Fell-Oak Bikeway Plan Threatened By Lawsuit From Disability Activists

Local Cyclists Face An Unexpected New Threat

When San Francisco officials approved the installation of separated bikeways along Fell and Oak Streets, local bike enthusiasts rejoiced.

Regular cyclists have long complained that the highly-trafficked stretch of the two parallel streets, which connects the popular Wiggle bicycle route to Golden Gate Park, are unsafe.

But now their celebrated plan might be threatened.

Earlier this month, a group of neighborhood residents appealed the city's approval of the bikeway, arguing it violates both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Environmental Quality Act.

In a complaint filed on November 5 with the city's Planning Department and Board of Supervisors, developer Mark Brennan, disability rights advocate Howard Chabner and Haight Ashbury Improvement Association President Ted Loewenberg charge that the bikeway project is illegal, claiming it never underwent its required Environmental Impact Report.

Cyclists argue that, because the project was conceived as part of the city's over-arching bicycle plan, it didn't need its own separate report.

Additionally, the bikeway's opponents have charged that the new route violates the Americans with Disabilities Act as it removes 55 parking spaces. "Although the loss of parking would be a hardship for the large numbers of people who live, visit and work in the neighborhood, it would disproportionately impact people with major mobility disabilities, such as wheelchair users and slow walkers," reads the lawsuit. "Many people with mobility disabilities rely heavily on private vehicles."

None of the parking spaces being removed are reserved for disability placard holders, however.

Despite the suit, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation began striping the new bike lanes on Thursday.

"I think it's unfortunate that there is the threat of delay to a project that has gone through so many years of community input and has such strong support," San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum told the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "There are a few individuals who are trying to delay the project, but I'm happy to hear the MTA is moving it forward anyway."

Streetsblog reports:

By January, according to [SFMTA spokesman Paul] Rose, car parking lanes would be removed to make room for the bike lanes; the bike lanes would be striped; "continental" (a.k.a. "ladder") crosswalk upgrades would be striped; and traffic signals would be re-timed to 20 MPH. New car parking spaces would also be created on nearby streets, accounting for about half of the spots removed.

The removal of car parking alone would significantly improve the level of comfort for bicyclists. Currently, people using the Fell Street bike lane, which is just a few feet wide, are wedged between parked cars on one side and heavy motor traffic passing inches away on the other. Oak Street lacks a bike lane at all, forcing riders to mix with motor traffic.

The appeal hearing has been set for December 11.

Earlier this year, the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association proffered its own alternative to the Fell/Oak bikeways that would have pushed the lanes further out from the Panhandle and onto Page and Hayes Streets. That plan received little traction as it seemed unlikely that bikers would climb the hill required to get onto Page or travel a few blocks in the wrong direction to access Hayes.

Check out this video detailing the new bikeway plan:

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