Thursday, August 06, 2009

No "middle ground" on the bike issue

C.W. Nevius looks for the "middle ground" in the bicycle debate:

The bike-friendly city debate has fractured into lawsuits, name-calling and the inevitable rowdy meetings at City Hall---essentially losing sight of the middle ground that could lead to more reasonable and realistic bike policies. How did it get to this point? The same way as always: opposing groups of people who are absolutely, positively convinced they are right. Andy Thornley, the eminently reasonable San Francisco Bicycle Coalition program director, says the city has spent years making itself car friendly, and "now we should shape the city back to make it more convenient to walk or ride a bike."

Unlike his fine columns on homelessness in SF, Nevius's views on this subject are out of focus. We had to sue the city on the Bicycle Plan because the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has no other enforcement mechanism. The city left us no choice, since it refused to do any environmental review of its 500-page Bicycle Plan before it began implementing it on the streets of San Francisco. We had exhausted our administrative remedies by appealing the Planning Commission's endorsement of the Plan to the Board of Supervisors, which rejected our appeal in 2005. After that you either go home and lick your wounds or you take the issue to court. We took the city's failure to follow the law to court, where Judge Busch agreed with us, ordering the city to do an environmental review of the Bicycle Plan.

There was no "middle ground" available. The city was intransigent, cheered on by the not-so-reasonable SF Bicycle Coalition, which labeled us as obstructionists who were using legal technicalities to hinder an environmentally benign Bicycle Plan.

Nevius was conned by Andy Thornley, who projects a reasonable persona to the media even as he lies through his teeth.

Nevius fails to identify the main players in this controversy: the SF Bicycle Coalition, which operates as a quasi-city agency in SF; the City of San Francisco, which operates as an adjunct to the Bicycle Coalition; and those of us who were forced to sue the city to prevent the bike people from hijacking our streets on behalf of a small, fanatical minority of cyclists.

The Bicycle Coalition is as much anti-car as they are pro-bike. More than four years ago, Thornley, in a rare moment of candor, told the Bay Guardian what he and the Bicycle Coalition really wanted to do in San Francisco: "We've done all the easy things so far. Now we need to take space from cars." Taking "space from cars" means taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes. It also means opposing all new proposals for parking garages, which meant opposing the underground garage in Golden Gate Park and the new garage UC Hastings just built in the Tenderloin.

They don't care about Muni. For them, it's all about bikes. And don't forget that the bike people aren't just riding bikes: they are also saving the planet.

Katy Liddell is the kind of person the term "nimby" was coined to describe. She only cares about Second Street, where she happens to live. What about all the other streets the Bicycle Plan is going to screw up, like Masonic, Fifth Street, Cesar Chavez, etc? Forget it. Liddell isn't interested. She and the city agreed to negotiate the configuration of Second Street, and the rest of San Francisco is on its own.

The Bicycle Plan is the SF Bicycle Coalition's wish list. And the EIR on the Bicycle Plan the Board of Supervisors just certified is one of the last obstacles to the Coalition's dream of "taking space from cars" all over the city. Of course when you take away traffic lanes for cars, you are also taking them away from Muni, which is what the EIR tells us; the Bicycle Plan is going to screw up traffic for cars and for many Muni lines in "transit first" San Francisco.

The last obstacle to fulfilling the Bicycle Coalition's anti-car agenda is getting Judge Busch to certify the EIR of the Bicycle Plan. We are going to oppose that in court. If Nevius knows of some middle ground, he should let me know.

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