Sunday Streets contrasts with SF's bike injunction

|
(1)
If we can kick all the cars out for Sunday Streets without an expensive EIR, why can't we build a frikkin' bike lane?
Steven T. Jones

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.

Comments

Once the City produced an encyclopedic EIR under the thesis that more is better, they provided innumerable toeholds for Anderson and Miles to raise legitimate questions as to whether the document met CEQA requirements.

The City should have proceeded in a phased method, submitting the most pro forma, perfunctory EIR early on, seeing if that stuck to the wall, with the work plan for a larger document producing interim results until one met the Judge's test. Recommendations to that effect were not followed.

Even if the City does FINALLY replace the Auto LOS standard with ATG, it will STILL have to do the equivalent of LOS analysis to determine whether a project delays transit which is deemed (rightly so to my mind) an environmental impact by CEQA.

Just like the Bicycle Network plan that was initiated in 2002 and was little more than icing on the work left undone in the 1997 plan provided a massive target, so did the EIR provide a big ass target.

CEQA is not going to change without opening up the pandora's box of the environmental consequences of development politics and the corruption that surrounds it. That ain't gonna happen.

The solution is a three phase bicycle planning process, one that assesses the MTA's capacity to plan and implement, and has one phase in each of initiation, planning and implementation in any year. Smaller chunks of projects will provide less of a target and allow for more flexibility in providing real time deliverables.

And for a moment, please, can we stop the group think? I'm so happy that folks find political camaraderie in their bicycleness, but unless we open up a critical eye to tactics and strategy, we'll continue to see the closing of the eyes and clicking of the heels pattern of leadership, the notion that we deserve to take short cuts and win because of the nobility of our quest and we'll continue to get our clocks cleaned in court.

So this makes Herrera's shop, what 2 for 12 now?

-marc

Posted by marcos on Jun. 22, 2010 @ 5:48 pm