Judge Issues Order Allowing Ten First-Year Bike Projects to Go Forward

Picture_4.jpgUnder the judge’s order, the MTA can only install 3.7 of the 14 miles of bike lanes it had hoped to paint in the first year. Flickr photo: Doubletee

A San Francisco judge issued an order [PDF] modifying the three-year-old bike injunction late Wednesday afternoon, refusing to dissolve it completely, but allowing the "most easily reversible" projects to go forward. It means 10 of the 21 first-year Bike Plan projects — or about 3.7 miles of new bike lanes — outlined by the MTA can begin, and when completed, will mark the most significant improvements bicyclists have seen on the streets of San Francisco since the injunction was first issued in June 2006.

"With the huge demand for biking improvements, we’re disappointed that the Court didn’t completely remove the handcuffs, but we’re pleased that some streets can now be improved for biking," said Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. "A three-year backlog means San Francisco has some serious catching up to do and we are eager for this dark cloud over sustainable transportation to be completely lifted."

In his order, Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch said the completion and certification of the Bike Plan EIR had "changed the circumstances," but he disagreed with the City Attorney’s argument "that the proper response is to unconditionally dissolve the injunction" before the outcome of a hearing now set for June to determine if the 2000 page document fully complies with CEQA.

However, Busch said it would be "unreasonable to leave the City completely unable to advance what it has determined is an important policy initiative in light of the changed circumstances," so he modified the injunction, allowing some projects to go ahead.

"This is an important step in the right direction that enables the City to enact significant safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians in San Francisco," City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement.

The MTA issued a statement quoting Mayor Gavin Newsom, promising to begin the projects early next week, and provide a time line and schedule Monday.

"While we had hoped for the complete removal of the injunction, this order paves the way for real growth in bicycling in San Francisco," said Newsom.

Most of the projects considered to have "minimal impact to traffic flow and parking loss" outlined in a declaration [PDF] by MTA traffic engineer Damon Curtis, who works in the agency’s bicycle program, will be installed in the next year, hopefully by June, with the exception of bike lanes on Fremont Street (from Folsom to Harrison), Kirkham Street (from 6th Avenue to the Great Highway), and Sloat Boulevard (from the Great Highway to Skyline). It’s unclear why Busch refused to allow those. The projects that will move forward include new bike lanes on Beale, Howard, Otis, Scott, Mississippi, Kansas, Claremont and Clipper Streets, along with 7th Avenue and JFK Drive.

The authorized projects include a total of about 3.7 miles of bike lanes, compared to the roughly 14 miles the city had originally hoped to paint in the first year. The full bike plan includes 34 miles of new bike lanes. Only one of the authorized projects, JFK Drive, is greater than a half mile in length, while 9 of the 11 first-year projects that are still on hold are greater than half a mile in length, and five of them are greater than a mile in length.

The order also allows the city to install sharrows and hundreds of bike racks, "which is a big deal," said Marc Caswell, the SFBC’s program manager. "This is what a lot of bicyclists have been waiting for, a place to park their bikes."

Here’s a complete list of the projects the city can begin working on, as well as a list of projects the city had hoped to complete in the first year, but which will remain blocked at least through June 2010. Lengths are included for each project, but we calculated them quickly using Google Maps, so please let us know of any errors.

Bike lanes projects the city is prioritizing for the first year after the injunction is lifted:

• Beale Street southbound bicycle lane, Bryant Street to Folsom Street (Project 2-5) (.2 mi)

• Howard Street westbound bicycle lane at 9th Street (Project 2-8) (<.1 mi)

• Scott Street, northbound left turn bicycle lane, Fell Street to Oak Street (Project 3-5) (<.1 mi)

• Mississippi Street bicycle lanes, 16th Street to Mariposa Street (Project 4-5) (.2 mi)

• Kansas Street bicycle lanes, 23rd Street to 26th Street (Project 5-8) (.3 mi)

• Clipper Street bicycle lanes from Douglass Street to Portola Drive (Project 6-2) (.4 mi)

• 7th Avenue bicycle lanes and sharrows from Lawton Street to Lincoln Way (Project 7-2) (.5 mi including sharrows)

• John F. Kennedy Drive bicycle lanes, Kezar Drive to Transverse Drive (Project 7-4) (1.4 mi)

• Otis Street westbound bicycle lane, Gough Street to South Van Ness Avenue (Project 2-15) (.1 mi)

• Claremont Boulevard bicycle lanes, Dewey Boulevard to Portola Drive (Project 6-1) (.3 mi)

Bike lanes projects the city had prioritized for the first year after the injunction is lifted, but which the injunction will continue blocking:

• Kirkham Street bicycle lanes, 6th Avenue to The Great Highway (with sharrows only between 18th and 20th Avenues) (Project 7-5) (2.5 mi)

• Fremont Street southbound bicycle lane, Folsom Street to Harrison Street (Project 2-7) (.1 mi)

• Sloat Boulevard bicycle lanes, The Great Highway to Skyline Boulevard (Project 8-5) (.6 mi)

• Illinois Street bicycle lanes from 16th Street to Cargo Way (Project 4-3) (1.5 mi)

• Laguna Honda Boulevard bicycle lanes from Clarendon to Woodside Avenue, and from Portola Drive to Woodside Avenue (Projects 6-3 and 6-4) (.7 mi)

• Portola Drive Bicycle Lanes, from Corbett Avenue to O’Shaughnessy Boulevard (Project 6-5) (.6 mi)

• Townsend Street bicycle lanes, 8th Street to The Embarcadero (Project 2-16) (1.2 mi)

• Alemany Boulevard bicycle lanes, Bayshore Boulevard to Rousseau Street (Project 5-2) (1.4 mi)

• Ocean Avenue bicycle lanes, Alemany Boulevard to Lee Avenue (Project 5-9) (.9 mi)

• Potrero Avenue and Bayshore Boulevard bicycle lanes, 25th Street to Cesar Chavez Street (Project 5-11) (.3 mi)

• North Point Street bicycle lanes, The Embarcadero to Van Ness Avenue (Project 1-3) (1 mi)

Updated 9:13 p.m.

  • Wow, I just visited Rob’s blog. The guy really does have issues, with his war on young people, progressives and cyclists (probably one and the same in his mind).

  • “SFBC is not Critcal Mass just as AAA is not a freeway traffic jam. Rob gets one one less thing to gripe about: It appears SFBC has removed Critical Mass from it’s Chain of Events webpage.”

    That’s progress. Now the SFBC should publicly renounce the juvenile demo and discourage members from participating.

    “I’m confused as to why you keep pressuring others to put something on the ballot that is already being pursued by our ELECTED representatives, yet you don’t want to do the opposite yourself – put something on the ballot to overturn what our elected reps are doing.”

    I just assume that since you folks think you and your radical redesign of city streets is so popular you would urge your progressive supervisors to just vote to put the Bicycle Plan on the ballot to give the Plan popular validation. For a private citizen to put something on the ballot is very expensive, since you have to hire signature gatherers to do it. The late Don Fisher did it several years ago with his parking initiative, but he had plenty of money. Obviously my opinion is that our elected representatives are pursuing a policy that doesn’t have majority public support.

    “Wow, I just visited Rob’s blog. The guy really does have issues, with his war on young people, progressives and cyclists (probably one and the same in his mind).”

    I just happen to be the only consistent media critic the bike people have in SF. It’s not a “war on young people,” but I just don’t find the antics of the more boorish members of the cycling community particularly charming. And progressive politics in SF has degenerated to the point where bicycles have apparently become their big issue. I write about other local issues, including progressive support for terrible development policies, like the Market/Octavia Plan, Chris Daly’s luxury highrises on Rincon Hill, and Mirkarimi’s running interference for UC to allow it to put a massive housing development on the old extension property on Haight Street. But I rarely get any comments on those posts, as opposed to the great bicycle movement.

  • Chris

    “I just assume that since you folks think you and your radical redesign of city streets is so popular you would urge your progressive supervisors to just vote to put the Bicycle Plan on the ballot to give the Plan popular validation. For a private citizen to put something on the ballot is very expensive, since you have to hire signature gatherers to do it. The late Don Fisher did it several years ago with his parking initiative, but he had plenty of money. Obviously my opinion is that our elected representatives are pursuing a policy that doesn’t have majority public support.”

    So…you want us to spend OUR money on something already being done, just to give it “popular validation,” but you’re unwilling to spend your own on something you want to stop? That makes no sense. I’ve got a lot better places to spend my money (and I’m sure the SFBC and every other cyclist in the city does to) than on simply proving to Rob Anderson that something that our elected reps are doing (without hesitation) is popular.

  • Justice

    In our current system, people like Rob Anderson can not be removed from the legal process and from society. Sadly, he will not give up of his own will and would have to be forced to drop his cause. He will eventually embarrass himself.

    I don’t know what in his horrid past has cause him to do what he has done. He only wants attention, and he should be gone, laughed out of court.

    Rob Anderson has blood on his hands. I would hope that justice will eventually catch up to him. Even if that justice is only karmic, a sense of what he has done. Maybe shaming in front of the courts. Even better, his vile eventually coming out in some act leading him to being locked up.

    I’m quite surprised that people in SF have not started striping their own lanes, and installing their own racks. Maybe they have to an extent.

  • Shawn Allen

    It’s even worse than that, Chris. Rob and his attorney friend Mary Miles created two bogus associations purporting to represent a previously non-existent constituency who opposes bike infrastructure which negatively impacts motor vehicle traffic. They sued the city as the “Coalition for Adequate Review” (which they insist should be abbreviated as “CFAR”) and “Ninety-Nine Percent” (which today would be named something like “Approximately Ninety-Four Percent”), citing a 30-year-old law written to protect communities from environmentally damaging development. Anderson and Miles have a history of tormenting people they dislike via the legal system, and Anderson has admitted that his suit is politically motivated. He’s already forced the city to spend over $1 million as a result of his challenge.

    The worst part about this story, though, is that his case has legal merit. The SFMTA (then DPT) packaged the Bike Plan as an omnibus amendment to the General Plan, and its lack of an environmental review per CEQA made the entire thing vulnerable to legal challenge. It’s a damned shame that Rob filed suit, and that Judge Warren placed an injunction on all bicycle-related infrastructure improvements in response. But there’s plenty of blame to spread around at City Hall, the SFMTA, the Planning Department, and the SFBC. We could’ve had plenty of improvements completed in the last four years if they had just started properly reviewing and implementing individual projects. A lot of time and money went into developing the Bike Plan, and now the city’s spent even more as a result of having to defend it in court. It sucks, but that’s the reality of the situation, and Rob clearly derives great pleasure from watching us all complain about it because he can point the finger at the City for allowing it to happen.

    My suggestion is to ignore him. Let our newly re-elected City Attorney fix this mess in the courts, and let’s make sure that our other elected officials know that we’re not happy with the way this whole thing has played out. And in the meantime, let’s all try to be better representatives for cycling on city streets and earn the respect of people who would vote against bike-related infrastructure improvements on the basis of silly political or aesthetic misconceptions. Rob Anderson doesn’t deserve the time of day, but if we show others courtesy and respect, it’s bound to come back our way.

    Oh yeah, and let’s celebrate the fact that some of these improvements are finally going to happen. 🙂

  • Has anyone seen any work crews out on the street putting in a bike rack or anything today?

  • @Stuart. I’ve been bugging the MTA all day about this. They promised a timeline and schedule today. As soon as we hear, we’ll post a story. I’m hearing the painting will start tomorrow.

  • candlestickkid

    The prioritized plans seem pretty minor, for example a bike lane on beale street for about 2 block on a stretch that’s pretty bike safe anyway. Same for a two block stretch of Mississippi Street. There are a couple of right turn lanes on Howard that I’d rather see clarified and made more bike safe.
    A clear path on Townsend would be a better use of resources and time than these minor two block stretches.

  • A 53% increase in cycling in SF–that just means there are a few more people using the same inadequate and dangerous infrastructure.

    We could have grown by many hundred percentage points during that time if the projects in the hopper were more ambitious and had not been held up in court for going on four years now.

    I’m curious actually, it is getting to the point that this bike plan is so dated, why not just drop the entire thing (ending the lawsuit?) and put in a 21st-century North American bike plan (a la NYC).

    Granted this will take some work, but why keep adding traditional bike lanes that are only going to garner 20%, 30%, or 50% increases in cycling when the real path to a real slice of transport mode share is much safer and inviting bike infrastructure like protected bike lanes, raised curb cyclepaths, etc.

    It will sound absurd, and I don’t mean in any way to discount the work of so many volunteers and advocates for the current plan–but why continue to fight so hard and waste more of our time for the peanut shells when all of us–including the coalition and the MTA folks–all know what we really want, which is not just some paint squeezed in here and there but the real stuff of New York and Copenhagenian cycling infrastructure?

  • Justin,

    I also don’t want to discount all the hard work, but I entirely agree.

  • james figone

    What an interesting discussion. I agree with Justin in that what we are fighting for in terms of bicycle infrastructure is entirely inadequate. However, the elephant in the room is Muni. Until we can make a reasonable case that people who drive are adequately served by Muni, we cannot ask for a bicycle network that would require substantial removal of auto or parking lanes.

    At the moment, Muni is not a reasonable alternative to driving because it is too slow (among other issues). Bicycling is not reasonable either because it unsafe. I do not have a car and take Muni and ride a bike, but most people who have the means to drive will neither waste their time nor put their lives in danger to get around.

    Unfortunately, Muni is cutting service which will cause more people to drive. The current bus system runs at 6-7 mph on most routes. Imagine if the buses ran at 12mph which is not at all unrealistic. With the same number of drivers and buses, you would have twice the speed and twice the frequency of buses. That would be a reasonable value proposition to drivers and we could then take space from them for proper protected bicycle infrastructure.

    Personally, I would love to ride a 12mph Muni and bike on a protected network, but we cannot get the second without the first. Transit advocacy is bicycle advocacy with a much larger constituency. So how about an SFBC campaign for 12mph Muni in 2012?

  • the greasybear

    Quote james figone: “Until we can make a reasonable case that people who drive are adequately served by Muni, we cannot ask for a bicycle network that would require substantial removal of auto or parking lanes.”

    The hell we can’t. Critical safety infrastructure on our shared roadways for tens of thousands of current San Francisco cyclists is an entirely appropriate and proper demand on our shared government. Motorists’ interests are already well represented by Rob Anderson and the auto-centric status quo.

  • REK

    Rob,
    Saw you at a city meeting. I worry for your health. You might want to try biking. It’s a great way to get exercise. Can I recommend some choice streets for you to try?

  • james figone

    I guess the greasybear does not care at all about transit riders. The tens of thousands of bicyclists are dwarfed by the hundreds of thousands of Muni riders. If more people ride Muni, fewer will drive which frees up space for bicycle infrastructure. In no way is this position pro-motorist.

  • Shawn Allen

    James: First of all, I take issue with your assertion that cycling is inherently “dangerous”. In fact, Next American City just today published an article dispelling that notion. Cycling is only unsafe when cities lack dedicated lanes, clearly demarcated sharrows, boxes at intersections, reasonable speed limits, and other facilities. Without these things people rightly perceive cycling to be “dangerous”, and they won’t do it. Better infrastructure encourages more people to bike, and more cyclists on the road makes everyone safer: drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians are all forced to pay better attention; the police can justify stricter enforcement of traffic laws; tourism and commerce flourishes with the growth of the cycling industry; fewer cars on the road mean less delay for Muni; basically, everyone wins.

    I agree that we need a better public transit system. But both Muni and our city are already in the hole, and I just don’t see the SFMTA “fixing” things any time soon. Bike amenities are relatively cheap to build and maintain. More people on bikes means less people in cars and on overcrowded buses. Faster Muni service and less crowded buses could convince some people who drive to take the bus instead. Regardless, the ultimate goal has to be getting people out of their cars. We can keep raising fees and taking away parking options, but I think the carrot is mightier than the stick. Provide people with a safe, convenient, fast, healthy, and fun alternative to the private motor vehicle, and they’ll take it.

    Rob and his cohorts do their fellow human beings a great disservice when they suggest that most people are incapable of cycling. If my 80-year-old grandmother with anxiety problems can ride her cruiser to the grocery store, then so can most San Francisco residents. There’s a reason that we use the phrase “it’s like riding a bike” whenever we discover that things we thought were hard are actually easy.

  • “…a 30-year-old law written to protect communities from environmentally damaging development.”

    Otherwise known as the California Environmental Quality Act of 1970, the most important environmental law in the state. It applies to any project, whether a development or—oh, dear, bicycle plans—that could have a negative impact on the environment. The 500-page Bicycle Plan certainly qualified as a “project” under CEQA. Shawn seems to be suggesting that if laws are old, they should be discarded.

    “Anderson and Miles have a history of tormenting people they dislike via the legal system, and Anderson has admitted that his suit is politically motivated. He’s already forced the city to spend over $1 million as a result of his challenge.”

    Anderson and Miles have no such history. Shawn cites Matt Smith in support of that baseless charge, but Smith is just another bike nut who had a tantrum in print after the injunction was issued.
    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2006/06/mr-mean-replies-to-mr-dumb.html
    The city would have had to spend that money on the EIR anyhow if they had obeyed the law in the first place. Where they came up short is paying my attorney’s legal fees, since they lost the case. In other words, by flagrantly violating the law, city government cost the taxpayers a lot more than necessary. “Politically motivated”? Not sure what you mean by that. It was really policy motivated. It’s terrible public policy in SF to take away traffic lanes and street parking on busy streets to make bike lanes.

    “We could’ve had plenty of improvements completed in the last four years if they had just started properly reviewing and implementing individual projects. A lot of time and money went into developing the Bike Plan, and now the city’s spent even more as a result of having to defend it in court.”

    Exactly so! Which is what I’ve been saying for more than three years now. So why am I the bad guy?

    “…its lack of an environmental review per CEQA made the entire thing vulnerable to legal challenge. It’s a damned shame that Rob filed suit, and that Judge Warren placed an injunction on all bicycle-related infrastructure improvements in response.”

    Shawn seems to be suggesting that we should have ignored the fact that the city was implementing a dumb Bicycle Plan that was going to screw up traffic all over the city in violation of the law. But the only enforcement mechanism under CEQA is litigation, which is what we did. Judge Warren issued the injunction because the city was beginning to implement the Plan before the hearing on our complaint. If he hadn’t issued the injunction, the Plan would have been practically implemented before the hearing, rendering our complaint moot.

  • Diane

    Article in the Examiner today. “The California Resources Agency is working to implement CEQA changes that would allow developers to mitigate their traffic impacts by funding improvements to nonautomobile transportation systems.” Up to now, it seems, when a project creates traffic impacts, “You can’t add lanes to most streets in the City, so (the developers) end up doing pretty modest things, or we don’t ask for mitigation,” said Planning Department Director John Rahaim.

  • NoeValleyJim

    Hey, I will tell you what Rob, if I personally get the City’s Transit First policy on the ballot and it passes by a majority of voters, will you stop being a litigious pest? I have helped put initiatives on the ballot before, I know exactly how much work is involved.

    One would think that a policy approved by a majority of the elected officials and endorsed again and again would obviously be supported by the majority, but I guess if you live in your own world, you can convince yourself of anything.