When a California Superior Court judge gave San Francisco the go-ahead to implement part of its contested bike plan last Nov. 25, it took less than a week before San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) workers painted the first striping on the road. The painting of 14 miles of bike lanes was completed in a mere three hours on Dec. 1. SFMTA also installed temporary bike racks at 12 locations throughout the city.
In permitting the bike lanes and racks, the judge enabled the city to move forward with those modifications which would be most easily reversible if the bike plan opponents were ultimately to win the lawsuit.
San Francisco’s bike plan was approved by the Board of Supervisors and mayor in 2005, as part of the city’s efforts to go green and reduce congestion. Additionally, the plan supported by the powerful San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, was designed to promote rider safety. An ad hoc group calling itself the ‘Coalition for Adequate Review’ obtained an injunction based on the alleged failure of city officials to complete an environmental impact statement for their green transportation plan.
San Franciscans overwhelmingly support bikes as transit; SFMTA data indicates that 75 to 80 percent of city residents surveyed in 2008 think The City needs more bike lanes. According to SFMTA, bicycling is growing as a viable form of transit, with 2.7 percent of the San Francisco population biking to work, compared with a .5 percent national figure. Bicycle use increased 25 percent from 2007 to 2008, with 6 percent of all trips being made by bike.
If the San Francisco bicycle plan is fully implemented, it will encompass 208 miles of bikeways, comprising 23 miles of bike paths, 45 miles of bike lanes and 140 miles of signed bicycle routes. Some of these bike routes already exist, but are slated for improvements. The bike plan is intended to increase the use of bikes and to make bike transportation safer.
While the pro-bike forces are plentiful, there are also naysayers like Rob Anderson, a blogger known for rants against “bike nuts” and “anti-car accidents,” who told the Guardian that bike transportation is a progressive fantasy. “This is America, not Amsterdam. There are big cars and lots of them,” Anderson said, contending that bikes and cars sharing the road is inherently dangerous.
Research on bike crash injuries supports pro-bike forces. Several studies demonstrated that in the long run, injury risk decreases as the proportion of bikes on the road increases. But in the short run, bike crashes are likely to increase as drivers and bicyclists struggle to acclimate themselves to sharing the road. The government should intervene to promote cycling and improve cyclist safety.
Some factors that may contribute to bike transportation safety are bike lane design and safety precautions such as helmets. But these factors are also controversial. While segregated bike lanes promote biker safety, for example, they may exert a negative influence on acclimation so that when drivers and bicyclists do inevitably share roadway, their travels may be less safe.
While San Francisco’s bike plan got a boost from the ruling allowing it to proceed on a limited basis, there’s still a long road ahead for the bicycle transportation movement.
Our critics need to get out of their car mentality and take a bike ride through San Francisco’s streets. If they could see the perspective of the bicyclist — and face the threats that plague ordinary citizens biking to and from work — they would join forces in making San Francisco a safe and bike-friendly city.
Contact our Bay Area bicycle accident injury lawyers today for a free case evaluation or visit our site, http://www.bike-law.com, for more information. And please act quickly — time limits, called statutes of limitations, require that you act promptly to protect your rights.