Hearings on SF bike lane plan

June 25, 2009 8:02:49 PM PDT
San Francisco's plan to increase the miles of bicycle lanes in the city by 75 percent could take big steps forward in two hearings scheduled for tonight and Friday morning.

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The bike plan would add 34 miles to the existing 45-mile network, as well as marking an additional 75 miles of bike routes with "sharrows," which indicate shared-use lanes, on city streets.

The plan, which was originally drafted in 1997 and had its updated framework approved by the Board of Supervisors and mayor in 2005, had an injunction filed against it in 2005 that required an environmental impact report be finished and certified before the plan moves forward.

The city's Planning Commission will decide tonight whether or not to certify the report.

The commission has preliminarily recommended in favor of certification prior to the meeting in Room 400 at City Hall, a decision endorsed by Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself but I think there's strong support tonight," Shahum said. "I think clearly the city has done a very full and thorough job on the environmental impact report, and I think it's likely to be accepted by the commission."

If certified, the bike plan will then go in front of a meeting of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's Board of Directors on Friday morning.

The board will consider approving the plan at its 9 a.m. meeting, also in Room 400 at City Hall.

The bike plan includes 46 separate projects that would eliminate 880 curbside parking spaces, according to agency spokesman Judson True.

True said the cost of the 46 projects, as well as 14 other near-term projects, would be about $14 million over a five-year period, and would be paid for by sale tax funds, as well as grants and other capital sources.

"It's a relatively modest investment for the return that we get in improving the environment and encouraging healthy lifestyles," True said.

The SFTMA staff's recommendation is to approve the plan, according to True.

Rob Anderson, a spokesman for the Coalition of Adequate Review, one of the groups that filed the 2005 injunction and was granted an extension on it in 2006, said the decision on the bike plan will ultimately lie with the city's Board of Supervisors.

Anderson said that if the Planning Commission certifies the environmental impact report tonight, the groups will appeal the decision to the Board of Supervisors to "let them take the political heat."

Anderson said he doubted the plan will be denied by the supervisors because of what he called "the progressive doctrine here, that cars are evil and bikes are good," but said the plan could draw ire once it is implemented.

"The neighborhoods have no idea what's in the bicycle plan," Anderson said. "They don't know the specifics of what's going to happen to specific streets, and when they do they're going to have a different slant on this stuff."

True said that "any major project is going to have impacts, and in many cases (with the bike plan) we're working to mitigate them."

Shahum said San Francisco has shown clear support for the plan, and pointed to what she said have been more than 150 letters of support from city businesses, letters from about 30 different nonprofits and neighborhood organizations, and e-mails from about 1,800 individuals.

An SFMTA report released in May estimated that bicycle ridership in San Francisco has increased by 43 percent since 2006, with 128,000 bicycle trips being made each day in the city.

"I think everyone's sort of waiting for bike improvements," Shahum said. "It's been three years, and I think there's a lot of anticipation."

True said that if the bike plan makes it through both hearings and the expected appeal, the SFMTA will work with the city attorney's office to have the injunction lifted and begin implementation by the end of the summer.

"We expect to start laying the paint as soon as the injunction is lifted, and we're excited about beginning implementation of the plan," True said.

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