Backpedaling - Page 2

Frustration over new Bicycle Plan delays prompts talk of a ballot measure

27 letter to Newsom on behalf of the SFBC calling on the mayor to help accelerate the schedule.

Ballard said Newsom is trying: "Our office has asked the departments to identify both opportunities to expedite certain phases of the project and additional impediments to meeting the current timeframe."

Sup. Bevan Dufty, who chairs the Transportation Authority's Plans and Programs Committee, is also pushing for a faster turnaround. He brokered and attended a Dec. 7 meeting involving Shahum and Planning Director Dean Macris.

"I think [Macris] had some excellent ideas about bringing on some consulting staff to help work through the process.... I think in another week we'll have some solid announcements," Dufty told the Guardian after the meeting. "He felt the department could do more and do better."

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who is talking with activists about a possible ballot measure, also expressed frustration, blaming "antibike forces in the Newsom administration" and pledging to keep the pressure on. He told us, "There's no reasonable justification that would delay this into 2009."

But project staffers say their work is both complicated and unprecedented. "No one has ever done an environmental review quite like this," Oliver Gajda, bicycle program manager for the MTA, told the Guardian. "It's a fairly complex document that no city has done."

That's because San Francisco's bicycle plan is the first to be successfully challenged under CEQA. Gajda said the latest delays stem from expansion of the work scope and from in coordinating with various neighborhood plans in the city and with other agencies like the port and redevelopment districts.

"We're trying to capture everything we can foresee in the entire city," Gajda said. "We are trying to make this the most solid environmental document possible."

That's understandable from the perspective of planners whose initial stab at the plan was rejected by the courts, but activists say four years is too long to wait for improvements to a bicycle system that has seen a 12 percent increase in the number of bicyclists on San Francisco streets in the past year, according to an MTA study.

"The fact that this critical project has drifted so far off track in a green city indicates a disappointing lack of commitment from city agencies and no strong hand to guide the Bike Plan forward in a timely fashion," Thornley said. "It's time for real action and a real commitment from the city to get this work done so we can return to putting real bicycle improvements on the streets of San Francisco."