City must unite to support bicycle-friendly street design

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Caragh McErlean/Staff

Last May, bike commuters to UC Berkeley got to briefly enjoy a few weeks of Fulton Street’s new protected bike lane before heading off for the summer. This fall, bike commuters are going to enjoy much more as Berkeley’s network of modern bikeways grows. It’s all about protection — separating your bike lane from travel lanes and protecting you from fast-moving vehicles. Imagine that as you bike you’re able to think about that next test you have to take rather than think about safely bicycling to the classroom.

Go ride the two blocks of curbside, physically protected bike lane on southbound Fulton Street, between Bancroft Way and Channing Way, and you will start to understand what we mean by protection. Fulton Street uses low-cost flex posts and parked cars to protect you. Check it out, but know that your experience bicycling Fulton Street will only tell part of the story. More is coming.

In October, Berkeley plans to build a two-way protected bike lane on Bancroft Way, between Dana Street and Fulton Street, connecting to Fulton’s new protected bike lane. There will be an important City Council meeting Sept. 27 for approval. The intersection at Bancroft Way and Fulton Street is also getting a full makeover, too, and a red bus-only lane is being added to Bancroft Way to extend the existing bus-only lane in front of the ASUC down to Fulton Street.

The Bancroft Way project is a test in and of itself in advance of a summer 2017 repaving project. For nine months, Berkeley is allowing the public to try out the street redesign and will make it permanent, if successful, as part of next year’s repaving. First, though, Berkeley City Council has to approve the project and that happens Sept. 27 at City Hall. Contact your City Council member and let them know that you support the Bancroft Way project.

Come January, an impressive street redesign happens on Hearst Avenue. Along the north edge of campus, Hearst Avenue will have brand new protected bike lanes, bus boarding islands with bike lanes between the islands and the sidewalk, and a dedicated bike traffic signal at Euclid Avenue. The project extends six blocks from Shattuck Avenue to Euclid Avenue.

For those who will still be bike commuting to UC Berkeley in 2018, in the works are four more protected bike lane projects:

  1. An extension of the two-way cycle track on Bancroft Way east to Piedmont Avenue.
  2. A new four-block two-way cycle track on Dana Street from campus to Dwight Way.
  3. A two-block extension of Fulton Street’s protected bike lane south to Dwight Way.
  4. The Milvia Street protected bikeway through Downtown — by early 2018, protected bike lanes should be complete on Milvia Street from Hearst Avenue to at least Channing Way and possibly as far south as Blake Street — is the highest priority bike project in Berkeley’s new bicycle plan, expected to be approved in December.

The protected bike lane on Fulton Street and others like it currently on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland and Shoreline Drive in Alameda are seeing increases in the number of people bicycling. It’s the physical protection of these modern bikeways that people enjoy and that encourages them to bike more. As important as this is, what’s more exciting is the greater potential to increase bicycling with a network of connected protected bike lanes, a network such as the one coming to Berkeley on the streets around the Berkeley campus.

Berkeley is already the No. 2 city in the U.S. for bike commuting, and the Downtown and Southside areas are where most people bike. With a network that connects these many bike commuters to their destinations, our expectation is that bicycling will double and possibly triple in the core area of the city. You can help start that trend by coming to Berkeley City Council on Sept. 27 in support of the Bancroft Way project, Berkeley’s most ambitious redesign yet of a street for people. And then come ride its and Hearst Avenue’s protected bike lanes this fall.

Dave Campbell is the advocacy director for Bike East Bay

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