CEQA Myths Used to Destroy Bike Projects

By Subjective Bureaucrat

Bureaucrats cannot resist the desire to get nerdy every once in a while, so please allow me a quick opportunity to do so.

How many times have you heard the response, “we can’t do that project because it will require an EIR.” (An EIR is an Environmental Impact Report and is a hefty and timely document) It is almost like environmental review will destroy a perfectly bitchen bike project. The stinging smell that crosses my nose everytime I hear those words come out of a collegues mouth is one of pure BULLSHIT! I have spent enough of my life digging through the CEQA Guidelines book to know full well a line of bullshit when I hear it.

Here comes the super nerdy part. The first thing a project goes through, long before the EIR can come along is an Initial Review. It is basically a checklist of potential environmental impacts. The checklist is included as an attachment in the CEQA Guidelines book that comes out pretty much every year. As one might assume, there is a Transportation/Traffic section of the checklist. But not all checklists are the same. Each year the checklists get tweaked a little depending on case law and what not. My office has a whole stack of these Guidelines books laying around from years past. So lets take compare a 2005 checklist with the 2010 checklist, nerdy bureaucrat style…

XV. TRANSPORTATION/TRAFFIC — Would the project:

a) Cause an increase in traffic which is substantial in relation to the existing traffic load and capacity of the street system (i.e., result in a substantial increase in either the number of vehicle trips, the volume to capacity ratio on roads, or congestion at intersections)?

b) Exceed, either individually or cumulatively, a level of service standard established by the county congestion management agency for designated roads or highways?

c) Result in a change in air traffic patterns, including either an increase in traffic levels or a change in location that results in substantial safety risks?

d) Substantially increase hazards due to a design feature (e.g., sharp curves or dangerous intersections) or incompatible uses (e.g., farm equipment)?

e) Result in inadequate emergency access?

f) Result in inadequate parking capacity?

So each of these items has four boxes next to it that represent “No Impact”, “Less Than Significant Impact”, “Less Than Significant With Mitigation”, and “Potentially Significant Impact”. If your project may have a “Potentially Significant Impact” there is a good chance that an EIR is going to be required. Ok so that is the 2005 checklist and it is jammed full of the assumption that car traffic is bad and a project that increases car traffic is the devil. Now lets move five years into the future and take a look at the 2010 checklist…

XVI. TRANSPORTATION/TRAFFIC. Would the project:

a) Conflict with an applicable plan, ordinance or policy establishing measures of effectiveness for the performance of the circulation system, taking into account all modes of transportation including mass-transit and non-motorized travel and relevent components of the circulation system, including but not limited to intersections, streets, highways and freeways, pedestrian and bicycle paths, and mass transit?

b) Conflict with an applicable congestion management program, including, but not limited to level of service standards and travel demand measures, or other standards established by the county congestion management agency for designated roads or highways?

c) Result in air traffic patterns, including either an increase in traffic levels or a change of location that results in substantial safety risks?

d) Substantially increase hazards due to a design feature (e.g., sharp curves or dangerous intersections) or incompatible uses (e.g., farm equipment)?

e) Result in inadequate emergency access?

f) Conflict with adopted policies, plans, or programs regarding public transit, bicycle, or pedestrian facilities, or otherwise decrease the performance or safety of such facilities?

So there you have it… the bicycle was invented somewhere between 2005 and 2010! Ok maybe not, but the CEQA Guidelines took off their training wheels and stopped riding on the sidewalk somewhere during that time.

As a bureaucrat I am not longer forced to look at the transportation system in terms of how many cars I can cram through an intersection during the hours of 7-9am and 4-6pm. So when you hear someone say “we can’t do that project because it will require an EIR,”  take the Subjective Bureaucrat’s lead and tell them BULLSHIT!

While I am at it I might as well add a list of some go-to exemptions that work really well for bike projects…

15061(b)(3) The activity is covered by the general rule that CEQA applies only to projects which have the potential for causing a significant effect on the environment. Where it can be seen with certainty that there is no possiblity that the activity in question may have a significant effect on the environment, the activity is not subject to CEQA.

15282 (g) Any railroad grade separation project which eliminates an existing grade crossing  or reconstructs an exisitng grade separation

15301 (c) Negligible or no expansion of existing highways and streets, sidewalks, gutters, bicycle and pedestrian trails, and similar facilities

15304  (h) The creation of bicycle lanes on exisiting rights-of-way

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3 Responses to “CEQA Myths Used to Destroy Bike Projects”

  1. its an EIR that protects and enhances the trails that you bike on you prick

  2. subjective bureaucrat May 4th, 2012 at 10:22 am

    For reals? Prick?! That’s rich! I am glad you decided to join a conversation that you know absolutely nothing about! An EIR for a bike project is like bringing a bazooka to a knife fight. Its just a waste of time and resources. An EIR is only for projects that have the possibility of having a significant impact on the environment. Surface mine and landfill projects come to mind, not bike lanes! Or even trails/paths! Don’t be an idiot, you prick.

  3. Any competent bureaucrats versed in CEQA will know that there’s a statutory exemption enacted in 2012 that allows bike lane improvements in urbanized areas. Simply put, most bike projects don’t need an EIR.

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