Bike_Lane.jpgMayor Gavin Newsom and other city leaders today inaugurated the installation of the first bike lane installed since the bike plan injunction was fully lifted on Friday by helping paint one of the stripes for the first of 35 planned projects.

Leaders of the San Francisco Bike Coalition, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi joined Newsom at 4th and Townsend streets this afternoon to help celebrate.

On Friday, a Superior Court judge found that the city is in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, dissolving a 2006 injunction that prohibited city engineers from moving forward on plans to enhance street safety and usability for bicycles.

The original bike plan was adopted in May 2005, but the Superior Court forbid the city to implement any projects until it completed a full environmental impact report and re-adopted the plan, according to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

The new stretch of lane on Townsend Street, which will connect 8th Street to the Embarcadero, should be completed in about two weeks, according to Renie Rivera, acting executive director of the San Francisco Bike Coalition.

Two subsequent bike lane projects on North Point Street and Laguna Honda Boulevard, each about one mile long, are also scheduled to begin this week and are scheduled to be completed in the coming weeks, Rivera said.

“This is a great day for bicycling in San Francisco,” Rivera said. “This [Townsend project] in particular is really going to help people who commute via Caltrain.”

Rivera said all pending 35 projects are fully planned and funded, and that officials have been waiting for the injunction to be lifted to break ground. She thanked the Municipal Transportation Agency at today’s event for their support of the bike community.

“This was not a hard one,” SFMTA chairman Tom Nolan said of the street improvements for better biking. “Our board was unanimously supportive of the Bike Coalition all the way through.”

Part of the injunction was lifted in November, allowing the city to complete 10 bike-related city projects in the past nine months, including a green bike lane down Market Street that Rivera said is very popular with bike commuters.

One in two San Franciscans said they would bike more if there were marked bike lanes, Rivera said, and the city has already seen a 53 percent increase in bikers in the past three years without any street improvements.

“Now [that the injunction has been lifted], the growth is going to be exponential,” Newsom said.

The pending projects will add 31 miles to the city’s current 48 miles of bike-only lanes, a 64 percent increase, said SFMTA executive director Nathaniel Ford today.

Rivera said that the number of traffic collisions involving bikers has remained the same during this surge of bikers on the road, but she hoped to see fewer impacts as the new projects reach completion.

“That’s what happened in New York,” she said. “When they put in more bike lanes, they saw a dramatic increase in bikers and a decrease in collisions. We hope to see the same thing here in the next year or two.”

Biking proponents at today’s event expressed hope that these new street improvements would help San Francisco finally surpass Portland as the “most bikeable” city in America.

“I love Portland, but I hate that they’re ahead of us,” Newsom said with a mock challenge to the Oregon city’s mayor. “You’re going down. This is the last piece of the puzzle.”

Though issues such as auto traffic in the bike lanes at Fell and Divisadero streets still need to be resolved, Newsom said his office has received no complaints about the new additions that have been enacted since November–even from motorists.

“To be a world-class city, we have to realize that we cohabitate.

This is not about bikes versus cars, it’s about bikes and cars,” Newsom said.

“It’s a different era now. We’re working more collaboratively together.”

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