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CEQA: environmental law that can broadly frustrate

Bicycle advocacy groups are legion in California, with hit-the-road enthusiasts being prominently noted in virtually every community across the state, big and small.

When bike lovers gather to talk about their passion, they wax on about various models, preferred biking locales, the newest gear and technology … and CEQA.

That acronym is widely known to many people across California, and certainly to many impassioned bike riders who want to see their riding areas expanded and rendered safer by rationally considered and implemented bike lanes.

CEQA -- the California Environmental Quality Act -- has a big say -- many people might say the overriding and sole say -- in determining whether such improvements come to bear.

They often don't, with many critics saying that the statute described in one recent media report as "the state's premier environmental law" often thwarts progress in developmental efforts.

The reason: Individuals, groups and government bodies seeking to add bike lines must first comply with CEQA mandates regarding traffic-impact studies, public hearings and, sometimes, material road reconfigurations. The cost of doing business when CEQA is a relevant consideration can be flatly prohibitive.

The result, as noted in the aforementioned media story: CEQA "has stymied bike lanes up and down the state for more than a decade."

And that justifiably frustrates a wide swath of would-be reformers who readily profess frustration with what they regard as a law that simply thwarts rather than promotes necessary change.

One bike advocate says that CEQA is "not a law that lets you say yes."

Notes another, a city official who calls himself "a committed environmentalist" who wants to add bike lanes to his city: "CEQA is an incredible burden to doing work in urban areas."

The law indeed commands wide scope and has been broadly frustrating to many diverse groups across the state. Gov. Jerry Brown has termed efforts to reform CEQA "the Lord's work."

That work goes on, with many people searching for a more effective balance between development projects and regulatory environmental impositions.

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