Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Implementing Bicycle Plan "improvements"

The Bicycle Coalition is urging its membership "to make sure that all 56 projects of the Bike Plan get approved":

At long last, the environmental impact report (EIR) for the SF Bicycle Plan is approaching completion and the injunction which has stopped physical improvements for bicycle traffic in the city since June 2006 is nearing its end. But just because the Bike Plan will soon be re-adopted, spelling out 56 great bike network projects, doesn't mean the City will go ahead and implement these improvements quickly, or at all. We'll need your grassroots help and energy to move all 56 Bike Network projects forward (https://www.sfbike.org/?network).

It's hard to say what the zealots at the SFBC understand, but they insult the intelligence of their membership with this call to action. What the draft EIR of the latest version of the Bicycle Plan really does is offer the city's decision-makers---ultimately the Board of Supervisors---different options for many of the bicycle "improvements" it recommends for city streets.

For example, on Masonic Ave. the DEIR breaks that major North/South traffic artery into different segments, taking away street parking and traffic lanes here and there to make bike lanes between Fell Street and Geary Blvd. On Segment 1 (between Fell and Hayes), Option 1 would create a bike lane by "removing one travel lane in the northbound direction, and two travel lanes the southbound direction." Since Masonic now has four lanes---two in both directions---removing both southbound lanes would seem to be impossible. Maybe this is a typo. Option 2 for that segment of Masonic would remove "a travel lane in both directions." Which of these options for this part of Masonic should the membership of the SFBC be supporting?

And there's this for the segment of Masonic between Hayes and Grove:

Segment II Option 1 would install a center turn lane with floating bicycle lanes in both directions. During off-peak hours, there would be one travel lane in both directions. During the AM peak, there would be two travel lanes in the northbound direction, and one travel lane in the southbound direction. During the PM peak, there would be two travel lanes in the southbound direction, and one travel lane in the northbound direction.

(This paragraph is on page IV.B-23 of the DEIR. That page "number" is a clue to how baroque and hard to read the massive document is.) If you know how heavy traffic is already on Masonic during commute hours, imagine how bad it's going to be when some blocks will only have one traffic lane going in a single direction.

On McAllister Street---the street I live on---the choice is much simpler, since the DEIR is recommending mostly that sharrows be painted on the street between Gough and Masonic, with no street parking or traffic lanes---the street has only two lanes---to be removed.

The DEIR continues to maintain the city's long-held legal fiction that parking is not part of the permanent physical environment under CEQA:

In San Francisco, parking deficits are considered to be social effects, rather than impacts on the physical environment as defined by CEQA. Under CEQA, a project's social effects need not be treated as significant impacts on the environment...The social inconvenience of parking deficits, such as having to hunt for scarce parking spaces, is not an environmental impact, but there may be secondary physical environmental impacts, such as increased traffic congestion at intersections, air quality impacts, safety impacts, or noise impacts caused by congestion...[T]he secondary impacts effects of drivers searching for parking is typically offset by a reduction of vehicle trips due to others who are aware of constrained parking conditions in a given area.

In other words, it will just be tough shit for people who now park on Masonic Ave. As drivers look for increasingly scarce parking in that area, they'll have to console themselves with the thought that what they are experiencing is nothing but "a social effect." This is both legally dubious---there's CEQA case law on parking that says differently---and contemptuous of people who drive in SF, since hundreds of parking spaces may be lost on Masonic Ave., depending on which options in the Bicycle Plan the city chooses to implement.

On all the options for Masonic Ave., the DEIR admits that there will be a "Significant Unavoidable Impact" on traffic on that busy street, including a negative impact on the much-used #43 Masonic Muni line that travels the length of Masonic between Geary Blvd. and Fell Street.

Hence, the question is, Who is going to take political responsibility for screwing up traffic on Masonic Ave.---and all the other city streets slated for bicycle "improvements," including Second Street, Fifth Street, and Cesar Chavez? The SFBC doesn't seem to mind being on the political cutting edge---after all, it lists Critical Mass on its online calendar every month---but even our "progressive" Board of Supervisors may hesitate about implementing many of the projects in the EIR on the Bicycle Plan, especially if, like Supervisor Mirkarimi, they want to run for Mayor of San Francisco someday.

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14 Comments:

At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Robert said...

I must admit when I read through the draft EIR to find out where this might impact my neighborhood several of the proposals seem somewhere between unworkable and just plain stupid.

Given the current state of the economy and City Hall's finances I think 'major improvements' like this should be forced to be self funding. Make them into bike toll lanes - make the small percent of the population that want them pay for them. I would/will if/when I use them.

 
At 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you live here, shop here, or work here, Robert, you're already paying for the roads.

 
At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In other words, it will just be tough shit for people who now park on Masonic Ave."

How is that any worse than saying 'tough shit' to the people who want to use bikes in the city, but can't because everything is a motorway or parking lot?

 
At 4:59 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Try to focus on reality, Anon. It's nuts to punish drivers by eliminating parking and traffic lanes on nothing but the hope that people will get rid of their cars and get bikes. Conversely, you bike people are obligated to show the rest of us exactly where you want to create new bike lanes. That's what the EIR on the Bicycle Plan is all about. If you can't come to grips with the specifics, you're just another windbag, crybably bike nut.

 
At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, let's focus on reality a bit, shall we Rob? How is it punitive to drivers to make room for bikes when you consider 1) the vast amounts of room we've made for them at the expense of everything else, 2) the severe shortage of anyplace to ride a bike and 3) the huge demand for bike facilties.

Also worth considing are 1) the diminishing role of the automobile in daily life, 2) the arguments agains automobiles, and 3) the arguments for biking, walking, and transit (high speed traffic eliminates bicyclists, literally terminates pedestrians, and substantially slows transit. Biking, walking, and transit ease congestion, prevent pollution, improve quality of life, and improve health. biking and walking particularly demand less from the public purse).

But if everything is a parking lot or motorway, then "surprise!" we get lots of motorists who need to park.

It's not punitive to motorists to take away space for cars when they currently occupy way more than their fair share of the city.

 
At 12:07 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You still aren't focusing on what's on the table for discussion, the DEIR on the Bicycle Plan, which shows exactly what the city wants to do to particular streets. All of the issues you raise have been thoroughly explored on this site over the past several years.

There's a "severe shortage of anyplace to ride a bike"? Not so, since there's nothing to stop anyone now from riding a bike on city streets. And there's a "huge demand for bike facilities"? Like to see some evidence for that. Nor do I know of any evidence for "the diminishing role of the automobile in daily life" in SF.

As I've pointed out here many times, if you take away a traffic lane on a busy street that also has a Muni line, you're going to slow down our primary public transit, which already has on-time problems. This is one of the issues the city is facing in implementing the Bicycle Plan.

 
At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that people have come to terms with the fact that many of the bicycle plan improvements are NOT in the urban core. Many are in areas where pedestrian traffic is low, streets are steep, and traffic has grown precipitously in recent years -- primarily because we are trying to discourage traffic in the urban core and the cars have no where else to go than to fan out across other sections of San Francisco.

If the SFBC really believed in their cause, then they should lobby to put the plan on the ballot. That would render the EIR posturing moot. So... How about it bicyclists? Dare to go for a proposition vote? Win or lose?

 
At 9:44 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

...if gays believed they should be able to marry, then after the courts already decided they had the right to marry, they should have supported putting a gay marriage ban on the ballot just to prove they can win?

Arnold seems to think he's a good governor, maybe he should ask for a recall election on himself.

You sound just like the Republicans who are whining that Obama is being partisan because it's the only card in their deck now that they got their asses handed to them in the election. All that is going to gain them is the Democrats deciding to marginalize them. The SFBC believes in it's cause and thus will take the path of least resistance to get there - just like everyone else on the planet. And if the opposition is not actually willing to work together, the reaction will be like Obama's - to stop listening.

 
At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There's a "severe shortage of anyplace to ride a bike"? Not so, since there's nothing to stop anyone now from riding a bike on city streets."

If automobile drivers were willing to share the road, you'd be right. They're not.

"And there's a "huge demand for bike facilities"? Like to see some evidence for that."

Ok. How about critical mass, common survey data, a 10,000-member bike coalition (and its army of very active volunteers), huge numbers of riders on bike to work day, the healthy streets turnouts, the proliferation bicycles everywhere, including DIY shops in the mission and at SFState; the push for bikes on Caltrain, the fact that BART and Caltrain have full bicycle parking facilities, the fact that many bike racks around town are overflowing, the flowering of bike culture generally, including bicycle film festivals and art shows, bike blogs, bike concerts, bike circuses, bike clothing companies, etc.

"Nor do I know of any evidence for "the diminishing role of the automobile in daily life" in SF."

Well, if you're aware of it or not, there's a very robust car-free and car-lite movement around the world these days, and particularly in places like San Francisco.

Environmental awareness, gas prices, desire for simplicity, healthy lifestyle choices, quality of life choices, congestion, urbanism, etc., are all informing this drift. Witness the popularity of car-sharing programs and the popularity of not having a car at all (it's a city, so that should make sense).

"As I've pointed out here many times, if you take away a traffic lane on a busy street that also has a Muni line, you're going to slow down our primary public transit..."

Why, because there are too many cars on the road? How is that an argument against bikes?

 
At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On this comment...

"...if gays believed they should be able to marry, then after the courts already decided they had the right to marry, they should have supported putting a gay marriage ban on the ballot just to prove they can win?"

There is a huge difference between civil rights and majority rights. Creating traffic jams so bicyclists can have a lane has nothing to do with equal protection. A ballot box solution is wholly appropriate for San Francisco on the Bicycle Plan. Wasn't this done for the Central Freeway removal 3 times?

 
At 10:54 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I don't think that people have come to terms with the fact that many of the bicycle plan improvements are NOT in the urban core."

Yes, but others are, like Second Street and Fifth Street. And then there's Masonic, which I wrote about in this post. And Cesar Chavez in the Mission.

"If the SFBC really believed in their cause, then they should lobby to put the plan on the ballot."

They threatened to do this a few years ago to do an end-run around the injunction, but they dropped the idea, probably because they finally realized that they could actually lose a vote on the Bicycle Plan. Or, almost as bad, what if the Bicycle Plan only got 51% of the vote? The bike people like to pretend that they have this huge public backing in SF, but I think that's simply untrue. With the punk behavior of a lot of cyclists on city streets, Critical Mass every month, the ban on the right turn onto the freeway at Market and Octavia, etc., whatever goodwill the city's bike people may have had is dwindling.

 
At 4:28 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"There is a huge difference between civil rights and majority rights. Creating traffic jams so bicyclists can have a lane has nothing to do with equal protection."

First - this is wrong. The right of movement is inherent to our society, and does not define that movement as "Must be by car" and as such it is incumbent upon us to make passage safe for all forms of travel.

Second - you missed my point. My point - if the bike coalition can get what they want without going to the ballot, why would they do that? To prove a point? That would be a disservice to their constituency. Whine all you want, but that is no different than any other political agenda, conservative or liberal.

 
At 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Murphstahoe makes a good point about freedom of movement. One of the things that often gets overlooked is to what extend does having all that automobile traffic actually impede other types of movememt.

If we create environments where people are afraid of using the street because of car traffic, then we've inhibited a lot of free movement.

 
At 4:01 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Why should the "freedom of movement" of a small minority---3.4% of all daily trips in the city are by bicycle---at the expense of the "freedom of movement" of the other 96.5% who use city streets?

 

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