San Francisco bike plan gearing up

Summer launch for legally challenged bike initiatives

The long delayed San Francisco Bicycle Plan will finally swing into action this June, city authorities have announced. Amongst other improvements it aims to add some 34 miles of segregated bike lane to the existing 45 miles as well as around 23 miles of on-street bike routes, using stencils known as sharrows.

The plan was originally drawn up in 2005 but its implementation was blocked by a 2006 court injunction obtained by San Francisco resident Rob Anderson, who claimed that more bikes would hold up traffic and so cause more pollution. The injunction said that an 'Environmental Impact Report' (EIR) had to be prepared to assess the effect of implementing the bike plan before it went ahead. That plan is now nearing completion and the Bike Plan itself will start to be implemented this summer when new bike lanes will finally start to be 'striped' on the ground.

"Unfortunately San Francisco is proof that one individual can monkeywrench plans to rebalance the streets for better bicycling, by calling out environmental impact analysis as an obstruction, ironically enough, forcing the city to go through a lengthy and expensive process to predict what the environmental harm might be of implementing the Bike Plan -- truly screwy," said San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Teri Gardiner. "The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) is leading the fight to reform distorted use of environmental law, for better walking and biking and transit, very soon we'll see San Francisco start to be smarter about environmental review and take the monkeywrench away from cranks like the fellow who stalled the Bike Plan."

The Plan had the backing of both city authorities and cycle campaigners, who saw it as step towards reducing congestion and carbon emissions in the city. However, ironically, it was delayed by an action taken under the California Environmental Quality Act by Mr Anderson.  

The Plan has both short term objectives (for example plugging 'gaps' in the existing lane network) and long term objectives (for example reconsidering the availability of parking provision across the city and widespread use of coloured lane surfaces to highlight where bike paths run). The SFBC is 10,000 members strong, and has been working with local, regional and state-wide agencies for more than 10 years to nearly double cycling use in the city.

"The SFBC knows that 'if you build it, they will come': historically we've seen big increases for bicycling on streets after a bike lane is added, on average about 50 percent, including even more astounding increases on some streets, e.g. Howard Street (+300 percent in 5 years), and Valencia Street (+144 percent in the first year)," Gardiner added. 

"The growth in everyday bicycling in San Francisco seems to be multiplying happily -- even without new bike lanes, the city measured a 43 percent increase in bike traffic in the past two years! We're sure that the near-term network improvements spelled out in the SF Bike Plan (together with more and better bike parking, better transit access, prioritised law enforcement, and of course education for cyclists and motorists) will boost everyday biking and bring lots more people out onto San Francisco streets by bike."

For more information, visit www.sfbike.org.

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