Bicycle Plan on the ballot, this is a risky political strategy, since it will only expose their unprincipled power grab to a wider public. Nor is it likely to withstand legal challenge, even if they could persuade the state legislature---in an election year, yet---to do their bidding.

An earlier exchange with Levitt, who has also supports both the awful new Octavia Blvd. and the looming disaster of the Market/Octavia Plan.

The Bike Plan Delay

(letter to editor of SF Bay Guardian, 12-26-07)

While I agree that a four-year delay to complete the Bicycle Plan environmental impact report is unconscionable, the real issue for me is that a couple of mean-spirited antibike, antitransit people can take a process intended to protect the environment and turn it on its head to hold up the Bike Plan for years ["Backpedaling," 12-12-07]. Just think about how San Francisco staff and their consultants' time could be used to make real transportation improvements rather than writing a report to analyze the environmental impacts of painting bike lanes, installing bike signage and bike racks, etc. Imagine how the hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be poured into producing that document could pay for those bike improvements many times over.

We need to call our state representatives and officials to adjust California's environmental review process to ensure that the EIR process in the future does what it was originally intended to do---protect the environment, and not be used to stop projects that will improve it.

Robin Levitt
San Francisco

Labels: ,

1 Comments:

At 10:37 PM, Blogger tedsfiles said...

Dear Rob,
By restricting the roads, you will decrease the car traffic. Maybe then people would be forced to use public transport or some other means.
Edward Re

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home