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Friday, June 26, 2009

Bicyclists Pack City Hall -- No Spandex in Sight

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2009 at 11:59 AM

  • Anna McCarthy
  • Valet?
Bike parking was scarce at a City Hall hearing this morning as bike advocates arrived downtown in droves donning helmets and fluorescent pink identification stickers reading, "Double the number of bike lanes." Although helmets, U-locks, and other bicycling accessories abounded, many had traded their spandex for khakis and collars. This was no rowdy critical mass crowd: This crowd meant business.

With the hearing room full by 9 a.m., bicyclists filed into the overflow area to show support for the Municipal Transportation Authority's  long-awaited vote on the city's Bike Plan --  which includes 46 projects to revamp city streets to be more bike-friendly. Last night, the Planning Commission unanimously approved certification of the plan's Environmental Impact Report, and the MTA will almost certainly approve the Bike Plan and accompanying legislation today -- that is, after they hear roughly 5 hours of public comment that still continues as this article is published.

Due to the overwhelming number of helmeted citizens who arrived to comment in support of the Plan, the MTA Board of Directors cut their soapbox time down to 2 minutes and allowed the opposition to voice its concerns first. When the first 10 names were called and no one stepped to the podium, someone from the back of the hearing's overflow crowd suggested that they were probably stuck in traffic. 

However, the absentees must have found parking soon thereafter, because a few did find their way to the podium after a brief delay. Most of the oppositional comments targeted specific issues with specific projects -- the majority voiced concern that increasing the number of bike lanes in certain neighborhoods could cause gridlock. Store owners also complained that the bike lanes could deter customers if parking is eliminated.

A representative for Coalition for Adequate Review -- one of the main groups that brought the lawsuit against the city for failing to adhere to the tenets of the California Environmental Quality Act and led to the 2006 injunction preventing the city from making any changes to city streets without an environmental report -- suggested that the Coalition will be appealing the Planning Commission's decision regarding the environmental report. She then went on to say that the hearing should cease and desist because the city was "still under the constraint of the injunction."

After a few people drew in their breath at the threat, the City Attorney representative assured the MTA Board that they could continue. Thus commenced the long line of supporters, many of whom balanced kids in bike helmets on their hips as they spoke. (Who can say no to a kid in a bike helmet?) If after three years of waiting and five hours of public comment the Board still doesn't approve the Bike Plan, this SF Weekly reporter promises to bike her ass to Tehran.

Updates to follow.

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