A cyclist crosses at Page and Webster streets in the Lower Haight. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

They’re back: Frequent bike lane foes challenge Page Street project

A duo that is notorious in transit and bicycling circles for efforts to block local bike lane projects is back in action.

Attorney Mary Miles and car advocate Rob Anderson, who successfully tied up city bike lane plans for years with litigation, have filed an environmental challenge to the Page Street Bikeway Pilot that could potentially delay the project.

The 12-month pilot project would create a bikeway on Page Street with a physical barrier for safety between Laguna and Octavia Streets, and also create some forced turns for drivers seeking to use Page Street as a shortcut to a nearby U.S. Highway 101 onramp. That additional traffic on Page Street has threatened children attending John Muir Elementary School with potential traffic collisions.

The project was approved in November by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors, but drew some objections from Haight Street merchants who feared that some drivers would shift from Page Street to Haight Street, gumming up traffic there.

SFMTA staff have written in reports that the point of making the project a pilot is to measure those impacts, with planned reviews to see who is impacted, and how.

However Miles and Anderson argued in the appeal, which was filed in late December, that the pilot’s purpose and duration are not to collect data but to implement a bicycle project “on behalf of” the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which the challengers call “a private lobbying corporation.”

The appeal asserts that the SFMTA failed to environmentally review the project’s “significant impacts” on transportation, transit, parking, air quality, energy use, and public safety, which includes access for city emergency vehicles.

The bike coalition responded with consternation to the appeal, which will go before the Board of Supervisors for a review and vote on Jan. 28.

“The Page Street Bikeway Improvements pilot enjoyed broad support among community members, elected officials and groups like the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association,” said Brian Wiedenmeier, director of the coalition, in a statement. “We’re confident that the approval process for this project will stand on its own merit when heard during appeal. We just can’t delay safety on our streets any further.”

The appeal may serve as an early test for newly sworn-in Supervisor Dean Preston, who represents the neighborhood encompassing the soon-to-come Page Street bikeway.

“I have been a long-time advocate for bike safety improvements along Page Street,” Preston said in a statement. “As to the vote on the appeal, I look forward to the hearing and learning more.”

At the hearing, Miles and Anderson, or parties representing them, will argue that the bikeway requires environmental review. But this isn’t the pair’s first rodeo.

Miles and Anderson sued to block San Francisco’s 2005 bike plan, which laid out a vision for 34 miles of bike lanes on city streets. That legal challenge continued until at least 2013, the San Francisco Examiner previously reported, when construction on the bike lanes finally allowed some projects to move forward.

City Hall records show four previous Board of Supervisors hearings on challenges to pedestrian or bike safety projects by the pair’s group, The Coalition for Adequate Review, in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2017.

Anderson became so infamous for his role in blocking the 2005 bike plan that a parody Twitter account was created under the name “Bob Gunderson,” whose profile claims he is “Fighting for wider streets, faster speeds & more parking everywhere. Battling the radical all-powerful bike lobby.”

The account tweets out exaggerated, car-favoring opinions, like this one in response to a new law in Oregon allowing cyclists to roll slowly through stop signs, “Waaahhhh, waahhhhh! Why can’t WE do this with 2-ton 200+ horsepower metal boxes if ~snowflake bicyclist~ get it, waaah, waaaaah!!!”

Anderson operates a blog called the District 5 Diary, referencing the supervisorial neighborhoods encompassing the Haight, North of the Panhandle, Inner Sunset, Japantown and Fillmore neighborhoods among others.

His blog posts frequently skewer San Francisco’s stances on street safety, including Vision Zero, which aims to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2024, which he called in a December blog post “dumb and dishonest.”

Should the appeal be denied, and if “no further legal action is taken,” SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato said “there will be no impact to our schedule” in implementing the bike project.

Miles did not return a request for comment by press time.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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