Shifting gears - Page 3

Safer streets for cyclists cause growing pains for motorists

Mary Miles, the attorney responsible for securing the three-year Bike Plan injunction (see "Stationary biking," 5/16/07), momentarily ruined the party at the SFMTA hearing by showing up, casting an icy glare, and warning the SFMTA board to "just stop now. We are appealing these actions." In the overflow room on City Hall's first floor, Miles' comments elicited hoots of laughter from a crowd of cyclists.

Miles' client, Rob Anderson, is known for his cynical view that most people will never be encouraged to ride a bike, and that the Bike Plan unfairly rewards cyclists, a "special interest" group, at the expense of the majority of people, who drive.

Anderson and Miles are expected to appeal the SFMTA's decision, possibly throwing one last monkey wrench into the process of moving the Bike Plan forward. Construction of new bike lanes can't begin until the legal issues are resolved and the injunction is lifted.


A frantic driver who has just found a parking space might be thrilled to seize it, but Matthew Passmore has sparked a different sort of appreciation for parking spaces. One of the founders of Park(ing) Day, Passmore helped draw international interest in 2005 by temporarily transforming a parking space in the Mission District into a public park.

Since then the trend has caught on all over the world: all it takes is some Astroturf, a couch, and a few coins to pay the meter fare — and suddenly the public space usually reserved for cars is transformed into an attractive mini-park for pedestrians and passers-by.

The Park(ing) Day exercise, an event that takes place in September, has since prompted the creation of some 600 parks, free clinics, and other temporary "spaces" as part of the wider commentary about the allocation of public space. In Passmore's view, "far too much of our city is dedicated to the automobile," and Park(ing) Day is just one way of illustrating this point.

For the soon-to-be 79 miles of bike lanes in the city, after all, there are still 880 lane miles built for cars, and San Francisco streets still accommodate a whopping 320,000 parking spaces. For his part, Passmore characterizes the removal of a few parking spaces as mere "growing pains," but emphasizes that in the long run, the Bike Plan will benefit everyone — not just cyclists.