Despite high-profile recent improvements to San Francisco's bicycle network – including a half-dozen new bike lanes since last fall, a green bike lane on Market Street separated from cars, and new on-street bike parking on Valencia and Divisidero streets – the city is still prevented by a court injunction from creating bike lanes that have been sought for a decade. But that could change as early as next week.
On Tuesday, June 22, Superior Court Judge Peter Busch will hear oral arguments and consider whether to end the four-year-old injunction against the city executing any of the projects or policies outlined in its Bicycle Plan, a ban perversely created by the court finding the plan violated the California Environmental Quality Act because it wasn't subjected to a full-blown environmental impact report, which cost more than a million bucks and took two years.
Despite the fact that EIR was completed and certified last year, the plaintiffs who sued the city over the plan five years ago – anti-bike activist Rob Anderson and his attorney, Mary Miles – sued again, claiming the study was inadequate and decrying how the plan would take space from cars to improve bicycle safety.
In her brief, Miles noted how the EIR finds “89 significant impacts of traffic, transit, and loading but fails to mitigate or offer feasible alternatives to each of these impacts.” Referring to the near universal political support in San Francisco for making improvements to the bike network despite these impacts, Anderson told the Guardian last month,“It's a leap of faith they're making here that this will be good for the city.”
But the brief that the city filed in the case argues that leap of faith is a decision for policymakers, whether or not Anderson and Miles agree with it. The city position is that cars have ruled the roads for long enough and now it's time they shared some space with the fastest growing transportation choice in San Francisco, where the number of regular cyclists has nearly doubled in recent years.
“Petitioners are clearly disappointed that, despite the disproportionate number of drivers over bicyclists, City decisionmakers chose to implement improvements to the bicycle network that may inconvenience some drivers and some transit riders on certain streets at certain times. But the CEQA process does not approve or deny projects; it merely requires that decisions be made with environmental consequences in mind. By improving the City's bicycle network, the decisionmakers determined that the City would encourage more people to use a bicycle for everyday transportation,” Deputy City Attorney Audrey Williams Pearson wrote in her brief.
With oil continuing to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, the atmosphere becoming steadily more concentrated with planet-threatening fossil fuel emissions, and the politicians in Washington DC offering only hollow rhetoric about our stubborn addiction to oil-powered convenience, San Francisco elected officials from across the ideological spectrum took a small but important step in promoting safer bicycling.
Now, it's up to Judge Busch (who partially lifted the injunction last fall, allowing the handful of projects I mentioned above) to take the next step, which he will do probably within days (or weeks at the latest) after hearing from both sides June 22 starting at 9:30 a.m. in Superior Court, Department 301, at the corner of Polk and McAllister streets.
P.S. If you want to celebrate the impending end of the bike injunction with thousands of other bicyclists, walkers, dancers, and other non-motorized movers and shakers, show up on car-free Valencia, Harrison, and 24th streets this Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the latest installment of Sunday Streets.