City Council rolls forward with Bancroft Way bikeway talks

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Berkeley City Council unanimously agreed to hold a public hearing to discuss the first phase of a pilot program that will add a two-lane bikeway and a transit-only lane to sections of Bancroft Way at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Phase one of the Southside Project aims to mitigate unreliable transit in the area while also providing dedicated space for bicyclists. In accordance with the plan, traffic lanes and on-street parking would be removed as deemed necessary by the city traffic engineer. The pilot project is expected to cost about $122,000, whereas the permanent installations would cost about $272,000.

Bicyclists at the meeting expressed that they currently have safety concerns related to congestion in the area. About 10,000 people ride AC Transit every day in South Berkeley, with up to 28 buses and shuttles going through Bancroft Way in an hour, according to data from the city department of public works. Additionally, 86 percent of AC Transit trips begin or end in South Berkeley.

The agenda memo for the item cited a Feb. 2 collision between a bicyclist and an automobile at Fulton Street and Bancroft Way, which resulted in severe injury for the bicyclist. Since the event, there’s been rising public interest in improving bicycle safety in the area, according to the memo.

“As a lifelong bicyclist who’s ridden my bike to work, to school, to entertainment … we need to protect bicyclists from cars,” said Berkeley resident Fred Dodsworth, who is currently running for the District 6 City Council seat, at the meeting.

Some community members questioned the feasibility of the project, the effectiveness of a two-way bike lane and the project’s predicted effects on parking. There were also concerns that the pilot program, implemented in pieces, would inaccurately forecast the impact of the finished project.

“Through the last year discussing this issue with merchants, I know that bus lane in its entire length (is) not happening,” said Stuart Baker, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, at the meeting.

The council unanimously passed the recommendation to hold a public hearing on the matter.

Additionally, the council approved a car share pilot program that would allow users to rent nearby private vehicles for a one-way trip and drop them off almost anywhere else in the majority of the city. This program would allow one-way car sharing to work in Berkeley through free-floating parking permits. The program is planned to start this fall and last until summer 2019.

“Well, this seems like a good idea, but the question really comes back to the parking,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates at the meeting. “Where would they be able to park in the Downtown? That takes a whole area out of the ability to park.”

The council approved the recommendation unanimously, after discussing the benefits of increasing transportation options.

“I think we should be encouraging all these forms of car sharing,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

Contact Edward Booth at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Edward_E_Booth.