Our ticket to safer streets requires city investment in traffic safety

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While the Berkeley Police Department writes tickets to people who come to a rolling stop on traffic-calmed bikeways, a cyclist dies after a tire gets stuck on a road gate. Not to mention, a motorist gets killed by a man whose vehicle becomes disabled. These tragic crashes on Berkeley’s busy streets prompt new policies that can be put in place to prevent further injuries.

Pedestrian and bike advocates, meanwhile, are focused on redesigning those busy streets to slow cars down in ways that actually improve everyone’s safety. Our goal is to move more people, not more cars, safely and efficiently along Berkeley’s streets. Fixing the streets you use every day is a key strategy to not only encourage more people to leave their car keys at home but also to keep everyone alive and healthy.

According to a representative survey the city conducted for the 2017 bike plan, 90 percent of Berkeley residents already bicycle or would consider bicycling if they felt safe. That’s a higher percentage than any other city where a similar survey has been conducted. But, unfortunately, 71 percent of those surveyed don’t feel safe — they need and want more protected bike lanes and slow low-traffic neighborhood streets. This perceived sense of stress regarding riding in or adjacent to vehicle traffic is known as “traffic stress.”

A further analysis of traffic stress was conducted on Berkeley’s roadway network, and the results were staggering. As traffic stress is known to be one of the greatest deterrents to bicycling, by providing safer bicycle facilities a broader population would be more interested in riding. In order for a bikeway to become low-stress, there needs to be greater degrees of physical separation between the bikeway and traffic lane on roadways with higher traffic volumes and speeds.

So, we are pushing the city of Berkeley to finish 10 active street projects as quickly as possible and streamline others that are in the pipeline. We are also working with Berkeley City Councilmembers Rigel Robinson and Lori Droste on the Bicycle Lane and Pedestrian Street Improvements Policy that would require bike and pedestrian projects to get built faster. After years of pushback, Berkeley has finally agreed to hire more staff to help build these projects, using voter-approved sales tax revenue advocates helped secure in years past.

These 10 projects will add protected bike lanes, slow down traffic, improve pedestrian and cyclist safety and improve bus reliability.

Here are the projects that the city of Berkeley is leading:

  1. Adeline Street: protected bike lanes and bus boarding islands between Ashby Avenue and Shattuck Avenue (fall 2019)
  2. Hearst Avenue: two blocks of new protected bike lanes between Shattuck Avenue and Milvia Street (fall 2019)
  3. North Berkeley BART: BART is designing protected bike lanes in and around the station and upgrading the Ohlone Greenway near the station (concept designs complete, funding being sought); city of Berkeley installing a signal at Virginia Street and Sacramento Street (planning process nearly complete)
  4. Milvia Street: protected bike lanes downtown (funded, planning process underway) and new pavement in South Berkeley (fall 2019)
  5. Dana Street, Bancroft Way and Fulton Street south of campus: new protected bike lanes and bus improvements (funded, designs underway)
  6. Ninth Street crossing of Ashby Avenue: Separate bike/ped path connecting the Ninth Street bike boulevard to Emeryville Greenway Park (construction early 2020)
  7. Dwight Way/California Street intersection: safe bike/ped crossing (neighborhood waiting for city action)

Here are the projects that Alameda County is leading:

  1. San Pablo Avenue: bus-only lanes and protected bike lanes the whole way (planning process underway)
  2. Interstate 80/Gilman Street interchange: new bike/ped bridge (final designs completed)
  3. I-80/Ashby Avenue interchange: new bike/ped bridge (planning process underway)

The Bicycle Lane and Pedestrian Street Improvements Policy will require the city to leverage every opportunity to move projects like these forward more quickly. We expect the policy to be on City Council’s Sept. 24 agenda. If City Council is serious about making streets safe and reducing emissions they’ll pass it unanimously. We encourage everyone to weigh in on Berkeley Considers. You can also email City Council ([email protected]) and tell them you support this policy and want to have a low-stress bike network by 2024. Show up at the City Council meeting to support this effort on Sept. 24 if you want to go the extra mile.

Quickly building projects is your ticket to safe streets, not more $200-plus citations for slowly rolling through a stop sign on a bike. Bike East Bay runs a bicycle education program that effectively teaches people how to bicycle on busy streets, even with their families and friends too. We invite BPD to work with us to set up a traffic diversion program to expand these educational efforts.

This is our daily work and we welcome constructive participation from all departments in the city, as well as from members of the public. Together, we can reclaim our streets for people while helping Berkeley meet many of its safety, climate change and livability goals. To get involved in our work, join Bike East Bay and Bike East Bay.

Dave Campbell is the advocacy director of Bike East Bay and Ben Gerhardstein is a member of the coordinating committee of Walk Bike Berkeley.