Saturday, February 01, 2014

The bicycle movement's contempt for the law

Dave Snyder, Luke Thomas photo 

This from Steve Jones in the Bay Guardian:

[Assemblyman]Ting is working on the issue with the California Bicycle Coalition, whose executive director Dave Snyder is a longtime San Francisco bike activist. Snyder says Caltrans doesn’t allow bike lanes that include physical barriers against traffic, even though they are widely used in other countries and states and considered to be safest design for cyclists. “San Francisco is technically breaking the law because they have the best traffic engineers in the state and a good City Attorney’s Office and they know they can defend it in court if they have to,” Snyder said. “Most places in the state won’t do that.”

Snyder is more than a "bike activist." Before the advent of Leah Shahum, he was head of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition for 11 years. (Shahum had her life-changing bike epiphany at Critical Mass, which is now an institutionalized flouting of city traffic laws.)

Like a lot of bike zealots, Snyder has little respect for the law as he pushes that agenda, since he formulated the city's unsuccessful, illegal strategy to push the Bicycle Plan through the process to avoid the environmental review clearly required by the law. From a 2004 email message from Snyder to a city employee:

We've deliberately bifurcated the bike planning process into two sections: the "bicycle policy plan" and the "bicycle network plan." The "policy plan" refers to bicycle parking requirements, education and enforcement policies, etc. In terms of changes to the street network, it says, only very generally, "we need to make improvements to the streets that connect every neighborhood to every other neighborhood with safe streets for people on bicycles." However, it makes no specific references to what kinds of changes we will make on which streets, and therefore, by itself, cannot by its nature have an environmental impact and is exempt from CEQA. In CEQA parlance, it's a "plan" not a "project." Nobody will contest this...The "network plan" on the other hand, could have an environmental impact. At some time this year, a complete network plan will be developed that contemplates hundreds of new bicycle lanes and paths throughout the city...It is this document, the "bicycle network plan," which is subject to CEQA review...However, as each of its pieces goes for approval, the Planning Department's MEA[Major Environmental Analysis] office can review those changes on their own and in the context of the whole plan. The first set of projects you'll get will have little or no traffic impact and therefore could either be categorically exempt from environmental review or clearly subject to a neg. dec. (Administrative Record, Volume 5, pages 941-942).

And that's exactly what the city tried to do: Over our objections, it rushed the Framework Document through the process and made it part of the General Plan and hid the Network Document---which was nothing but plans for redesigning specific city streets---at the SFCTA. Judge Busch gave this subterfuge short shrift in his decision against the city.

While he led the Bicycle Coalition, Snyder opposed the parking garage under the Concourse in Golden Gate Park---which has since become a huge success---brandishing his anti-car credentials with statements like this in 2000: "the most pernicious form of urban pressure: the automobile."

It's not surprising that Snyder thinks the City Attorney's office is "good." Dennis Herrera confessed several years ago that he advised the city to do an environmental review of the Bicycle Plan before the litigation was filed. When City Hall ignored his advice, like a good soldier he and his department fought that losing case tenaciously, wasting a lot of taxpayers' money in the process.

Although Snyder has never been anything but a bike guy, with the help of San Francisco progressives, he's reinvented himself as a transportation expert who now sits on the Golden Gate Bridge district board.

Thanks to Meter Madness for the link.

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At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Assembly Bill 1193 — which would legalize and set design standards for cycletracks — cleared the Assembly yesterday [Wed/29] and is now awaiting action by the Senate."

Great to see this! Let's get this passed and get California's standards up to those set in San Francisco. Good to see SF leading the way on promoting bicycling!

At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

so funny how you say the city wasted taxpayer money. the projects you contest are being built now. you are the one who wasted taxpayer $$$

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Wrong! The city should have simply done the legally required environmental review of the Bicycle Plan in the first place, which was what the court decision against the city found.

That's where things went wrong. Our litigation was not about the merits of the Plan's projects, about which I remain skeptical, to put it mildly. We tried to warn the city way back in 2005, but were dismissed rather contemptuously by both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

When the EIR the court ordered the city to do was completed, it concluded, as we suspected, that the Bicycle Plan will in fact have an impact on the city (see this also).

The city then argued successfully that encouraging cycling in San Francisco is an adequate "overriding consideration" that justifies screwing up traffic for everyone but cyclists.

At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Figure Snyder would have been there when the SFBC gave the 2010 Bike Commuter of the Year award to your old sparing buddy Murphstahoe.

Typical of his kind, it seems Murphs has done a Chris Daley and "commuted" his family off to the suburbs, these kind that during the very brief time they're in SF they want permanent alterations made to give them privilege, special bike lanes, streets blocked off for suburban cul-de-sacs, car-free living.

Not being in SF any longer hasn't kept him from pontificating on what the City needs to do, but one would expect that from the urban bicyclist award winners.

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Actually, this is the link I meant to put in the last comment: Bicyclists primary beneficiaries of the Bicycle Plan.

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bicycle plan was bad enough. Now they're trying to push through this ridiculous Plan Zero plan that's intended to keep pedestrians from getting killed. Who will benefit? You guessed it, only pedestrians, at everyone else's expense! I'm tired of catering to these special interests like pedestrians! Who died and made them king?

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

And bicyclists continue to ignore laws they don't like. This isn't news. That bike-think is etched in the upper echelons of city gov't - also not news. Of course, the 95% of us not commuting on bikes don't seem to care enough to do anything about it...

At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Driver hit pedestrian yesterday in Sunset who was in crosswalk.

Driver hit/run on Van Ness last night.

Tell me again about cyclists...

At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, the 95% of us not commuting on bikes don't seem to care enough to do anything about it...

But you do care enough to cry about it. And your tears of sorrow, they are so delicious!

At 12:11 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Odd that neither the Bicycle Coalition nor City Hall are interested in the UC study that found a radical under-count of serious cycling accidents in the city: Using trauma center data to identify missed bicycle injuries and their associated costs.

After reading the full report, by my reckoning the city failed to count 1,377 serious cycling accidents in SF between 2000 and 2009. The under-count happened because the city has been relying only on police reports of accidents and ignoring accidents treated at SF General.

I suspect that the MTA is interested, which is probably why its annual Collision Report is long overdue.

If the city is under-counting cycling accidents, is it also under-counting pedestrian and other accidents? Everyone interested in the safety of city streets needs to ensure that all accidents are being counted and analyzed to learn how to prevent future accidents.

At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone interested in the safety of city streets needs to ensure that all accidents are being counted and analyzed to learn how to prevent future accidents.

How would this better data help us? Please elucidate!

At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points Rob. We need to slam the brakes on these ridiculous pedestrian safety improvements until we know for sure how many pedestrians are actually are getting hurt and killed. It might all be media hype, or, then again, it might be the pedestrians' fault for getting killed. Either way, let's wait a few decades before doing something that might inconvenience drivers.

At 4:54 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Somewhere in your tiny little brain you know that you're stupid and dishonest. That's why you're anonymous.

Here's a link to another document you can ignore: the MTA's annual Collision Report. You don't really even have to read it. Just riff quickly through the pages---it's only 32 pages long---and you can see that pages 8 through 16 discuss specific streets and intersections, those the city found had the most accidents.

What the MTA tries to do is figure out why more accidents happen at specific intersections, which is where most accidents happen. That's why it's important for the city to know where the most accidents are happening, so it can figure out which changes can be made to make them safer.

At 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Damn cyclists!

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw this posted by a Streetsblog person on another site. Is this true regarding Polk Street? I hope not.

"The Planners presented a plan to the MTA Board that included a bike lane to Sacramento and no bike lane after that. The Board sent them back to the drawing board, rightfully so. Vice Chairman of the Board, Cheryl Brinkman said:

“We need to be willing to step up and make those hard decisions, and understand that what we see as the needs for transportation in the city, may not jive with what we’re hearing loudly expressed in certain areas,” she said. ”We do need to step up say, ‘No, we need to re-allocate space, it has been mis-allocated for so long.’”


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