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Bicyclists winning a war of lanes in San Francisco

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By day, they are sober-minded city professionals – teachers, doctors, lawyers – who forgo cars and buses to commute by bicycle.

One Friday night a month, they gather in this liberal bastion of activism for the cause of cleaner air and quieter and safer streets. One thousand to 2,000 strong on average, they pedal through traffic lights and stop signs like a diminutive band of Hobbit cyclists out to conquer the armies of Sauron (car owners of San Francisco).

"It has taken a decade of organizing and lobbying, but bike riders in San Francisco have put themselves into the forefront of city politics," says Supervisor Chris Daly, one of 11 supervisors who last year gave a unanimous thumbs up to a five-year plan to create skeins of official pathways for bicyclists all over the city.

About 40,000 residents say they commute by bike regularly, which is less than 10 percent of the city's 450,000 registered car owners. They are led by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), which has secured backing from the public and the city to develop plans for more bike lanes, official bike routes, bike parking, and bike racks on buses.

But not all residents are embracing the city's five-year plan. Critics filed a lawsuit to put the brakes on it. And in June, a San Francisco Superior Court judge put the plan on hold, preventing it from going forward until the court rules on the case. The hearing is scheduled for Sept. 13.

"We are about to redesign the streets of San Francisco on behalf of less than 2 percent of the population – based on a fantasy prophesy that people will get out of their cars and start biking...." says Rob Anderson, an activist and blogger, citing 2000 census figures of bike commuters.


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