The S.F. bike plan and its surprising discontents

Katy Liddell was happy to trade a car-based life for one centered on walking when a corporate transfer landed her in South Beach in 1995. Since then, the human resources professional has "walked, walked, walked" the few blocks to work in the Financial District. For longer jaunts, she takes Muni or hops on her bike (she's also a member of the S.F. Bicycle Coalition). So why did this transit-first enthusiast file one of two appeals opposing the certification of the long-awaited, much-litigated Bicycle Plan's environmental impact report (EIR)?

According to Liddell, the plan would create "more traffic and pollution" in SOMA neighborhoods like South Beach, Mission Bay, and Rincon Hill. How is it that a plan devoted to creating more lanes for nonpolluting two-wheelers throughout the city will cause more pollution?

Liddell and many of her neighbors predict that the elimination of several left-hand-turn lanes on Second Street — an already congested approach to the Bay Bridge — to make way for new bike lanes will result in longer backups to the bridge. (Commuters coming from downtown will now be forced to take three right-hand turns instead of one left.) Longer backups mean more cars idling and spewing exhaust.

Liddell is also irritated that the Municipal Transportation Agency presented its no-left-turn plan "like it or not," with little community input considered. Other than that, she's all for the Bicycle Plan, which she concedes will probably sail through a Board of Supervisors hearing scheduled for Aug. 4.

Andy Thornley, program director for the Bicycle Coalition and the plan's most vocal supporter, defends the decisions made for Second Street. He says the proposed setup is a "sophisticated" solution that preserves curbside parking while making room for cyclists' right-of-way and better Muni service.

However, the bike plan doesn't equal better Muni service in other parts of town, according to the EIR — and that's the crux of the second appeal filed by attorney Mary Miles on behalf of infamous curmudgeon Rob Anderson, a Panhandle blogger, Muni rider (he does not own a car), and anti-bike-plan crusader, whose lawsuit in 2005 temporarily derailed the plan. Anderson says the EIR shows the plan will bog down traffic for motorists and Muni buses. And while he expects the plan to sail forward, he says he isn't done fighting "the crackpot assumption" that San Franciscans will abandon cars, Muni, and their feet "in favor of bikes."

 
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