Mayor Newsom, City Agencies and Advocates Celebrate Bike Plan

newsom_crowd.jpgMayor Newsom said bike lanes were part of a sustainable, 21st Century city. Photo: Matthew Roth

At a press conference this afternoon characterized by relief and jubilation, Mayor Gavin Newsom, representatives from the city agencies responsible for San Francisco’s streets, and bicycle advocates celebrated the MTA’s adoption of the Bike Plan and the legislation of the first 45 of the 56 priority bike-lane projects. Mayor Newsom seemed as thrilled as the bike advocates that much of the details for moving the legal process forward had been surmounted with last night’s Planning Commission’s certification of the Bike Plan EIR and the MTA Board’s unanimous vote of approval today.

"We’ve delayed the inevitable and it’s cost us a lot of money and time," said Mayor Newsom. "I’m just looking forward to finally moving beyond this and building
some partnerships and not going back to the days where we were pointing
fingers and we were divided."

Flexing his recall of statistics, Newsom proceeded to inventory some of the benefits of cycling:

Already 6% of our commuters are bicyclists; that’s more than any other city in America. We know when we add a bike lane we see about a 50% increase in use. Fifty-four percent of  greenhouse gases are transportation related, the tailpipes of these cars you see behind you. Even those of us who are not bicyclists will get the benefit of this because of the air we breathe and the benefit of the example that we will leave to our children to get more physically active as well and to look at bicycling not just as recreating but as a pragmatic way of getting to and from places of work, to and from places we need to go.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum said she had never been more proud than today to have her job, representing over 10,000 members and more than 100,000 regular city cyclists.

Light_Court.jpgCity Hall South Light Court. Photo: SF Bike

"I believe yesterday’s debate used to be framed in terms of bicyclists versus drivers, two wheels versus four," said Shahum. "We are over that. Today’s debate is about how do we do everything we can for the environment, for public health, for accessibility, for affordability for all San Franciscans. Bicycling plays a vital role in that and today you saw your city leaders choose that path, choose sustainability."

The SFBC had organized more than 200 people to voice support for the Bike Plan at the MTA Board Meeting, so many in fact that the City Hall South Light Court was used as overflow while people waited in line to get into the MTA Board chambers upstairs in Room 400.

"This morning we had 200 people lined up here to speak, 200 people supporting this Bike Plan and giving public comment, taking the morning off from work," said Shahum. "We had over 150 businesses and community organizations write letters of support for the bike plan and literally thousands of people take time out to send letters in to support the Bike Plan. It is a new day."

After last night’s Planning Commission vote to certify the EIR, a mandatory 20-day appeals process was triggered and must be finished before the Board of Supervisors can schedule a hearing on the bike plan, which they can do no sooner than ten days after the appeals process has finished. By all accounts, the earliest anyone assumes the bike injunction can be lifted is mid-August, though it could be as late as September.

Mayor Newsom promised that even if it takes until September to lift the injunction, the city was committed to moving expeditiously.

boy_small.jpgA boy waits for his dad to check in to testify. Photo: SF Bike

"I think after August or September, you are going to see an extraordinary amount accomplished in an extraordinarily short time," he said. "We actually have the list, literally in the first couple weeks, the
first couple months of everything that we will accomplish. This is a
very prescriptive effort, we’re not just asserting that we will get
something done, we now have the timelines and the details to get there."

When it came time for Q&A, the very first question asked by a network television anchor was whether or not Newsom thought it ironic that with all the new bike lanes approved today, Critical Mass was still "running amok" this evening. Mayor Newsom chastised the reporter for her question, "Why do you have to ruin such a wonderful press conference?" 

Then he added, "Critical Mass has become part of the fabric of our city. We had a hiccup a couple years ago where some people got into an altercation–that can’t happen, that’s unacceptable. But I think we’ve successfully moved past that in the last few years and I’m hopeful that we can continue in that spirit, to keep people safe to allow for Critical Mass to move forward with people being sensitive to other people’s needs. I’m hoping everyone is responsible, respectful, and safe tonight and every Friday at the end of every month."

Looking forward, Mayor Newsom made clear that any city that pretended to call itself green, any city that hoped to fulfill its Transit-First mission, had to embrace the bicycle.

"I do believe at the end of the day, in a world that we’re living in, it’s competitive cities that have attributes of sustainability that will be the most vibrant and successful cities into the future. So this is part of being a world-class city."

  • marcos

    A statement overriding the significance of an LOS impact means that the City is putting its money where its mouth is when it dismisses the concerns of delayed motorists in favor of shifting road use from auto lanes towards bike lanes, facilities which contribute in part towards improved safety for cyclists.

    Again, Newsom and his team were up close and personal with the cavalcade of errors which froze bike projects for four years. Both Newsom and the SFBC are “sin vergüenza” on this.


  • Marty Barfowitz

    And thus marks the start of the 21st century in San Francisco.

    Oh, hey, Rob Anderson: You lose, suckah.

  • ZA

    As one CM participant for a couple of hours, I have to say that it went rather well, with broadly positive attitudes by all. Only one unfortunate exception: a motorist who pushed a cyclist onto a motorcycle cop. The subsequent report-taking created a huge backup and larger disruption at the Broadway Tunnel.

  • this is wonderful, but why did Green Gavin boot Leah from SFBC off the board of the MTA? that was kind of mean, I thought.

  • Great answer by Newsom re:Critical Mass. I’ll give credit when it is due.

  • [reposted from another post below. i’m afraid it got buried, or maybe just no one was interested 🙂 as i’ve thought about it more this weekend, it is kind of striking that a more coordinated move was not made to make ‘closing arguments’ against the 2nd street naysayers. i do realize it’s not possible to coordinate everything, as there was a ton of coordinating to do.] anyhow, i am really interested in hearing more about this issue. ryan and i from south beach are having a somewhat relevant but utlimately tangential discussion re: 2nd street reconfiguration at bikeculturetheory wordpress.


    Anyone know of any good information anywhere that lays out in non-biased and really informative ways the 2nd Street bike lanes issue? I’ve heard the Rincon Hill neighbors’ sides of the stories, and the ones who talked about supporting cycling but fearing change to their ‘hood seemed to be sincere and earnest folks–but we heard no reply from the MTA staff for SFBC folks to their particular complaints. I know we’re not supposed to get into the technical details during these public comment sessions, but that is over, and it failed on 2nd St yet again. I think we as activists for adequate SOMA bike infrastructure now need to actually understand all the details and be able to call out Rincon for its bad faith criticisms, if they are such. Right now I’m having to take that on faith.

    That said, I think the MTA board’s decision to further defer the plan for 2nd St today was a bit spineless–to their credit they did pass the 17th St plan, which did receive a little bit of opposition, but 2nd St was the only plan that received particular and specific criticism today–and it was the only one not passed. The message sent seems to be that if 10 people complain about a project, but 20 people speak in favor of it, and staff approves of it, any project can be table and further delayed. Is this just par for the course? My sense is that its these tabled projects that really matter now. 23rd street lanes were a walk in the park–but there also not the most vital piece of infrastructure out there.

  • Dave Snyder

    I have to say: Friday was the best day (so far) in the history of the SF Bicycle Coalition. The approval with a single vote of 45 bike projects represents the largest substantial victory ever. And I’m qualified to say that: I’ve been there since 1991, for some very big days!

  • I quite enjoy all the expressions on the faces of the folks in the picture where Newsom is speaking; you can almost see the eye rolls.

  • marcos

    Watching the rebroadcast of the Pride Parade last evening, one woman “anchor” remarked, as Mikes on Bikes rode by, that we are about to be ushered into a new world of cycling in San Francisco due to a new package of bike lanes proposed by Gavin Newsom, and we’d have to see if they’d pass through the political process.

    Not only was the disintegrity of Mikes on Bikes besmirched by the broadcasting of some Newsom hack’s claim of responsibility on the part of the hair gelled one for new bike lanes, but viewers were left to conclude that Gavin Newsom is responsible for All Things Good.

    Propaganda works all sorts of ways. Whether its Newsom or the SFBC claiming (or being given) responsibility for the good while denying responsibility for the bad which delayed teh good, we need to see everyone’s shit for the shit it is and focus on what really happened.

    After 5 years with no new bike lanes, we’re coming out barely even now. Had we done the 2002 bike plan update correctly we would have been incrementally building new bike lanes apace over that time. The difference, of course, is that there was no benefit of those bike lanes over those 4-3-2-1 years where they might have already been in service, saving life and limb.

    So congrats on getting the MTA to pass a slew of bike lanes that have been in the hopper for more than 10 years. My reading of the scoreboard has us at or slightly below break even right now.

    Time to get to work on enforcement. Or is that going to be another 10 year political Odyssey where activists get paid and nothing changes?


  • It’s always been funny how much contempt the bike people have for Newsom, even though he’s given them everything they’ve asked for over the years. Of course he’s a phony on bikes: do as I say, not as I do! But that’s common among our elected officials, few of whom actually ride bikes except on ceremonial occasions.

    Newsom’s rationalization of Critical Mass confirms him as the San Francisco elitist he is. He is in fact one of you. It’s up to me to remind everyone that it costs city taxpayers $10,000 a month for city cops on overtime to escort the disruptive elitists.

  • Rob Anderson: In a couple of decades, the effects of global warming will be very obvious. Maybe your children or grandchildren will ask you whether did anything to try to global warming early in the century, when people first began to realize how much suffering it would cause. You can tell them that you tried to stop bicycle improvements because they might make it harder for you to drive your car and spew carbon dioxide.

    I suspect that Anderson’s suit actually helped SF act more decisively bike issues. In Berkeley, we have lots of bike planning but very little activity on the ground to improve bicycling. In San Francisco, Anderson’s suit gave the issue such a high profile that the city is going ahead as quickly as possible with a massive expansion of the number of bike lanes.

  • @Charles Siegel – to my knowledge Charles Darwin has taken care of Anderson’s contribution to the gene pool, and he doesn’t drive. For these things you can probably be thankful, as well as for him galvanizing the cycling community and the City behind those who get around on a bike.

    “The Majority” that Anderson talks about that doesn’t ride a bike around San Francisco is really for the most part agnostic. From all accounts Rob doesn’t have a lot of friends, and the ones he does have are not a very diverse crowd. Frankly, he has no clue about popular opinion.

    Myself, being not only a cyclist, but a dog owner, a parent, a gardener, a Caltrain commuter, etc… I am exposed to a lot of random people. I have a photo in my iPhone of the bikes strewn on 18th St, at Bi-Rite, the Creamery, Tartine, etc… and say “there’s no denying people are riding their bikes to 18th, and thanks to this dweeb there isn’t even a bike rack to keep the sidewalk open”. That’s about as far as I need to go to get people on the program.

  • Aaron B.


    Bicyclists are marginalized and fighting for equality and safety rights on the road. Can you really call those “elitists” who make a choice which is marginalized in the mainstream yet has numerous benefits for all, as opposed to the status quo?

    More bikes means reduced danger on our streets, reduced emissions & air pollution, increased health, reduced transportation costs, more social interaction & business on the streets (and less isolation), less stress, and potentially better land usage (less parking lots), and the big one: less congestion.

    Why are you fighting this?

  • Aaron B.

    Oh, and did I forget to mention bicycling is SUSTAINABLE and not subject to any fluctuating prices? And if you want to talk about convenience – travel times are rarely much longer than driving in the city, and usually shorter downtown.

  • marcos

    @Aaron B: “Oh, and did I forget to mention bicycling is SUSTAINABLE and not subject to any fluctuating prices?”

    In the macro ecological sense, cycling is sustainable.

    But practically, cycling is subject to several cycles which challenge sustainability by other metrics, such as wind and rain in the outdoors, not to mention health and disability on the part of the rider.

    @Charles Siegel, as mentioned previously, we’re seeing 1997 proposals preparing to see the light of day in 2009. This can only be viewed as ambitious by those whose sights are set low.

    Had we been at the forefront or even accelerating forward, we would already been finishing up the next revision of the bike plan as the 1997 plan was going through environmental review.


  • To Justin’s question about Second Street and why it didn’t come forward with the rest of the Bike Network projects on the agenda Friday, I’ll say I don’t think it was the usual story of a city agency capitulating to a handful of skeptics speaking out against losing their parking or unfettered automobility. As others have noted (and you may have seen and heard for yourself*), there were at least twice as many speakers in support of the Second Street project than those opposed, backed by dozens of letters and hundreds of emails and postcards.

    As I understand it, the beef brought by South Beach folks against the Second Street proposal wasn’t about parking conversion, and not about the bike lanes themselves (almost nobody doesn’t like bike lanes these days), but at the relatively late notification of the prohibited left turn aspect of the MTA’s design for Second Street. Yes, the city has been talking about bike lanes on Second St for years and years, and Second Street has been an element of SF Bike Route 11 for at least a decade, but the particulars of how to fit bike lanes on the street were only refined to the MTA’s “Modified Option 1” design a few months ago (within the overall scope of potential impact studied under the EIR’s transportation analysis). Part of that refinement was to prohibit left turns at most intersections, which would permit through traffic (like Muni) to move more smoothly while providing enough street space for bike lanes, without having to take away as many parking spots (down from 90-some in the worst-case layout to 26 in the MTA’s proposal). More info on the Second Street bike network improvement project is here on the SFBC website:

    South Beach neighbors feel that being permitted to turn left off Second Street is important enough to merit further conversation before acting to implement any such prohibition, and suggest exploring the possibility of a “Valencia style” lane arrangement for Second, with a single travel lane in each direction and a median/left-turn lane in the middle and bike lanes along the edges. Sounds reasonable, though from the geometry of the street I’m not sure it’s possible; from what I’ve heard, MTA engineers have already given the idea a thorough check out and it’s a non-starter.

    Of course, with Second Street and 99.5% of the Bike Network improvements, it’s only paint and signs, by definition easily reversible — the best way to find out what the impacts would be is to actually stripe the street and watch what happens. The SFBC is very confident that Second Street will come back to the MTA Board in a month or two for action, in one form or another — we’ll get that paint on the pavement, ride up and down it, and see how it works, soon enough . . .


  • “…the best way to find out what the impacts would be is to actually stripe the street and watch what happens. The SFBC is very confident that Second Street will come back to the MTA Board in a month or two for action, in one form or another — we’ll get that paint on the pavement, ride up and down it, and see how it works, soon enough.”

    Thornley has it backwards. The city’s EIR on the Bicycle Plan has already told us that the 2nd Street project is going to have a “significant unavoidable impact” on traffic. The real unknown with the Bicycle Plan in general is how badly all these “improvements” are going to screw up city traffic and what kind of feedback you’re going to get from city residents.

    “Whether its Newsom or the SFBC claiming (or being given) responsibility for the good while denying responsibility for the bad which delayed teh good, we need to see everyone’s shit for the shit it is and focus on what really happened.”

    Except for his veto a few years ago of the Saturday closing of JFK in the park, Newsom has given you folks everything you’ve asked for. He backed the Bicycle Plan the whole way. He’s even supporting Critical Mass now! Yes, of course the city should have done an EIR on the Plan way back in 2005, when we tried to warn both the Planning Commission and the BOS about the problem. We were treated with contempt by both bodies, and representatives from both the City Attorney’s office and Planning stood up and lied about what the law required during the hearing before the BOS.

    “…to my knowledge Charles Darwin has taken care of Anderson’s contribution to the gene pool, and he doesn’t drive. For these things you can probably be thankful, as well as for him galvanizing the cycling community and the City behind those who get around on a bike.”

    As usual your “knowledge” is wrong. I have a son who still might keep the genes in the game. Yes, now people like you are giving me credit for—however unintentionally—“galvanizing” the cycling community, but I was called a lot of names by commenters on my blog after the injunction. None of the commenters and no one at the Bicycle Coalition thought that any environmental review was necessary in the first place.

    “The Majority that Anderson talks about that doesn’t ride a bike around San Francisco is really for the most part agnostic. From all accounts Rob doesn’t have a lot of friends, and the ones he does have are not a very diverse crowd. Frankly, he has no clue about popular opinion.”

    Oh, Murph, I thought you were my friend! Typical nastiness from Murph, who’s still sore that I sneered at his offer to go on a bike ride with him. He can make all kinds of hollow boasts about popular opinion, but city voters will never get a chance to vote on the Bicycle Plan. But they did get a chance to vote on the Saturday closing of JFK in the park, and they rejected it twice on the same ballot in 2000. And they voted for the garage in the park, which the bike people opposed. People on Page Street rejected the traffic circles there, and Japantown rejected a bike lane on Post Street. If the Bicycle Plan is ever on the ballot—and the bike people will make sure it never is—I bet city voters would reject it.

    “…but why did Green Gavin boot Leah from SFBC off the board of the MTA? that was kind of mean, I thought.”

    Because Leah couldn’t contain her nastiness and insulted Newsom in public shortly after he appointed her to the MTA board.

  • marcos

    Rob, what part of “statement overriding the significance” of an identified “significant” [sic] impact don’t you understand? I mean, you got the “fair argument” standard down, but don’t appear to understand the “back door” to CEQA very well.

    CEQA does not mandate mitigations be implemented, rather requires that decision makers are informed of significant impacts of a project and presented with possible mitigations to those significant impacts of a project.

    Decision makers are given wide latitude as to whether to reject the project, approve with mitigations, or to adopt a statement saying that the benefits of the project trumps the impacts, which they are then free to ignore (by overriding their significance by vote) and approve the project w/o mitigations.

    There were creative legal avenues available which could have exempted the City from EIR on the bike plan–at least drained plaintiff’s resources–but in 2005, when push came to shove, the City Attorney blinked, once bit, twice shy.


  • Andy Posits.

    “…the best way to find out what the impacts would be is to actually stripe the street and watch what happens”

    Rob retorts.

    “The city’s EIR on the Bicycle Plan has already told us that the 2nd Street project is going to have a “significant unavoidable impact” on traffic.”

    Bernie Madoff told his investors they would make a lot of money. What actually happened was they got wiped out. The EIR may be an educated guess, but it’s still just a guess.

  • Thanks for your response to the 2nd street issue Andy. I don’t mean to be a downer after such a successful meeting–I’m focusing on the one thing that didn’t go well out of so many that did on Friday.

    It seems to me that the South Beach/Rincon folks think they are going to be able to get bike lanes AND turn zones now, but from what the staff said etc. this just isn’t possible with the geometry. So…I’m just wondering where this leaves it, but I’m willing to stop worrying for now. When these things come up again I will be there, I’m sure with others, to make sure that if it’s bike lanes OR left-turns we win.

  • Marc: Thanks for the typically know-it-all riff on CEQA. My understanding is that to claim “overriding considerations” the city has to have some evidence to back that up. Your such an all-around intellectual, why don’t you do a blog under your real name, instead of this sneaking around on other people’s sites?

  • marcos

    @Rob, everyone knows who I am, even you; I am not posting anonymously.

    Significant impacts are subject to a more rigorous legal test than that which allowed you to prevail against the GRE. The government is granted immense latitude when it comes to presenting significant evidence to justify overriding the significance of an impact.

    The bar the plaintiff must clear is raised to the extent that she must prove that evidence is insignificant. I’d not put it past these policymakers to mess this one up, but your odds of success are diminished.


  • g

    There apparently is not any rationale/substantial eivdence to overcome LOS in the EIR for a statement of overriding considerations. People who created this mess not Rob, the Bike Corporation, etc., are aware of this and they are watching it happen for some reason. Or if they are trying to address it they are not talking about it and doing such work behind closed doors which has been notoriously inneffective and damaging to the bike community, such as the decision to not include any environmental review in the Bike Plan which caused the law-suit. Not such a good idea.

    Things do not look good for an appeal. This could be the legal affirmation of los as an impact when it never really was an impact at all. As was the case in 2002 and 2005 the people who claim to be representing cyclists in the City are failing to really speak about how they want the streets to change, instead packing meetings and writing letters.

    The EIR is all standard old school traffic engineering. It doesn’t even clearly make claims that striping bike lanes increases safety or bicycling. It does not seem to make the connection between mode-shift as in getting people out of their cars. There are a bunch of unavoidable impacts.

    In a statement of overriding considerations rationale to ignore impacts has to be supported with substantial evidence. There is still an opportunity to get such information into the record particulalrly in the Board’s decision on an appeal. The Board could cite reasons to override LOS impacts that have not been brought up in the plan. Ideally these reasons could go far beyond CEQA and get into the legislature’s right to keep its people safe and the people’s right to move in reasonable safety on bicycles.

    This is unfortunately not very likely. The City Attorney consistently argues only within automobile CEQA. They do not percieve other approaches. The Supervisors tend to look to the Corporation for guidance as in what to do and to follow the spotlight in acting, because they are polticians, of course. The Corporation is telling them bike lanes good give us bike lanes, not telling them how to navigate the weird irony of this CEQA. mess.

    So even though the information exists to overcome this rather minimal problem that was made into an epic disaster by ignoring it, the Supervisors likley won’t be prepared to include other information within their response to the appeal. The City attorney will not be prepared to continue and argue on such information and an appeal could very likley be successful creating potentially years more in delay.

    I certainly hope I am wrong but at the least it would seem best to be safe. What can you do as a cyclist? Nothing, speech in this area is privatized or controlled by political groups which have a hard time doing such work, and even work against it being done by others. I would be nice for this subject to be covered by streetsblog to get this rather timely and important subject out into the light if day and moving but they may not even post this comment, which is too bad as it would seem to be very in tune with open planning, speech and everything they supposedly stand for.

    So just cross your fingers and hope for the best, because that is the predominant official private/public strategy anyway. And if Rob should find himself laughing again remember he didn’t do this to the Bike Corporation, they did it to themselves.

  • Patrick Monk

    Once again this odious little opportunist is claiming credit for the hard work and creative ideas of others. What a shallow snake-oil salesman he is. Any of his little twitterlings who have been hoodwinked by his slick PR campaign would be well advised to dig a little deeper. A good place to start might be the article “The Two Newsoms” by Steve Jones at SF Bay Guardian. The last thing we need is a second rate Schwarzenegger. Dont get fooled again.
    Patrick Monk.RN. Noe Valley. SF.


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