An interesting story in the Wall Street Journal today - Craig's little town
is locked in a bicycle battle...

San Francisco Ponders:
Could Bike Lanes Cause Pollution?

City Backpedals on a Cycling Plan
After Mr. Anderson Goes to Court

August 20, 2008; Page A1

SAN FRANCISCO -- New York is wooing cyclists with chartreuse bike lanes.
Chicago is spending nearly $1 million for double-decker bicycle parking.

San Francisco can't even install new bike racks.

Blame Rob Anderson. At a time when most other cities are encouraging biking
as green transport, the 65-year-old local gadfly has stymied cycling-support
efforts here by arguing that urban bicycle boosting could actually be bad
for the environment. That's put the brakes on everything from new bike lanes
to bike racks while the city works on an environmental-impact report.

Cyclists say the irony is killing them -- literally. At least four bikers
have died and hundreds more have been injured in San Francisco since
mid-2006, when Mr. Anderson helped convince a judge to halt implementation
of a massive pro-bike plan.(It's unclear whether the plan's execution could
have prevented the accidents.) In the past year, bike advocates have
demonstrated outside City Hall, pushed the city to challenge the plan's
freeze in court and proposed putting the whole mess to local voters. Nothing

"We're the ones keeping emissions from the air!" shouted Leah Shahum,
executive director of the 10,000-strong San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, at
a July 21 protest.

Mr. Anderson disagrees. Cars always will vastly outnumber bikes, he reasons,
so allotting more street space to cyclists could cause more traffic jams,
more idling and more pollution. Mr. Anderson says the city has been blinded
by political correctness. It's an "attempt by the anti-car fanatics to screw
up our traffic on behalf of the bicycle fantasy," he wrote in his blog this

Mr. Anderson's fight underscores the tensions that can circulate as urban
cycling, bolstered by environmental awareness and high gasoline prices,
takes off across the U.S. New York City, where the number of commuter
cyclists is estimated to have jumped 77% between 2000 and 2007, is adding
new bike lanes despite some motorist backlash. Chicago recently elected to
kick cars off stretches of big roads on two Sundays this year.

Famously progressive, San Francisco is known for being one of the most
pro-bike cities in the U.S., offering more than 200 miles of lanes and
requiring that big garages offer bike parking. It is also known for
characters like Mr. Anderson.

A tall, serious man with a grizzled gray beard, Mr. Anderson spent 13 months
in a California federal prison for resisting the draft during the Vietnam
War. He later penned pieces for the Anderson Valley Advertiser, a muckraking
Northern California weekly owned by his brother that's known for its savage
prose and pranks.

Running for Office

In 1995, Mr. Anderson moved to San Francisco. Working odd jobs, he twice ran
for a seat on the city's Board of Supervisors, pledging to tackle
homelessness and the city's "tacit PC ideology." He got 332 of 34,955 votes
in 2004, his second and best try.

That year Mr. Anderson, who mostly lives off a small government stipend he
receives for caring for his 92-year-old mother, also started a blog, digging
into local politics with gusto. One of his first targets: the city's most
ambitious bike plan to date.

Unveiled in 2004, the 527-page document was filled with maps, traffic
analyses and a list of roughly 240 locations where the city hoped to make
cycling easier. The plan called for more bike lanes, better bike parking and
a boost in cycling to 10% of the city's total trips by 2010.

The plan irked Mr. Anderson. Having not owned a car in 20 years, he says he
has had several near misses with bikers roaring through crosswalks and red
lights, and sees bicycles as dangerous and impractical for car-centric
American cities. Mr. Anderson was also bugged by what he describes as the
holier-than-thou attitude typified by Critical Mass, a monthly gathering of
bikers who coast through the city, snarling traffic for hours. "The behavior
of the bike people on city streets is always annoying," he says. "This 'Get
out of my way, I'm not burning fossil fuels.' "

Going to Court

In February 2005, Mr. Anderson showed up at a planning commission meeting.
If San Francisco was going to take away parking spaces and car lanes, he
argued, it had better do an environmental-impact review first. When the
Board of Supervisors voted to skip the review, Mr. Anderson sued in state
court, enlisting his friend Mary Miles, a former postal worker, cartoonist
and Anderson Valley Advertiser colleague.

Ms. Miles, who was admitted to the California bar in 2004 at age 57, proved
a pugnacious litigator. She sought to kill the initial brief from San
Francisco's lawyers after it exceeded the accepted length by a page. She
objected when the city attorney described Mr. Anderson's advocacy group, the
Coalition for Adequate Review, as CAR in their documents. (It's C-FAR.) She
also convinced the court to review key planning documents over the city's

Slow Pedaling

In November 2006, a California Superior Court judge rejected San Francisco's
contention that it didn't need an environmental review and ordered San
Francisco to stop all bike-plan activity until it completed the review.

Since then, San Francisco has pedaled very slowly. City planners say they're
being extra careful with their environmental study, in hopes that Mr.
Anderson and Ms. Miles won't challenge it. Planners don't expect the study
will be done for another year.

Meanwhile, Mr. Anderson and Ms. Miles have teamed up to oppose a plan to put
high-rises and additional housing in a nearby neighborhood. He continues to
blog from his apartment in an old Victorian home. "Regardless of the obvious
dangers, some people will ride bikes in San Francisco for the same reason
Islamic fanatics will engage in suicide bombings -- because they are
politically motivated to do so," he wrote in a May 21 post.

"In case anyone doubted that you were a wingnut, this statement pretty much
sums things up!" one commenter retorted.

Mr. Anderson is running for supervisor again this November -- around the
time the city will unveil the first draft of its bike-plan environmental
review. He's already pondering a challenge of the review.

Write to Phred Dvorak at phred.dvorak@wsj.com1

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