Environment

san Francisco bikes, san Francisco biking, san Francisco bike plan
Jeff Chiu/AP

Will San Francisco Get its Bike Plan Back?

August 22, 2008 08:58 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
In San Francisco, Rob Anderson’s argument that a citywide bike plan would cause more pollution seems more politically motivated than accurate.

Eco-Debate Gone Wild

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In San Francisco, a city long known for its environmental activism, a man named Rob Anderson is arguing against a citywide bike program many feel would help reduce carbon emissions.

Anderson has almost singlehandedly put the brakes on the city’s pro-bike plan by reasoning that, because cars will always outnumber bikes in urban America, it is pointless to inconvenience drivers by creating more bike lanes, installing more bike racks or catering to urban cyclists.

Anderson, a 65-year-old who lives in San Francisco with his elderly mother, has also argued “urban bicycle boosting could actually be bad for the environment … [causing] more traffic jams, more idling and more pollution,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

The city is now in the process of completing an environmental-impact report that, if accepted, would lead to resumed progress on the bike plan. Meanwhile, Anderson is gearing up for a second run at public office in November. But his unpopular statements regarding bicycling could hinder his chances.
“The behavior of the bike people on city streets is always annoying. This ‘Get out of my way, I’m not burning fossil fuels,’” said Anderson.But does Anderson have a point, or is his anti-bike stance simply a personal vendetta or a way to gain political clout?

The basis of Anderson’s fight is a 38-year old law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which Anderson says would be broken by implementing the city’s proposed bike plan. But politicians and bureaucrats largely disagree, according to the San Francisco Bay Guardian blog, and have complained that CEQA legislation is being poorly interpreted by the city.

Said city planning director John Rahaim, “It’s truly ironic that an activity that is inherently environmentally friendly is being challenged under an environmental law.”

The idea that bicycles are an eco-friendly mode of transport is one accepted around the world. In Berlin, for example, the city’s Senate Department for Urban Development promotes cycling as a way “to reduce pollution levels.”

Furthermore, the Brookings Institution has suggested that U.S. metropolitan areas have less environmental impact than rural areas. Public transportation is a key factor in urbanites’ smaller carbon footprints. It seems logical more cyclists and ultimately fewer drivers would have a similar effect.

Background: San Francisco’s bike plan

The San Francisco Chronicle has followed the story closely, reporting in June 2006 on the preliminary injunction made at the request of two groups, Coalition for Adequate Review and 99 Percent, and involving Anderson. The injunction stymied progress on the city’s bike plan, which had been approved by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2005. The injunction would remain in place pending “adequate environmental review” of the bike plan, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

In November 2006, San Francisco Judge Peter Busch extended the injunction, filed by Anderson, requiring the city to complete an impact study before moving forward with plans to widen bike lanes, add bike racks and add bike-friendly signage on city roadways.

In December 2007, bike activists gathered for a rally at San Francisco City Hall to protest the lengthy process of the “court-ordered environmental review of the city’s bicycle plan.”

Related Topics: Bike-friendly cities; SFBC

Reference: SF bicycle plan; Rob Anderson campaign

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