Friday, September 10, 2010

The city retaliates for Bicycle Plan litigation

John Upton's story in today's Examiner (below in italics) essentially buys the city's version of events when it calls me a "car activist" and refers to bike lanes as "improvements" to city streets. I haven't owned a car in more than 20 years, and the litigation was not about cars per se; it was about city traffic in general---cars, buses, trucks, and emergency vehicles, all of which will be stuck in slower traffic after the city takes away 56 traffic lanes and more than 2,000 parking spaces on city streets to make bike lanes. This will benefit the often-obnoxious minority in the city that ride bikes, but it won't be an "improvement" for the overwhelming majority of city residents and others who use city streets.

And it's inaccurate to write that the EIR on the Bicycle Plan concluded "that implementation of the plan could cause some traffic impacts,"[emphasis added] since one of Upton's colleagues, Mike Aldax, found otherwise after an in-depth analysis of the Plan's impacts in an Examiner story last year:

However, an extensive environmental review of the plan facing certification by the Planning Commission this week---an important step toward an official groundbreaking---warns the changes would bring congestion spikes, slow Muni vehicles and shrink street-parking options in key areas. Twenty-seven intersections, some heavily trafficked, were identified in the environmental review as those in which bike improvements would create an “unavoidable significant impact” to street congestion.
These problems would of course be avoidable if the Plan isn't implemented on the busy streets Aldax mentions in the story. Matt Dorsey refers to the code of Civil Procedure, but the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is the relevant law, since it allows plaintiffs to assemble the administrative record to avoid exactly the kind of excessive costs city is trying to collect---and to prevent this kind of intimidation/retaliation against public interest litigation to enforce the most important environmental law in the State of California.

The city's bike people like to think they are the good guys, making the world a better place by using a sustainable transportation "mode." But the dark side of the bike movement is nicely represented by the City Attorney's bullying behavior. A number of individual cyclists routinely intimidate pedestrians, and they all get together to bully everyone on city streets on the last Friday of every month with Critical Mass. And then you have the ongoing attempt by militant cyclists to shut down the Arco gas station at Fell and Divisadero, which will be happening again tonight as it does every Friday night.
By: John Upton September 10, 2010

SF Examiner The City is demanding tens of thousands of dollars in court-related expenses from a pro-car group whose legal maneuvers forced cyclists and motorists to share lanes citywide for five years. Rob Anderson formed the Coalition for Adequate Review and took The City to court after lawmakers approved a bike plan in 2005, arguing that California’s environmental laws required the plan’s impacts to be thoroughly analyzed. Anderson won, and implementation of the bike plan---which included creation of new bike lanes and installation of bike racks and other improvements citywide---was delayed by a court-ordered injunction pending completion of an environmental impactreport.

Following years of analysis, a lengthy report concluded that implementation of the plan could cause some traffic impacts. A judge allowed The City to roll out a small number of bicycle projects last year, and the bike plan injunction was fully lifted in August, after the report was certified, leading to a proliferation of green bike lanes in San Francisco.

Despite Anderson’s victory, San Francisco is demanding that the coalition cover costs related to preparation and delivery of administrative legal documents. “The recovery of these costs, which total $51,959, is authorized by the California Code of Civil Procedure,” city attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey said in an e-mail. “Aggressively pursuing the fullest possible recovery of The City’s costs in litigation is a standard practice by the City Attorney’s Office.”

Anderson, who said he lives on Social Security payments and can’t afford the hefty bill, said the coalition elected to do the administrative work itself to avoid the costs. “It’s just an attempt to bully us, to punish us for daring to bring a suit against The City here in progressive land,” Anderson said.

The coalition filed court documents Wednesday opposing the demanded payment.
jupton@sfexaminer.com

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