Advocates Upset By Prospect of Further Bike Lane Delays

Bike_Lane_need_sign.jpgAdvocates are not ready to compromise a single bike lane in the big 56. Photo: Matthew Roth

SFBC Program Manager Andy Thornley had the sinking feeling, following an MTA Traffic Engineering meeting last Friday, that the agency was not serious about its commitment to moving as many of the priority 56 bicycle projects forward as it should. According to Thornley, at least three projects were moved off the green light list pending further review by traffic engineers, for little more than minor and tired complaints about losing curbside parking spaces.

"We’ve had a series of community meetings where MTA staff has met community members and merchants and there weren’t angry mobs, but we’ve had one or two skeptical members of the public voice dissatisfaction about parking, grumbling from the merchants that always grumble, and that was enough for the MTA to not bring the project forward," said Thornley.

"We’re seeing capitulation from the MTA," he added.  "It doesn’t matter if you have 1,000 or 10,000 advocates and a city charter that requires a transit first policy, if one grumpy merchant gives you the skunk eye, the whole thing gets set aside."

The SFBC even sent out an item in its weekly email alert urging readers to demand the MTA fulfill its promise.  At issue were the bike lanes on a portion of Upper Market Street, 2nd Street, and the Glen Park project.

Thornley also pointed to the 1300 block of Potrero Avenue between 25th and Cesar Chavez as problematic.  He said a member of the public, Chris Dove, had written the SFBC with a proposal to ameliorate the loss of parking from the new bike lane by making the other side of the street a residential parking permit (RPP) zone. The SFBC forwarded the concern to the MTA before the hearing on the 15th, but staff seemed to be unaware of the issue.

When Dove spoke at the hearing and repeated his proposal, the hearing officer suggested tabling the issue until it could be reviewed further.  When contacted by phone, Dove said he is a regular cyclist who rides his bicycle to work at 16th and Kansas, so he wasn’t upset with a new bike lane. "I understand the need for additional bike lanes and I understand how important it is to have a bike lane there.  It’s a hairy stretch of road."

He explained, however, that the block face in question is one of the few in the area that doesn’t have RPP designation, so people going to the hospital, school, or several other destinations by car will park for much of the day in the area. "Who wants to pay for parking at SF General when they could park for free and walk a couple of blocks?" he asked.

MTA spokesperson Judson True said the actions at the last hearing by the hearing officer are not an indication the MTA is putting anything on hold, but only that it is doing due diligence.

"On hold is too strong a way to put it," he said. "We’re working to address
whatever issues are coming up at public hearings, but we’re ready to paint
as soon as we can. We’re confident that we have dozens of public projects going forward that will transform San Francisco into a world-class bicycling city and these small issues that have been brought up in public hearings do not indicate serious delay on any of these projects."

To underscore his point, in an email shortly after, True indicated that the 2nd Street, Upper Market, and Glen Park lanes were put on the agenda for the next Traffic Engineering hearing on May 29th. 

"Also, I have confirmed that Potrero did pass the public hearing but with a condition regarding RPP," said True. "We will be working with staff to determine how this condition is handled."

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