Market/Octavia Bike Lane Will Stay for Now

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In a ruling cheered by bicycle advocates, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch today rejected the MTA's request to modify the bike injunction to allow the removal of the eastbound Market Street bike lane and concrete island at Octavia Boulevard, the city's most dangerous intersection for bicyclists. 

"The question that confronts me in dealing with all this is in a few months, presumably, the city is going to have its bike plan done and presumably at that point the city is then going to do what it wants as a city otherwise can," said Busch. 

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition along with many bicyclists, elected officials and others have argued that removing the bike lane and merging bicycle and car traffic would worsen conditions for bicyclists. The MTA says at least 15 crashes have been reported at the intersection in the last three years between cyclists and drivers making illegal right turns onto Highway 101.

Busch also denied requests to add improvements to the bicycle route on Third Street and to install bike racks at Church and Market Streets and Dolores and Guerrero at 18th. He did, however, allow the MTA to go ahead and add sharrows and other improved markings and signage to Folsom, Market, Valencia and Polk Streets. 

Attorney Audrey Pearson, representing the city attorney's office, argued that immediate changes were needed at Market and Octavia.

"People are still illegally turning right. I would admit that number has gone down significantly since we put in the traffic island but it's obviously not zero otherwise we wouldn't be here," said Pearson. 

But in rejecting the motion, Busch said: "I don't think an adequate case has been made that there's a public safety crisis."

"I think the injunction has to mean something. It has to be an effective control on the city's desire, which led to the injunction, to break out pieces of an overall bike plan. I think it is important and appropriate to go through with the entire EIR project for the later bike plan, to have that done."

Pearson countered that she wasn't confident the injunction would be lifted after the EIR was certified because she expects the plaintiff's attorney, Mary Miles, to challenge it.

"It would be presumptuous of the city to assume that the court's going to lift the injunction as soon as the EIR is certified. If the court wants to give me that assurance that would be great, but I just don't see that. So we do have urgent, safety matters here. These are safety issues. These are not just let's put some bike lanes on the street."

Outside the courtroom, Leah Shahum,  SFBC's executive director, said she was relieved by the Market/Octavia decision.

"I think the judge made a wise decision. I think he pointed out some very fair points that the city did not make a strong case and did not show evidence that their proposal would make the intersection safer."

Shahum said she felt the judge understood the "city's hands have been tied for too long on safety improvements citywide" and vowed to hold the city to its time line of certifying the EIR by spring.

In a separate decision, Busch denied a motion by Miles to hold the city in contempt over her contention it needed to amend the General Plan to reflect language that existed before the bike plan was adopted. 

Busch seemed increasingly irritated with Miles and had to repeatedly ask her not to talk over him.

Flickr photo: sfbike