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

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

    LOL! Join the club!

  • The attorney for the city stated “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.”

    It seems obvious that the current design was a big improvement and has prevented many from getting injured when compared to the original MTA design. But when is the MTA going to finally tell the rate of injury since the current design was implemented compared to previous rate. Perhaps it is not 0, but is it just 1 person over many months??? They seem to take the Dick Cheney view of not allowing relevant info to be released.

  • Except that Miles lawsuit uncovered demonstrable impacts on MUNI service caused by removal of auto lanes at certain segments of the bicycle network.

    It irritates me as a cyclist and transit rider that other cyclists would be so cavalier about ignoring the balance between bikes and transit, because slower transit means more cars on the street, more cars on the streets means slower traffic still which leads to crankier motorists and more dangerous cycling.

    All roads on livable streets lead to the MUNI. Until MUNI is attractive, then peds, cyclists and other motorists will suffer. MUNI is made attractive by, amongst other things, efficiency and timeliness. We achieve this by lowering barriers to beneficial effects by keeping fares low and service proximate, facilitating projects such as bus lanes, BRT, TPS while raising the barriers to bad effects which would involve reducing extra loads on the system through such (nonexistent) policies as tying the entitlement of housing units with parking to an increase in ongoing operations funding and capital expenditures that mitigate those impacts, that we stick to transit oriented parking maxima.

    My read is that the dollar cost of each additional car on the streets when played out over the dollar value of each time increment of delay that each MUNI rider eats would be substantial, much greater than the proposed ATG impact fee that would calculate the cost of each auto on climate change and charge project sponsors an impact fee which would probably be very small.

    Whether or not you support the MTA’s bogus plan, by his actions in denying an “improvement” that was supposed to promote safety at that intersection, Judge Busch has taken responsibility for the next auto bike collision at that intersection.

    Any blood spilled will be on his hands.

    -marc

  • Marcos:

    Two points– your ‘this or that’ attitude between Muni and bikes is incorrect. Could some bike projects reduce the efficiency of Muni? Of course; however, keep in mind two factors: ‘acceptable’ slowing, according to Muni, is 6 minutes for bike or other street projects. That’s a pretty big window. The other is that a Complete Citywide Bike Network, just like Muni, serves the public good and is, for all intents and purposes, not of a lower value as the Muni network. They are both Public Transit Networks and de-prioritizing bikes to below Muni is irresponsible. Just as the MTA and SF Planning and Muni have worked to find ways to work Muni with cars, they can also do so with bikes (and vice-versa).

    For the second point: If this planning decision is about lawsuits and responsibility, had Judge Busch allowed the city to remove the barrier that has resulted in ‘dramatic reductions of the illegal right turn’, wouldn’t that make him even more responsible if someone gets hurt at the intersection?

  • Wow Marcos.

    Nothing works in a vacuum. The EIR is not, and cannot be accurate to .0001 percent anyway – if that was the requirement we better just all throw in the towel.

    If better cycling infrastructure moves people from cars to bikes, the impact on MUNI citywide from that is that MUNI will run better. Cars are the number one impact to MUNI’s schedule, not bikes, not reducing traffic lanes. Less cars on the road lowering traffic that backs up MUNI. More importantly, one less car that will decide to double park in front of a MUNI bus instead of someone parking their bike at a bike rack. Heck, we can even include one less person boarding MUNI if you want to, if some will switch from transit to bikes.

    Not to mention that a bike auto collision caused by an unsafe road has far more impact on all traffic!

  • MUNI exists on a relatively fixed alignment and is subject in a systemic manner to delays. These delays can lead to more cars on the road.

    MUNI is also under multi front attack, both in the fiscal sense and by delays of varying etiologies.

    Believe it or not, you CAN ride a bicycle on any street in the CIty other than the freeways, not just the bicycle network.

    In other words, cycling in San Francisco does not begin on Healthy Saturdays and end on a bike lane, cycling is (an hopefully integral) part of an interconnected transportation network. To the extent that we don’t think strategically about the big picture and only push our provincial interests driven by a healthy dose of groupthink, then we risk unintended side effects that might do more damage to cycling safety than doing nothing at all.

    There is enough blame to go around for the EIR injunction. Since we’re not going to blame the City Attorney, MTA, MEA/ERO and SFBC, then can’t we at least blame the judge?

    Anderson and MIles did us a favor by insisting that the law be honored and that environmental impacts be studied. Auto LOS is a joke, but delay of MUNI is a legitimate, significant environmental impact caused by the removal of an auto lane for a bike lane.

    SF Planning has done everything it can to avoid comprehensive transportation and land use planning and shed internal expertise on transportation planning. Market/Octavia is vacuous on transportation planning, Eastern Neighborhoods punts to the TEP. Western SOMA is the first comprehensive neighborhood plan that tries to integrate transportation and land use planning. That integration effort is on life support, prognosis poor now as developer lobbyists exert political pressure on the community to generate a developer friendly plan which will mean more development, more cars and more delays for MUNI more cars on the street and worse cycling.

    This city is corrupt as relates to land use and that corruption results in privileging the land use envelope over concerns for the transportation networks that serve them because for some reason bus riders and bicyclists don’t contribute as much to campaign coffers as developers do.

    -marc

  • Rob B

    The drivers are at fault at this intersection, not lawful cyclists. If the drivers are turning illegally the city should be more aggressive in enforcement rather than punishing cyclists. What happened to the camera idea that was floated previously?

  • You lost me at “an hopefully integral” . . .

  • Michael,

    Dick Cheney says:

    16 bicycle collisions since Octavia Boulevard opened in September 2005. 6 since the concrete island was installed in December 2007.

  • Andy,

    Sorry that you are so easily confused, but since we can consider the 2000s as bicycling’s “lost decade” in San Francisco, perhaps there is a correlation between your confusion and policy stasis?

    -marc

  • “Auto LOS is a joke, but delay of MUNI is a legitimate, significant environmental impact caused by the removal of an auto lane for a bike lane.”

    You can’t have the LOS issue both ways, Marc, since autos and Muni—along with trucks and emergency vehicles—share the same streets. If you take away a traffic lane on a busy street to make a bike lane, you are going to screw up traffic for Muni. There are a number of proposed projects in the DEIR that, in the report’s words, are going to have “significant unavoidable impacts” on traffic and transit, which is what we’ve been saying all along.

    “There is enough blame to go around for the EIR injunction. Since we’re not going to blame the City Attorney, MTA, MEA/ERO and SFBC, then can’t we at least blame the judge?”

    No, you can’t blame the judge. He didn’t have any choice, since CEQA is really a simple, clear law: developers and governments must do environmental review of any project that even might have a negative impact on the environment. The 500-page Bicycle Plan, obviously a “project” by any reasonable definition, surely could have an impact on the city’s traffic and thus an impact on the environment.

    You can blame the Planning Dept., the Planning Commission, and the Board of Supervisors for trying to push the Bicycle Plan through the process with no environmental review, even though we warned them every step of the way that what they were doing was illegal. You can’t really blame the City Attorney’s office, since they were simply doing what they’re supposed to do: defend the city’s policy in court. But you can blame the City Attorney’s office for doing so in a particularly stupid and nasty manner. They might have stopped the long, expensive litigation process at any time if they had said to the Board of Supervisors something like this: “Look, this is a losing case. Why not settle now by agreeing to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan and saving everyone a lot of time and the taxpayers a lot of money?”

    That this was a losing case for the city should have been obvious as soon as we got the original injunction from Judge Warren way back in June, 2006. The only way you can get an injunction is by convincing the judge that you are likely to eventually prevail in a hearing on the merits of a case. We also showed Warren that the city was continuing to implement the Plan piecemeal, street by street, even as the litigation went forward, which could have rendered our case more or less moot by the time we got to the hearing. Hence, the injunction.

    The SFBC shares some of the blame for this fiasco, since they never believed the city should have had to do any environmental review of the Bicycle Plan at all. After the first injunction, they consistently maintained that we were twistng CEQA for anti-environmental purposes, which is simply not the case.

    The city and the SFBC were simply wrong every step of the way on this issue. They tried to rush the Plan through the process on the assumption that no one was going to challenge them. We busted them and they lost. Now we have an EIR on the Bicycle Plan and everyone—including city neighborhoods—presumably understands what the city and the SFBC want to do to their streets. Later this year the BOS will have to decide how far it’s willing to screw up our streets on behalf of a PC minority of cyclists. It should be interesting.

  • the greasybear

    Anderson–by halting appropriate legal management of San Francisco’s ongoing urban cycling revolution, you have all but ensured our local cycling culture shall indefinitely retain its anarchistic, outlaw DIY status for years to come.

    When thousands of new cyclists have been pointedly ignored and rebuked by the law, then you can only watch impotently as those thousands of cyclists hold the law itself in very low regard–now and in the future.

    Other American cities tamed their cyclists and co-opted the rebellious aspects of the urban cycling revolution that broke out over the last three years–but not here. Here, without planning and regulation, we take the space we need on the routes we prefer whenever it suits us, painted lines be damned. Frustrated motorists can blame you personally for your legacy: cementing open rebellion into the DNA of San Francisco’s new army of bicycle commuters. Old habits die hard. You have personally become a vector for a super-strain of chaos in the streets, carried from bay to breakers on two terrifying wheels.

    Personally, I hope you can make cycling even more rebellious than it now is–I rather enjoy how your obstructionism brings out the DIY ethic in today’s cyclists, and has made cycling itself especially appealing to the most anarchistic and rebellious among us. You are a true hero of chaos and anarchy. I shall cut off a bus today in your honor.

  • “When thousands of new cyclists have been pointedly ignored and rebuked by the law, then you can only watch impotently as those thousands of cyclists hold the law itself in very low regard–now and in the future.”

    So it’s all my fault when cyclists behave like jerks on city streets? A substantial number of cyclists on SF streets have always behaved like jerks, as if the traffic laws that everyone else has to follow don’t apply to them. The city of SF behaved like jerks when they tried to push the Bicycle Plan project through the process without any environmental review. Critical Mass is a monthly demonstration of cyclists’ contempt for the law. All of this undermines public goodwill for the bike people even here in Progressive Land, where you are often rightly seen as Punks on Bikes.

  • aside from the obvious irony of a bike plan stopped by e.review what is really going on here is a violation of the separation of powers. in spite of prop e which has not been challenged and its sad convolusion of appropriate authority, street design is legislative issue. the judge has no right to tell the city how to design its streets. i mean why have elected officials if they can’t decide such a basic thing as how people move through the city. this is a political question, not a judicial one.

    traffic engineering and the law-suit are based upon taking the right of the people to decide how to move away. even though the judge made the right decision here he did so by happenstance, not by democratic process.

    the state legislature and local supervisors have already decided they want bike transportation. it is no place of the judge or any individual to tell them otherwise. this story will never be told or heard really because funded bike advocates don’t care. for the last couple years the opportunity has existed to intervene in the law-suit, or petition for an order to end it. yet still the rallys continue and meaningful substantive speech does not exist. the rally worked this time due to the decision of one judge a decision that wasn’t even his to make but never mind such details start working on the next press release and praying that this sad mess doesn’t drag out for however many more years.

    what’s really sad is seeing copycat law-suits in other states. sf the birthplace of critical mass is again sharing only this time sharing the dysfunction of a strong people fighting for a just cause who cannot speak.

    somebody give the judge a blinky light and some stickers. somebody tell him how in one of the greatest cities in the world with an extraordinarily competent and well organized advocacy movement, the people have to stand in the streets and beg that places recently made more safe for bikes won’t be made more dangerous again so they will be more safe if somebody does break the law. you know making it more dangerous so it will be more safe. make sense right? like an environmental law-suit that stops bicycle improvements.

    these things only make sense if you don’t speak or if speech regarding the issues is 2min public comment or back room anacronym jabbering or crying on the street corner with a hand-painted sign. its almost painful to envision what would be if sf advocates did put any resources towards substantive speech…but never mind all that hire another coordinator…plan another strategic retreat.

  • “traffic engineering and the law-suit are based upon taking the right of the people to decide how to move away. even though the judge made the right decision here he did so by happenstance, not by democratic process.”

    You want the “democratic process” on the Bicycle Plan? The Bicycle Coalition threatened to put it on the ballot last year, which I encouraged them to do. After years of Critical Mass and punk behavior on city streets, do you really think city voters would vote for the Bicycle Plan? The Bicycle Coalition, alas, decided not to put it to a vote, no doubt because they knew they would probably lose.

  • LOS for autos and LOS for MUNI are considered separately in CEQA analysis.

    The irony here is that the people responsible for delaying the bike plan were those who tried to take a shortcut around the required CEQA steps. The matter is settled now that the EIR revealed impacts on MUNI because CEQA lunacy aside, those are real world significant impacts. The judge was correct, Anderson’s suit had merit, irony is no excuse for ignoring the law although maybe it should be?

    The City and SFBC could have done it right the first time. As odious as Anderson’s policy positions are on the transportation merits, tne notion that any American should ever be denied his/her day in court to challenge illegal governmental decision making just because it is not convenient to others should be anathema to any thoughtful observer. This applies all the more to people like Anderson whose views are in the minority.

    A carefully crafted ballot measure on the bike network which would obviate CEQA would encounter little organized opposition and would most likely pass, assuming that the campaign leadership team did not have a tin ear when it came to political strategy.

    Since the paid cycling staffers cannot get their heads around how they failed on the 2002 Bike Plan Update, and since they have been unable to craft a strategy to move on issues not enjoined by the court, then they are disqualified from leading a ballot measure or much of anything dealing with bike policy in San Francisco.

    Irony of ironies, the SFBC’s membership has close to DOUBLED since the injunction was put into place, a perverse rewarding of failure.

    -marc

  • “A carefully crafted ballot measure on the bike network which would obviate CEQA would encounter little organized opposition and would most likely pass, assuming that the campaign leadership team did not have a tin ear when it came to political strategy.”

    I’m not sure that a ballot measure would “obviate” CEQA, but it sure would be interesting. “Most likely” pass? Not at all clear, given the bike people’s tendency to misbehavior on city streets individually and collectively (Critical Mass). But the SF Bicycle Coalition won’t risk a ballot measure. What if it lost? Almost as bad, what if it passed with 51% of the vote? Still not good enough if what you want to do is put the squeeze on city drivers by taking away street parking and traffic lanes. You need a mandate, which you bike people don’t really have. Binder interviews paid for by the SFBC are not a particularly impressive mandate.

  • Ballot measures that get on the ballot by certain processes and which put forth certain policies are categorically exempt from CEQA review. The SFBC does one thing right, and that is grow their membership. It takes fewer than 8000 signatures to put a measure on the ballot. That could happen within a few weeks.

    CEQA is in place not to protect the environment, but to let decision makers know of the “environmental” consequences of a project and to facilitate and encourage mitigation measures. Thus, concealing the fact that certain segments of the Bicycle Lane Network would slow down MUNI, which is what happened with the General Rule Exclusion was applied to the plan, is what made the judge mad.

    When the voters are acting as the legislature, then the voters are privileged and under certain circumstances, any project so approved is exempt from environmental review.

    Once the EIR is certified, the discussion shifts to what really bugs Anderson, the social impacts of removing auto lanes for bicycles and MUNI.

    Whether or not the SFBC would be as competent in managing a contentious ballot measure campaign as they have been in growing their membership is another question entirely.

    Such ballot measures need 50%+1 vote to pass, not a mandate, and to my knowledge, no consideration was given to a ballot measure which approved all of the projects, just to one which approved the plan under which each project would need MTA/BoS approval.

    The only reason why Anderson has any traction is not because he is smart or correct on the policy merits, rather that our advocates are strategically challenged.

    -marc