Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Matt Dorsey is "discouraged"

The city's bike people---and their many enablers in City Hall and the media---apparently will never get over the trauma of our successful litigation that forced the city to follow the law and do an environmental impact report on the 500-page Bicycle Plan. Judge Busch's rejection of the city's latest attempt to do an end-run around the injunction put some of them in a schizo mood: glad that he rejected the city's dumb proposal for Market/Octavia but resentful that he still refused to let them implement bike projects before the EIR is completed and certified.

The Bay Guardian (below in italics) reflects this mood: "Both Anderson and the SFBC, who usually agree on little, agreed on the judge's latest ruling. Anderson advocates maintaining streets for cars and pedestrians, while the SFBC works to make roads safer for bicycles and encouraging bicycling as an important transportation option."

Well, not exactly. I actually have no objection to adults riding bikes on the streets of SF, but I do object to the city and the Bicycle Coalition encouraging schoolchildren to ride bikes on city streets, which is irresponsible to the point of negligence.

Nor do I object to making the streets safer for cyclists; I just object to doing it at the expense of everyone else that uses the streets of San Francisco, the 95% of the public that drives motor vehicles or takes the bus. The Guardian even quotes my views accurately later in the piece:

"We have to make the streets as safe as possible without strangling the rest of the traffic," Anderson told the Guardian. "Only a small percentage of the population in San Francisco use bicycles as their main mode of transportation. It's not fair for the bike people to design the streets just to benefit them."

The city did some whining when the judge refused to lift the injunction so they could implement more of the Bicycle Plan:

"This case has been very discouraging because there are a handful of activists against bicyclists in the city," City Attorney's Office spokesperson Matt Dorsey said. "The hearing showed that the city has to go to court any time it wants to improve the streets for bicyclists"...Dorsey and Deputy City Attorney Audrey Pearson oppose Anderson, who has said bicycling is an inherently dangerous activity that the city shouldn't be promoting. "As a policy, the city tries to discourage cars in San Francisco," Dorsey said, referring to the longstanding "transit first" policies.

As if Dorsey didn't know all this already, since the injunction has been in place since June, 2006. Evidently Dorsey wasn't listening when Judge Busch expressed his exasperation about how the city keeps trying to make him a traffic engineer with attempts to modify the injunction before the EIR is certified. The judge mentioned that the EIR on the Bicycle Plan would be completed early this year, so why bring these projects before him now, especially since the city was unable to provide evidence that there are any emergencies to justify lifting the injunction?
 
And yes, we know the city has an anti-car policy. But what exactly do bicycles have to do with "transit first"? Transit refers to buses and trains, not bikes. If you screw up traffic for Death Machines, aka cars---taking away traffic lanes to make bike lanes---you're also going to screw up traffic for Muni, which already has enough problems without the city making it even more difficult for it to move its vehicles on city streets.

Now that the public comment period for the Bike Plan's Draft EIR is over and Judge Busch has ruled to keep the bike lane at Market and Octavia, all parties are looking ahead to spring when the court is expected to lift the injunction on improving bike safety in San Francisco, unleashing nearly 60 new bike projects. That is, unless Anderson and Miles can find a way to stop them.

Anderson sees one potential problem with the new EIR: the city has completely redefined the Bicycle Plan the judge ordered them to review, the 527-page Plan that was composed of two volumes, the Framework Document and the Network Document.

The city has reduced that Plan to 60 projects. What about the other proposals in the original Bicycle Plan, like level of service (LOS) "reform"? Is the city assuming that it can now dump LOS traffic measuring standards---that's what LOS "reform" means to the bike nuts---without first doing an environmental study of that dumb idea?


Strange bedfellows
Green City: San Francisco's bicycle community finds itself in an awfully strange position
By Melody Parker and Steven T. Jones


GREEN CITY

San Francisco's bicycle community found itself in the strange position of encouraging Superior Court Judge Peter Busch — someone many cyclists revile for his strict enforcement of a far-reaching injunction against bike projects in the city — to reject a city-sponsored bike safety proposal during a Jan. 22 hearing. It was one more sign of the desperation bicyclists and city officials are feeling over the three-year-old ban on all things bike-related, from new lanes to simple sidewalk racks (see "Stationary biking," 5/16/07).

Judge Busch denied a city motion asking for the authority to make safety improvements at intersections that have proven dangerous to bicyclists, as well as a specific proposal by the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) to remove the bike lane at the most dangerous of those intersections, on Market Street at Octavia Boulevard, where 15 bicyclists have been hit by cars making illegal right turns onto the freeway since the revamped intersection opened in September 2005.

But the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and other bicyclists opposed the MTA proposal, arguing it would be more dangerous and holding a Jan. 16 rally at the site, which drew several supportive local politicians, including Sen. Mark Leno, Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, and Sups. Ross Mirkarimi, David Campos, and Bevan Dufty. "As people who ride through that intersection every single day, we believe the proposal would have made the intersection more dangerous. So I'm really relieved that the judge saw that," SFBC director Leah Shahum told us.

She was less pleased with the judge's refusal to relax the injunction, which stems from a legal challenge to the San Francisco Bicycle Plan. San Francisco resident Rob Anderson and attorney Mary Miles successfully sued the city in June 2006, arguing that the plan was hasty and did not include an environmental impact report (EIR), as required by state law, to determine how the plan would affect traffic, neighborhoods, businesses, and the environment.

"This case has been very discouraging because there are a handful of activists against bicyclists in the city," City Attorney's Office spokesperson Matt Dorsey said. "The hearing showed that the city has to go to court any time it wants to improve the streets for bicyclists."

Although Judge Busch denied the city's request to remove the bike lane, he hinted that the injunction would probably be lifted this spring with the completion of the Bike Plan's EIR. "There was a strong message from the judge that he sees the bigger picture about getting the EIR done. It just needs to be complete and fair and accurate. Then the city can get back to work making the streets safer," Shahum said.

Both Anderson and the SFBC, who usually agree on little, agreed on the judge's latest ruling. Anderson advocates maintaining streets for cars and pedestrians, while the SFBC works to make roads safer for bicycles and encouraging bicycling as an important transportation option. Shahum urges city officials to rethink their approach to make Market and Octavia safer. "The city really does need to move on to the next steps to make the intersection better," she said.

Although the number of bicyclists in San Francisco has doubled in recent years in light of volatile gasoline prices, the economic crisis, and greater awareness of global climate change, Anderson continues to argue that bicyclists will always be a minority interest, even in San Francisco.

"We have to make the streets as safe as possible without strangling the rest of the traffic," Anderson told the Guardian. "Only a small percentage of the population in San Francisco use bicycles as their main mode of transportation. It's not fair for the bike people to design the streets just to benefit them."

Dorsey and Deputy City Attorney Audrey Pearson oppose Anderson, who has said bicycling is an inherently dangerous activity that the city shouldn't be promoting. "As a policy, the city tries to discourage cars in San Francisco," Dorsey said, referring to the longstanding "transit first" policies.

Now that the public comment period for the Bike Plan's Draft EIR is over and Judge Busch has ruled to keep the bike lane at Market and Octavia, all parties are looking ahead to spring when the court is expected to lift the injunction on improving bike safety in San Francisco, unleashing nearly 60 new bike projects. That is, unless Anderson and Miles can find a way to stop them.
Wednesday January 28, 2009

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