City of Berkeley unveils updates to bicycle plan

Enrique Lopez/Staff

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The City of Berkeley unveiled the updated Berkeley Bike Plan to members of the community at an open house Monday.

Approximately 85 community members gathered at the Berkeley Public Library to discuss enhancements to the plan, which was last updated in 2005. The revised plan includes recommendations for new bike boulevards and crossings, protected bikeways located near campus and downtown and upgrades to existing bike lanes, among other projects.

“This is part of a larger effort on part of the city to look at all of our streets and improve them for all modes of transportation,” said city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.

In a survey conducted by the city, Berkeley residents raised concerns that major streets are still difficult to cross and require more traffic devices, such as flashing beacons and signal crossing specifically designed for bicyclists, Chakko said. Bicyclists also reported concerns about sharing roads with vehicles on busier streets, creating the need for protected bikeways.

According to Dave Campbell, the advocacy director for Bike East Bay — a group representing bicyclists active in Alameda and Contra Costa counties —  the updated plan improves the city’s bicycle boulevard design and implements more protected bikeways.

“The main thing that Berkeley needs to do — and it’s the main thing any American city needs to do —  is create a network of bikeways that are safe, comfortable (and) attractive for all users of the roadway,” said Campbell.

Typical bike lanes marked by five-inch wide white lines do not provide barriers wide enough to separate bicyclists and drivers, said Campbell. He added that in order to encourage more residents in Berkeley to bicycle, the city should implement protected bike lanes —  such as the one recently installed on Fulton Street — which convert one lane of traffic into space for parked vehicles to create a barrier between the bike lane and the road.

Campbell said that several streets in Berkeley with high speed traffic, including Telegraph Avenue and Gilman Street, should require these protected bike lanes in order to physically protect bikers from vehicles.

According to a collision analysis conducted by the California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, the three Berkeley intersections tied for the highest number of collisions include Martin Luther King Jr Way and University Avenue, Hearst Avenue and Oxford Street, and Adeline Street and Alcatraz Avenue. Twenty-two collisions have occurred at each of these intersections between 2001 and 2012.

The protected bike lane on Fulton Street was completed in May in response to increased advocacy for bike safety after a near-death collision occurred at the intersection of Fulton Street and Bancroft Way. Chakko said that the Berkeley Bike Plan redesign was not spurred by any collisions, but was meant for the city to become eligible for more funding and align with new bicycling standards.

Within the next few weeks, the city will install a protected bikeway on Hearst Avenue, along with two bus islands and improved signals for vehicles. At its Dec. 13 meeting, Berkeley City Council will decide whether or not to implement the updated bike plan, according to Chakko.

Contact Cassandra Vogel at [email protected].