Bike to Work Day aims to promote healthier commute

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Thursday morning saw people, including the Berkeley mayor, participating in the 21st annual Bay Area Bike to Work Day in areas all over the East Bay, including Berkeley, Fremont, Castro Valley and Oakland.

Hosted by Bike East Bay, a bicycle advocacy group active in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, the event aims to promote a healthier way to commute and allow bicycles to become a regular part of people’s routine, according to Cynthia Armour, the project manager of Bike East Bay. The event was planned in conjunction with the city’s Walk and Roll to School Day.

“We hear a lot of stories from people who tell us that they started riding to work at Bike to Work Day a few years ago and never stopped ever since.” Armour said. “We want to provide that extra push people need to try biking out.”

During the event, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates was joined by Morten Kabell, who is the mayor of technical and environmental affairs of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Mayor Albrecht Schroter of Jena, Germany on a bicycle ride early Thursday morning from the campus’ Sproul Plaza to Berkeley City Hall.

This year, the event was a bit different. According to Armour, the event usually entails the running of pit stops, called energizers, situated in locations scattered all across Southside and Downtown Berkeley that offer commuters food and promotional items. This year, the event was special in that temporary bikeways — created to simulate permanent bike lanes — were partitioned with traffic cones on Milvia Street.

The city has also increased hopes of raising bicycle safety awareness, most recently holding an open house to discuss improvements to the Berkeley Bicycle Plan. The plan has not been edited for about 10 to 20 years, according to Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

Since 2001, more than 2,000 bicycle collisions have occurred, according to data from the California Highway Patrol, which Worthington said stressed the necessity of some reforms to the Berkeley Bicycle Plan.

“The Bike Plan is woefully outdated,” Worthington said. “Things that Berkeley adopted in the Bike Plan was cutting edge at the time, but some of them have proven to be failures and some tiny steps forward. We need bigger steps forward now.”

One of the biggest issues, according to Worthington, was ensuring the existence of safe, secure bicycle parking spaces. Occasional bikers or those who have recently started biking often experience theft of their bikes and decide not to ride to work again.

The city also aims to improve city biking experience by building better sidewalks and bike lanes on Hearst Avenue. The city has already approved the building of new lanes, and construction is slated for summer 2016.

Contact Jennifer Kang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jennikang.