The city of Berkeley held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the new Fulton Street bicycle lane Thursday — national “Bike to Work” day.
The bike lane runs two blocks on Fulton Street from Bancroft Way to Channing Way and connects cyclists with the Channing Way Bicycle Boulevard.
In 2000, the city of Berkeley designated the blocks on Fulton Street as bike lanes in the city’s Bicycle Master Plans, which are projects designed to make cycling conditions safer, according to Renee Rivera, executive director of advocacy group Bike East Bay. Rivera added that since then, the group has been advocating for the city to install new bike lanes and pave old ones.
The bike lane is on a route that many students and faculty take to get to campus, according to Rivera.
“I’m gratified that the city of Berkeley installed a protected bike lane on Fulton Ave where previously a bike lane abruptly ended, dumping bikes into three lanes of traffic,” said Megan Schwarzman, campus scientist and cyclist, in an email. “I just wish the city hadn’t waited 16 years —through multiple prior accidents and my near-death collision—to take action.”
Schwarzman’s near-death collision occurred at the intersection of Fulton Street and Bancroft Way in late February, which led advocates to further push the city to improve cycling safety. In response to the accident, Bike East Bay submitted a proposal to the city urging that it take immediate action. The proposal received unanimous support from City Council.
Kent Chen, a recently graduated campus student who has been cycling to campus for the past three years, said that the bike lane was crucial and that he now feels safer riding through the bike lane. He added that, in the past, he has experienced many close encounters with cars honking at him on his bike.
According to Rivera, the delay in the city’s process of implementing more bike lanes was, in part, due to the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires the city to first study traffic impacts before placing bike lanes in order to mitigate possible problems.
Daniel Rietz, head mechanic at the campus bicycle co-op BicyCal, expressed concern about the potential of the bike lane to inconvenience drivers by reducing available parking space. He added, however, that the bike lanes were “absolutely the best step in the right direction” for cycling safety.
According to Rivera, Bike East Bay is working with the city to update the Bicycle Master Plans and hopes to complete the Hearst Avenue bike lane project sometime in 2017.
“Hopefully, this brand new bike lane will spearhead movements to make sure that more bike lanes will be built before potential accidents happen,” Chen said.