Implementing Bicycle Plan "improvements"
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.