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Why do Hayes Valley NIMBYs want to stop this Page Street bike program?

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City says separating cyclists and divers is good for the neighborhood, but an appeal tried to block the plan on—wait for it—environmental grounds

A bike riders wearing a helmet rides down a steep street with cars.
A cyclist riding down Page Street.
Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

San Francisco wants to experiment with turning part of Page Street into a bikes-only byway, but some neighbors have raised objections to this project on—of all things—environmental grounds.

Now, this seems like a puzzle: What could be environmentally abhorrent about bicycles, the eco-friendly commuting solution?

Apparently quite a lot, at least according to attorney Mary Miles who this week appealed to the Board of Supervisors to toss out the Page Street bike program’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption and force the city to put the plan through the regular environmental-impact report rigamarole.

Under what the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) calls its Page Street Bikeway Improvements Pilot, the eastbound lane of Page between Octavia and Laguna would close to cars for 12 months, and drivers would no longer use Page to access the freeway.

According to SFMTA, this is because people driving toward Octavia Boulevard to access the Central Freeway are “increasingly choosing to queue on residential streets and transit-priority corridors” like Page, which in turns creates gridlock.

Note that the city claims this issue is the result of SF’s rising population. Hayes Valley driving habits were less consequential in the past, but with the neighborhood more crowded these days, it has directly affected quality of life.

Barring cars would make life easier for cyclists, pedestrians, and children at the nearby John Muir Elementary School—or so the city says.

So, what could anyone complain about? In a six-page missive to the board, Miles laid out objections to the bike program, including:

  • Closing Page Street will allegedly push thousands of cars onto nearby streets like Oak and Fell, “which are already over capacity,” increasing congestion and delays in the neighborhood rather than relieving it.
  • The appeal also claims that, by rearranging traffic this way, the city will add to pollution created by Page drivers thanks to “vehicle idling and residents having to search for parking.”
  • On the latter point, the pilot nixes 36 parking spaces, and the neighborhood has recently lost street parking in other areas, thus creating even more driving hassles.
  • While the city hopes that separating drivers and cyclists on some avenues will decrease traffic collisions, Miles calls this the “city’s Vision Zero fantasy” and complains that this part of Page is not a major hub for accidents.
  • The budget for the pilot program comes in at $350,000, with some of the money going toward city employees assigned to (as Miles puts it) “count cars on Page Street after it prohibits their travel there,” which the appeal mocks as wasteful and redundant. (The monitoring is meant to verify whether or not drivers abide by the new rules.)
  • Additionally, the complaint alleges that such a closure is illegal and that the city doesn’t have the authority to shut a public street to drivers in the first place.

The appeal demands the Page Street program go through the state’s full CEQA process. Miles struck a conspiratorial tone at Tuesday’s hearing—asking board members not to yawn in her face or “make gestures” while she talked—alleging that the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition “wants Page Street for their own.”

Miles also claimed that cyclists already outnumber drivers on these blocks as it is.

While there may be valid criticisms of the bike plan, the board decided these weren’t it. They tossed out the appeal on unanimous vote.

Under the current timetable, the Page Street project will begin early this year, with a report on the results—and consideration of whether to renew it—due at the end of 2021.

Further attempts at appeal or litigation could hold up the start.