Pedal power

Pub date July 22, 2008


Hundreds of bicyclists invaded City Hall July 21 to demand safer bike routes and decry new bureaucratic delays in environmental review work on the Bicycle Plan, which a judge said the city must complete before it can make any improvements mentioned in the plan, from new lanes to simple racks (see "Stationary biking," 05/16/07).

But they arrived a couple hours too late to change the tenor of a hearing on another priority for car-free advocates: the Sunday Streets proposal by Mayor Gavin Newsom to close the Embarcadero to cars Aug. 31 and Sept. 14, which is being challenged on procedural and economic grounds by Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin and conservative supervisors.

Presentations to the board’s Government Audit and Oversight Committee in support of Sunday Streets were overshadowed by a big turnout of merchants from Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf — who have vociferously opposed the proposal, citing concerns about lost business — and labor leaders, who unexpectedly lent their support to Peskin’s play.

"We just don’t want to have a beta test of a new program on one of the busiest days of the year," said Karen Bell, executive director of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefits District. "People want to drive down the Embarcadero. They don’t want to take side streets."

Advocates of the program are resisting Peskin’s effort to postpone the events until after an economic study can be done.

"Every other city that’s tried this has found it has tremendous economic benefits, as well as tremendous health benefits and social benefits," said Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

The committee moved Peskin’s resolution to the full board with no recommendation after Sups. Sophie Maxwell and Tom Ammiano voiced support for Sunday Streets. It was set to be heard July 22 after Guardian press time, but Mayor’s Office officials said they intend to hold the events as scheduled no matter what the outcome and work with opponents to ease their concerns.

But most cyclists were focused on the Bike Plan, which might not have final approval until late next year, as an afternoon Land Use Committee hearing called by Sup. Gerardo Sandoval revealed.

Bicycle Advisory Committee member Casey Allen called the delay unacceptable, and said he’s working with others to formally intervene in the case next month, arguing that unsafe conditions are a public health issue demanding immediate action.

"We have to take risks sometimes and challenge the status quo," Allen said. "That’s how we move forward as a society."

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