Long-awaited bicycle and pedestrian improvements along Fell and Oak streets – a key east-west connection where fast-moving cars create sometimes-scary conditions for cyclists – approved last month by the Municipal Transportation Agency's board suffered a couple frustrating setbacks last week.
First, on Nov. 5, the project was appealed to the Board of Supervisors by area residents Mark Brennan, Howard Chabner, and Ted Loewenberg, who charged that it violates state environmental laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act and should be subjected to a full-blown Environmental Impact Report rather than relying on the overall Bicycle Plan's EIR.
The MTA is confident the appeal will be denied, so its crews went ahead with the project, removing the existing bike lane markings and then just leaving it that way for the last week, creating a confusing and potentially dangerous situation for both motorists and cyclists. It also raised fears among project supporters that the two developments were connected.
But MTA spokesperson Paul Rose told us there is no connection and “we expect to begin striping tomorrow, weather permitting.” He also said the agency heard the concerns from cyclists and this week put up signs urging motorists to share the road with cyclists and placing flyers on cars parked along the stretch.
As for the appeal, Rose said, “We have confidence that the environmental work that went into this project was appropriate and the appeal will be denied.”
Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition – for whom this project has been a top priority for years – echoed the optimism and emphasized the extensive outreach effort that has gone into this project.
“I think it's unfortunate that there is the threat of delay to a project that has gone through so many years of community input and has such strong support,” Shahum said. “There are a few individuals who are trying to delay the project, but I'm happy to hear the MTA is moving it forward anyway.”
The appeals hearing has been tentatively set for Dec. 11. Once completed, this will be one of just a few cycletracks – or bikeways that are physically separated from automobile traffic – in San Francisco, something bike activists hope to see more of in the coming years.