A day after bicyclists and pedestrians took over the streets of the Mission for the popular, incident-free Sunday Streets, and a day before the court hearing on whether to end the four-year-old injunction against bike-related projects in San Francisco, Judge Peter Busch today (6/21) issued a noncommital tentative ruling in the case, indicating he needs a hearing on myriad technical details to reach a decision.
Most members of the city's bicycling community see the injunction as surreal and are simply unable to understand how the California Environmental Quality Act could be used to hinder a transportation option that is clearly a boon for the environment. The answer, say critics, lawyers, and Judge Busch, is that the city should have done an expensive EIR first to probe the finest of details of exactly how more bike lanes would disrupt traffic.
Or as Busch put it in his temporary ruling, he wants to explore questions such as: “1) WHAT OTHER ALTERNATIVES OR MITIGATION MEASURES DOES PLAINTIFF CONTEND RESPONDENT SHOULD HAVE ANALYZED OR CONSIDERED? 2) WAS RESPONDENT REQUIRED TO INCLUDE DATA UNDERLYING TRAFFIC LOS AND, IF SO, DID IT SATISFY THE REQUIREMENT? 3) DID RESPONDENT ABUSE ITS DISCRETION BY USING A SIX-MINUTE THRESHOLD TO ANALYZE TRANSIT IMPACTS?”
It's a level of detail that only lawyers and traffic engineers can appreciate, and to the casual observer, it's a level of detail that could maddeningly extend this entirely unreasonable injunction. And Sunday Streets was a great example of why it's so unreasonable. Here's an event that disrupted far more cars and buses than the Bike Plan would over a month, and it was done with no EIR and with no major problems.
Why? Because CEQA has an exception for temporary events, which is certainly a good thing. But if CEQA is used to extend this injunction for another month, or a year, then it's time to revisit this unreasonable law and whether this was ever a reasonable ruling. Because the harm he's doing by dragging this case out for a year after the city completed the EIR – to bicyclist safety and to the environment when people are afraid to bike and choose to drive -- certainly outweighs any harm this plan will do.