Saturday, June 19, 2010

City: "Bicyclists the primary beneficiaries" of the Bicycle Plan

Even though he's had almost five years to contemplate these issues, Steve Jones, the Bay Guardian's reporter, evidently still can't get his head around the injunction on the Bicycle Plan. Jones on the Guardian's blog:

On Tuesday, June 22, Superior Court Judge Peter Busch will hear oral arguments and consider whether to end the four-year-old injunction against the city executing any of the projects or policies outlined in its Bicycle Plan, a ban perversely created by the court finding the plan violated the California Environmental Quality Act because it wasn't subjected to a full-blown environmental impact report, which cost more than a million bucks and took two years.

Judge Busch "perversely created" the injunction on the city's Bicycle Plan? Shortly before he retired, Judge Warren issued the original injunction in June, 2006, after we showed him that the city was implementing the Bicycle Plan on the streets of the city before the merits of our complaint could be heard in court. As he pointed out in his decision of November, 2006, Judge Busch kept the injunction in place for the same reason that Judge Warren issued it in the first place:

The City cannot implement this project piece by piece, claiming that the impact of each small project does not have a significant environmental effect. Such reasoning is akin to trying to avoid review of a timber harvest plan by removing trees one at a time, claiming each tree removal to be independent and exempt. At the end of the process the forest would be gone or the entire City streetscape reconfigured without environmental review ever having happened

That's exactly what the city was arguing in its briefs and in oral argument in the hearings. At that point, the city couldn't argue otherwise, since it had admitted that it hadn't done any environmental review, "full-blown" or otherwise. Instead the city argued that it didn't have to do any environmental review of the Plan, that giving it a General Rule Exemption was justified, even though that exemption is only supposed to be used for projects that can't possibly have any impact on the environment.

Jones's "full-blown" usage is typical of how the city's bike people have claimed all along that the injunction and the successful litigation were based on some kind of technicality, not the essence of the most important environmental law in California, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires an environmental review of any project that even could have a negative impact on the environment. The city was obviously required to do some kind of environmental review of the 500-page Bicycle Plan, which proposes taking away traffic lanes and street parking on busy city streets to make bike lanes, which, we argued, surely could make traffic worse in the city, an obvious environmental impact.

Jones continues:

Despite the fact that the EIR was completed and certified last year, the plaintiffs who sued the city over the plan five years ago---anti-bike activist Rob Anderson and his attorney, Mary Miles---sued again, claiming the study was inadequate and decrying how the plan would take space from cars to improve bicycle safety.

In fact our challenge to the adequacy of the EIR is not a new "suit." The city has to get Judge Busch's approval of the EIR before he lifts the injunction on the Bicycle Plan. We dispute the adequacy of the EIR, which is what the hearing will be about next Tuesday. It's all part of the same process. Interesting to note that the city's latest brief doesn't even mention "bicycle safety." Instead the city simply argues that, yes, the Bicycle Plan is going to have "significant" negative impacts on traffic and Muni, but that it's going to implement the Plan anyhow on behalf of cyclists, regardless of its effects on more than 90% of the people who use city streets.

From the city's brief:

The City found that, despite the significant impacts from approval of the Bicycle Plan...the benefits of approving the Plan outweighed the unavoidable impacts it created (page 25)...the City determined that by implementing the Bicycle Plan, more people would chose[sic] to ride a bicycle than currently do---the idea of "mode shift" (page 26)...Nothing in the Statement[of Overriding Considerations] downplays the number or magnitude of traffic or transit impacts, or overstates the number of bicyclists, the primary beneficiaries of the Project's benefits (pages 27 and 28, "Respondent City and County San Francisco's Opposition to Petitioners' Objections to City's Return," emphasis added ).

Let's recap: The city passed the Bicycle Plan with no environmental review, and we appealed that decision to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. When the Board of Supervisors rejected our final appeal, we had to file suit, since there was no other way to make the city follow the law. The city lost the litigation and was ordered by the court to do an environmental review of the Plan. The EIR has been written, and it says what we thought it would say, that the Bicycle Plan is going to screw up traffic all over the city, including slowing down a number of Muni lines. The city now acknowledges all this but still insists on implementing the Bicycle Plan on behalf of cyclists, even though that's going to make traffic worse for everyone else, based on the hope that there will be a "mode shift" and a lot more people will ride bikes in the city.

What could go wrong with that?

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24 Comments:

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous whir said...

Stop the presses! Plan whose very raison d'être is to improve bicycle infrastructure would primarily benefit cyclists! Somebody call the Times!

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

Typically stupid comment from---let me guess---a bike person? The issue is that the city insists on implementing the Plan for this small, unpopular minority that, as the EIR tells us, will make traffic worse for more than 90% of the people who use our streets. Bad public policy and, I suspect, stupid politics.

 
At 2:23 AM, Anonymous O'notto said...

"small unpopular minority" ... no Rob, you are a small unpopular minority who will soon be sent a bill for what you've cost taxpayers.

Cyclists are a large, growing group encompassing all aspects of San Francisco. Facts are facts!

And as always, we urinate in your general direction!

 
At 8:27 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Typically witless bike guy comment. Even the Bicycle Coalition says only 6% of all trips in the city are by bike, which is an exaggerated bit of puffery by your political lobbying group. Even if that percentage was verifiable, that leaves more than 90% of trips are by other "modes" of transportation. The city has wasted a lot of taxpayers' money by not doing the EIR in the first place, which is what we told the Planning Commission and the Supervisors way back in 2005. City Attorney Dennis Herrera pushed this litigation for purely political reasons, since the city didn't have a legal leg to stand on on that issue---and he knew it.

 
At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Dr. Fargo said...

Blessed is the truth, mr anderson:

http://fastlane.dot.gov/2010/06/new-report-shows-biking-and-walking-gains.html

Only an angry simpleton would fight the truth...

 
At 8:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that you wear sweatpants to the court room shows how much respect you have for this process. You are a waste of time.

As Barney Frank was quoted last year, "Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. [This is the] single stupidest arguement I have ever heard."

Get a life, move on, and find a real issue to care about. Don't waste all of our money on your baseless and idiotic court case.

 
At 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a cyclist (on weekends mainly)and understand why the "true believers" are upset. However the judge(s) logic are/were correct. Regardless of how "good" the merits of the project, CEQA requires that a project be reviewed in totality, not as increments.

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"The fact that you wear sweatpants to the court room shows how much respect you have for this process."

If I was a lawyer appearing before the judge in sweatpants, that would be seen as disrespectful, but there is no dress code for spectators. I do in fact respect Judge Busch, who I think is a very intelligent guy.

"Get a life, move on, and find a real issue to care about. Don't waste all of our money on your baseless and idiotic court case."

Screwing up traffic for thousands of people in SF, where I live, isn't "a real issue"? I've spent no money on the litigation, since I have no money. In fact, my attorney is doing the case pro bono on the assumption that she will be able to file for fees if she wins, which she did after we won the initial phase of the litigation.

You show your ignorance when you call the litigation "baseless," since there's a better than even chance that the Judge will rule in our favor on the EIR issue.

 
At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On Streetsblog you write...

"If the city had started doing the EIR way back in 2005 as we urged them to do, the Bicycle Plan would have been implemented by now."

OK, so instead the city started the EIR much later. But it's done. If the 2005 start would have resulted in the plan being implemented, what's the issue now?

 
At 2:25 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You pop over to my blog from Streetsblog and don't even bother to read the latest blog post, which mentions that very issue: the adequacy of the EIR is now the only thing being litigated. The EIR has already told us that the Bicycle Plan is going to screw up traffic and delay Muni on a number of city streets. But as Judge Busch said yesterday using more discreet language, If San Francisco insists on screwing up its traffic with dumb policies, they have the right to do it.

 
At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In other words, you don't really care if the EIR is adequate or not, you just want to delay the policy, and you know you can't win in the end, but you are pursuing this campaign anyway.

 
At 3:38 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I think our challenge to the adequacy of the EIR, if successful, will improve it by forcing the city to do a lot better in mitigating the effects of the Bicycle Plan, which could mean changing parts of the project or not implementing parts of it at all, especially where it's going to slow down Muni lines.

 
At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the city plans to mitigate the MUNI delays by just eliminating the MUNI lines. If there isn't a bus - it can't be delayed.

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Now that the bike people's enablers in City Hall have made encouraging cycling part of how Transit First is defined in the City Charter, even delaying our actual transit system can be rationalized as consistent with Transit First.

 
At 6:57 AM, Blogger Lex said...

It shouldn't be called "Transit First." The real name is "Bicycles First."

 
At 9:32 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Bicycles uber alles

 
At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anderson wrote, "I think our challenge to the adequacy of the EIR, if successful, will improve it by forcing the city to do a lot better in mitigating the effects of the Bicycle Plan,"

One hopes the EIR's conclusions revealing the disastrous consequences of "Shanum's Folly" drives a stake in the heart of her legacy of lunacy.

With Newsome leaving soon, maybe he'll "zip up", and cut off the influence of Shanum's lips, (forked) tongue(s), and throat on pubic policy "coming" (so to speak) from the mayor's office.

For myself, the biggest disappointment is the opportunity lost. Instead of (literally!) "sucking up" to the mayor, "Shanum's Crazies" might've advanced the cause. They might've considered the benefits and costs to all stakeholders, while still advocating cyclists' needs and concerns

Instead, the zealots got greedy. They "won the battle" of a "waiver" on an EIR, and EIR approval of the "first cut." However, the greater the zealot's success, the greater the detrimental impact, and the easier for Anderson and allies to muster opposition.

Instead of pissing off every other road user, instead of pissing away millions on worthless and dangerous streetscape modifications, maybe Shanum could swallow just one more load to advocate the biggest, best-est cycling improvement of all:

FILL THE DAMN POTHOLES, ALREADY, GAVIN, FILL THE DAMN POTHOLES!

 
At 5:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Unfortunately, Newsom seems as completely sold on the bicycle fantasy as Shahum herself, even though she and many of her comrades have always been contemptuous of him. Since he's likely to be elected Lieutenant Governor in November, the progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors will be selecting his successor, and he will surely be another bike zealot.

Shahum and the present leadership of the SFBC apparently never saw the litigation against the Bicycle Plan as anything but obstructionism by a few grouchy old folks. It evidently never occurred to them or their City Hall allies that they had to obey the same laws as people who don't ride bikes.

I've documented how Dave Snyder laid out the strategy the city ended up following---a strategy that was clearly illegal, which I think they knew very well.

You're absolutely right about the dismal condition of so many of our streets, which is more dangerous for cyclists than motorists.

 
At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To paraphrase a friend's words, I think whatever the city does to make it easier for bicyclists is great. I pointed out that he has a 2 car garage, does not commute in any sense of the word, and he absolutely depends on his car to see clients spread all over the city. He is also in perfect health and never had the pleasure of getting around with a disability, though all his clients are disabled. Perhaps litigation could invoke the Americans with Disabilities Act and the adverse effects of a "bike first" plan on the elderly and disabled. Was this issue raised? What choice other than litigation against a critical mass of self-interest in any issue, if the democratic process is corrupted?

 
At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

O'nutto urinater: Our friend Ross has provided a free porta-potty for day laborers but accessable to all at Oak just down from Divisadero-part of his beautification profect.

 
At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What choice other than litigation when a critical mass of self- interst corrupts the democratic process? Is it magical thinking when a person insists that what is good for bikes is good for everyone? My friend owns a 2-car garage and is completely dependant on his car to see his clients spread all over the ciy. His clients are all disabled and could never ride a bike, yet he makes the claim about bikes. He seldom rides MUNI and never rides a bus for work. Was the Americans with Disibilities Act part of the litigation against the bike plan?

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, the bike people indulge in "magical thinking," just like all ideologues, whether Christianist, Islamist, Marxist, etc. The American Disabilities Act might be the basis for future litigation, but it wasn't part of this case, which only sought to force the city to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan. Now that that EIR tells us exactly what we thought it would say---traffic and Muni on a number of busy city streets is going to be screwed up on behalf of cyclists---we are challenging whether the EIR itself is prepared according to the law (CEQA) that governs such studies.

Yes, the assumption by cyclists is that everyone can or should ride a bicycle. Cyclists showed little interest to the issue of the elderly, the very young, or the handicapped when they opposed the garage under the Concourse in Golden Gate Park; for them the issue was all about anti-carism, even though the ballot proposition passed by city voters was also about making access to the park easier for everyone.

The latest battle in the ongoing Jihad against motor vehicles in SF: UC wants to build a parking garage on Sutter Street near its medical facilities on Divisadero. Like, why can't all these cancer patients, nurses, and doctors ride bikes instead? Fortunately for them, as a state agency UC doesn't have to conform to the PC specifications laid down by our rulers here in Progressive Land, and, in spite of the bike people's disapproval, they'll build the parking garage anyhow, just like they did near Hastings College a few years ago.

 
At 1:19 AM, Anonymous Paul said...

"Yes, the assumption by cyclists is that everyone can or should ride a bicycle."

That's bullshit and you know it. Really, do you think the ADA applies to bicycle infrastructure any more so than automotive infrastructure? People who are too feeble or physically unable to ride a bike probably shouldn't be driving either. Children can't legally drive, but as most people who have been children know, riding a bicycle is not very difficult. Suggesting that people shouldn't ride bikes because it's "dangerous" or "hard" is just stupid. Nobody in their right mind would suggest that everyone can or should ride a bike, but it's equally ridiculous to suggest that nobody who doesn't subscribe to our "religion" will ever substitute a single automobile trip with a bike ride. Why is it so difficult for you to concede that most people might benefit from a bike ride every now and then?

"Fortunately for them, as a state agency UC doesn't have to conform to the PC specifications laid down by our rulers here in Progressive Land, and, in spite of the bike people's disapproval, they'll build the parking garage anyhow, just like they did near Hastings College a few years ago."

This is basically the height of hypocrisy. You've claimed all along that your litigation against the city is procedural, and that all you want is for the city to own up to the potential impacts of the Bike Plan on traffic and public transportation. But here you are, chiding the city for neglecting to do an EIR and insulting people who oppose the construction of a giant parking structure on the same grounds and relishing in the fact that UC can just go ahead and build it without having to conform to CEQA. Pot, kettle, black.

Is it that hard for you to understand the concept of induced demand, and that providing more parking encourages more people to drive, which in turn puts more cars on the streets and has the very likely potential to increase traffic congestion? This is not rocket science. The same logic that leads one to believe that replacing car lanes with bike lanes will increase traffic is even more directly applicable to the construction of new roads and parking structures, since these induce demand for automobiles while actively discouraging other modes of transportation by putting more cars on the road.

The only reason to oppose the bike lanes while lobbying for unnecessarily large parking structures is an ideological bias against cyclists. You don't really care about traffic; all you care about is making sure that cyclists don't get what they want because they're part of that big, evil, "progressive" machine. With that attitude is it really any surprise that you're one of the only critics of the Bike Plan? Deep down, I think that even your buddies like Lex know that your campaign to endlessly delay cycling infrastructure is a fool's errand. It's going to happen one day, whether you like it or not—and if you don't, well, there are dozens of places to live right here in the Bay Area where I'm sure that you can find plenty of old, crotchety SFGate commenters who think just like you do. SF politics got you down? Maybe it's time to consider moving.

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Maybe it's time for you to consider kissing my ass.

 

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