Bare bones bike share on tap

They’re gay in Paris and beaming in Barcelona. Even residents in New York and Washington, D.C., are cracking a smile about bike-share programs.

San Francisco residents, however, who are interested in a system of hybrid bicycles that can be picked up and dropped off at a number of stations throughout The City are still holding their breath. A legal challenge prevents any new bicycle-related development, and a city-driven environmental impact report due out next year may be delayed even further.

But Mayor Gavin Newsom said he’s found a way to start a smaller program without violating the court-ordered bike plan injunction: offer an internal network only for The City’s 28,000 or so employees.

The deal has several kinks to work out, but Newsom directed Municipal Transportation Agency Director Nathaniel Ford to implement the plan at a recent department head meeting in hopes that The City won’t be left in the slow lane.

The SFMTA is developing details in the next few months and will implement the program for city employees soon, according to Ford.

“We are in discussions with Clear Channel about the bike-share component.” Ford said. “When the bike injunction is lifted, we will implement it citywide.”

Under a preliminary injunction that was upheld in 2006, The City can continue to plan bicycle improvements, but it may not paint bicycle lanes, install bicycle racks or allow bicycles on San Francisco Municipal Railway vehicles until it comes into compliance with state environmental laws.

That also includes installing the electronic bike stalls where would-be bike sharers would park. Critics of the bike-share program point to European cities where traffic has increased and parking spaces have been axed in favor of bike-share
stations.

A small group calling itself the Coalition for Adequate Review sued The City last year, claiming that the bicycle plan should be subject to environmental review because it makes physical changes to The City’s streetscape.

The group cited the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires public projects to undergo a review if they might alter the environment. In order to come into compliance with CEQA, The City must either conduct an environmental impact review or become exempt from the process.

Under the latest advertising contract with Clear Channel Outdoor, the MTA is required to offer them the first shot at a contract.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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