Will San Francisco Become the Nation's Best Biking City?

| 8/15/2010 2:57:33 PM

RiveraWithNewsomThe first bizarre thing was the lawsuit itself.

In 2005, San Francisco created an ambitious Bicycle Plan that was passed unanimously by the city’s Board of Supervisors. The detailed, 400-page document had a simple agenda — encourage the healthy, green transportation option by making streets safer and more accessible for cyclists.

In short order, a disgruntled blogger who didn’t like the idea of precious parallel parking spaces being turned into bike lanes sued the city to stop officials from moving forward. The suit itself wasn’t the surprising part. We’re all used to the unfounded fears that a single bike lane will somehow lead to immediate, catastrophic gridlock. The ironic element was the guy’s argument. The anti-bike blogger charged that the city violated the law by not completing an Environmental Impact Review.

Now, logic might dictate that a plan encouraging people to ditch their gas-guzzling automobiles and travel by a means that burns calories, not carbon, is a clear environmental benefit. But, a Superior Court judge bought the blogger’s argument and issued an injunction on the Bicycle Plan in 2006, dropping the gavel on the dozens of bike safety improvements.

And that’s when the second head-scratching thing happened.

Progress was stalled at City Hall. San Francisco’s streets saw virtually no increase in bicycle facilities. And yet, the number of cyclists surged. Over the past four years, as the Bicycle Plan was tied up in legal limbo, the number of bike riders in the Bay City jumped by more than 53 percent.

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