The Berkeley City Council will discuss and vote on a policy to better implement the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plans at its upcoming meeting next Tuesday.
Introduced by District 7 City Councilmember Rigel Robinson, the policy would require the city to improve streets and add protected bike lanes when repaving. Bikeways and high-collision streets will be prioritized by receiving 50% of the repaving budget, thus furthering Berkeley’s Vision Zero and Climate Action Plan goals, according to a city press release.
The policy was co-sponsored by Berkeley City Councilmembers Lori Droste and Kate Harrison, as well as Mayor Jesse Arreguín. If passed by City Council, it will need to be confirmed, according to Robinson.
“Forty years and we still don’t have one network of bike lanes in the city, not one,” said Dave Campbell, advocacy director of Bike East Bay. Campbell added that Berkeley began building bike lanes four decades ago.
To ensure that current bikeways do not prevent the construction of bike lane upgrades on parallel streets, staff members will revise the Complete Streets Policy. The newly introduced ordinance also allows for the implementation of quick-build projects — using temporary features like paint — that cost less than $1 million.
Under this policy the repaving project will no longer primarily add bike lanes when it is convenient to do so, but rather add them where necessary, Campbell said.
“Berkeley has the fourth-highest bicycle commute mode share in the country, with nearly one in ten Berkeley residents riding a bicycle to work,” the press release states. “Our Bicycle Plan lays out a vision for a sustainable, bicycle-friendly city, with ambitious goals to increase bicycling and eliminate injuries and fatalities.”
For the last decade, BicyCAL — a volunteer-run, student organization — has provided maintenance education and bicycle parts to campus students.
BicyCAL mechanic Bianca Champenois said there are many roads in Berkeley that pose safety concerns because of their unevenness‚ which can cause bikers to lose stability and increase the chance of collision. This, according to Champenois, has caused bikers to use the sidewalk, placing pedestrians at risk.
“Given that the city only has a handful of bicycle boulevards in each direction, a dangerous bike lane can really disrupt a biker’s commute and disincentivize biking over driving,” Champenois said in an email.
A survey conducted by the city for the 2017 Bicycle Plan found 90% of Berkeley residents already bike or would consider this transportation mode if they felt safe, according to the press release, which added, “it’s on the city to create that environment.”
“Berkeley residents are leading the way in finding sustainable ways to get around, but the infrastructure needs to catch up with them,” Robinson said in an instant message. “We need more protected bike lanes now because it’s the right choice for the planet and because it’s the safe choice for our residents.”