California Jerry Brown yesterday signed AB 417, Assembly Member Jim Frazier’s bill to exempt bicycle plans from provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
In June 2005, San Francisco adopted its Bicycle Plan, a five year plan to fund and implement various improvements to bicycle facilities in the city. Transportation staffers determined that the plan was exempt from the CEQA based upon their finding that there was no possibility that the bicycle plan would have significant impacts on the environment.
Rob Anderson and other petitioners famously sued the city to slow or halt implementation of the plan, claiming the bike plan could have significant environmental impacts. The court immediately enjoined the city from implementing its plan and, in 2007, ruled an environment impact report (EIR) is necessary for the plan to move forward. The city prepared and certified the EIR for the bike plan in 2009 and they’ve been going gangbusters on new bike facilities ever since. You can read the details of that legal saga here.
The lawsuit had a chilling effect on the creation and implementation of local bike plans statewide. Frazier introduced AB 417 to remove what some observors believe is an abuse of the environmental review process.
AB 417, which is among the bills in the California Bicycle Coalition list of important bicycle legislation, exempts a bicycle transportation plan in an urbanized area from CEQA review. AB 417 also exempts agencies from preparing a traffic and safety impact assessment for certain bike lane projects. The law will sunset in 2018.