Why are environmental laws preventing bike improvements?
In April 2006 the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution brought by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi declaring auto LOS to be an inappropriate measure of a given project's environmental impact, and requesting that the Planning Commission act to replace LOS with a more meaningful measure, such as vehicle trip generation. In fact, we wonder why the city can't simply discontinue the use of intersection congestion as an environmental effect altogether.
This is an obscure but fundamental issue for the city's aspirations to a greener, healthier future, and anyone with an interest in better transportation and land use is encouraged to come out and participate in the process. For more information contact Andy Thornley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LOS (Level-of-Service), Complete Streets, and Quality of Life interests in Street Design
Even in green, "Transit-First" San Francisco, planning and implementing better, safer streets for bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders is complicated by an over-sensitivity to automobile drivers' experience when evaluating costs and benefits. Moving more cars faster is the imperative over which all other transportation and land use concerns take a back seat. Ironically, environmental quality considerations, in the form of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) findings, are often the biggest obstacles to making quality-of-life improvements to city streets, not because pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements contribute to air / noise / water pollution (they don't), but because taking pavement away from private motorcars can potentially diminish the "Level of Service" (LOS) experienced by auto drivers below a failing-grade threshold of convenience.
The SF Bicycle Coalition is working with its partners to help the city abandon auto LOS as a significance concern for CEQA review, and broaden the conversation into how a streetscape project provides for the safety, comfort, and dignity of all the different people who use the city's streets. Let's get on with "completing the streets" for everyone who uses them and improve everyone's level of service!
LOS reading list
- Get the big idea on environmental review law: CEQA at a glance
- The SFBC's vision of the Citywide Bike Network is moving forward, but the city is going to have to carry out a full Environmental Impact Report on the Bike Plan before we get any more bike lanes (even shared-lane "sharrows") following Judge Busch's decision on the Bike Plan lawsuit.
- SF County Transportation Authority's Strategic Analysis Report 02-03 on LOS methodologies (246 Kb PDF)
- Transportation Impact Significance Criteria, San Francisco Planning Department (Appendix B of the SFCTA LOS SAR, 60 Kb PDF)
- CERES (California Environmental Resources Evaluation System) has a clickable flowchart of the CEQA process
- South Coast Air Quality Management District's comprehensive overview of CEQA
- Bikescape podcast on CEQA reform and the Bike Plan lawsuit (7/2/06)
- SF Bicycle Advisory Committee discussion on LOS practice in San Francisco, 12/17/03 (103 Kb PDF)
- The SF Bicycle Coalition's summary study of Bike LOS and non-auto roadway performance measures (137 Kb PDF)
- Replacing Automobile Level of Service for Better Health and Environmental Quality: a public health perspective, by Rajiv Bhatia, MD, MPH, Director, Environmental Health, San Francisco Department of Public Health
- SF Streets presents a simple proposal for local legislators to strike the CEQA significance of LOS for projects with substantial public health and safety benefits (63 Kb PDF)
- Auto LOS is Ruining our City — Needed Reforms for Safer Streets, More Sustainable Travel, and Greater Efficiency of Transportation System (2.2 Mb PowerPoint), a presentation by Transportation for a Livable City and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
- Completing the streets means routinely accommodating travel by all modes — get the big idea at Complete the Streets, a coalition which counts America Bikes and the Thunderhead Alliance among its members
- Quantifying the Benefits of Non-Motorized Transport for Achieving TDM Objectives, by Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (55 Kb PDF)
- Pleasanton (California) Residential Quality-of-Life LOS study (121 Kb PDF)