City of Berkeley proposes plan to make Milvia Street safer for bicyclists

Chart showing collision frequency and types at Milvia Street
Ariel Lung/Staff

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The city of Berkeley has recently revealed a plan to improve safety on the Milvia Street Bicycle Boulevard which experiences more cycling collisions than any other bikeway in Berkeley, according to the city’s public open house presentation.

The Milvia Bikeway Project plans to create a protected bike lane for cyclists between Hearst and Blake Street while making sure the community continues to have access to businesses that currently rely on parking and loading zones. On Jan. 30, the city held a public outreach meeting showing the different potential plans, including one in which the street is turned into a one-way lane for vehicles and another that would make it a protected two-way bicycle track on the east side of the street.

“I know firsthand how dangerous it is bicycling on Milvia,” Mayor Jesse Arreguín said. “Once you go down Milivia towards city hall the street width is very narrow, you are dealing with parked cars, you are weaving in and out of traffic — it is not a safe stretch.”

The estimated completion date for the project is 2021, according to Arreguín. He mentioned, however, that he believes the city should not wait until then.

Some seven thousand vehicles drive down Milvia Street between Center and Bancroft Street on an average work day, according to the public open house presentation. The National Association of City Transportation Officials suggests that for a street to be comfortable for bicycles, the number of vehicles should be around 1,500 per day, according to the Milvia Bikeway Project website.

According to Arreguín, the city is moving ahead in determining a design, and hopes to receive funding in the spring so that construction may begin. Arreguín added that the city has applied for an approximately $300,000 grant from the Alameda County Transportation Commission for planning the design. He said the city hopes to receive capital funds in order to build the project.

“They all build a protective bike lane, that’s our goal,” said Dave Campbell, the advocacy director for a nonprofit organization called Bike East Bay.

Campbell says he wants the bike lanes to be created as soon as possible. He is skeptical about how long it will take to create a two-way bicycle track as well as how drivers will respond to having bikes riding on the other side of the street.

Campus freshman Ben Hoberman likes the idea of making the street safer. He said he finds Milvia Street uncomfortable to bike on and added that he feels “more comfortable” when biking on two parallel bike lanes because “cars actually take it seriously as a space they aren’t supposed to be in.”

Arreguín said a two-way protected bicycle lane would be the “most logical” way to “ensure mobility through that corridor.” He pointed out that many Berkeley High School students are dropped off on the west side of Milvia and that it “makes the most sense” when considering businesses worried about the loss of parking.

“It’s a very heavily used bicycle corridor but it is still unsafe for bicyclists and there is a need to put in a protected lane so there is protection from motorists and provide a safer biking experience for people in our communities,” said Arreguín.

Contact Brennan Havens and Boyce Buchanan at [email protected].