Berkeley’s Healthy Streets pilot program for pedestrian, cyclist safety ends

photo of a bike lane
Can Jozef Saul /Staff
Primarily due to a lack of funding, the city's Healthy Streets program is scheduled to end this month. Healthy Streets has promoted safer walking and cycling through limiting car traffic and driving speeds on select roads in Berkeley.

Related Posts

Berkeley’s Healthy Streets pilot program, an initiative to promote safer walking and cycling by limiting car traffic and driving speeds on select roads in the city, will end this month.

Healthy Streets began June 2020 in response to shelter-in-place orders to allow residents to feel more secure in accessing outdoor streets for transportation, exercise and fresh air, according to a memo sent to the Berkeley City Council by City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley.

“You could see a very large increase in bike traffic but also people walking, jogging, people pushing baby strollers, teenagers learning how to rollerblade, kids playing basketball, people driving one wheel boardless skateboards,” said Dana Hymel, a Berkeley resident in an email.

Healthy Streets, according to the memo, was funded by a $48,526 grant from the Alameda County Transportation Commission.

Liza Lutzker, School of Public Health research analyst and committee member of Walk Bike Berkeley, a local advocacy organization that worked with the city on Healthy Streets, said the program ended primarily due to lack of funding.

The memo states the program was implemented on more than four miles of Berkeley’s bicycle boulevards and involved the placement of about 400 signs, traffic cones, barricades and posts as well as the construction of temporary traffic circles.

However, the memo adds there were high costs in replacing lost, damaged or stolen materials, as well as a lack of staff.

After November 2021, the only remaining program materials will be the three temporary traffic circles on Ninth Street and concrete bollards on Russell Street, according to the memo.

“When the streets were open to pedestrians and bicycles … everyone had a place to be in the street, and it was rather magical,” said Berkeley resident Gunnar Madsen. “To see it taken down was really disappointing.

While the ending of Healthy Streets has saddened some residents, Lutzker is hopeful the lessons learned from the pilot program will be applied to the city’s future plans involving pedestrians and cyclists.

Lutzker noted the need to use “quick builds,” such as the temporary traffic circles constructed on Ninth Street, before moving on to permanent solutions. She added it is important to divert traffic off of bike boulevards.

Walking and biking are more sustainable, safer and in line with the city’s climate action and street safety plans, she said.

“Even though the Healthy Streets pilot is ending, we would like to see the city act quickly on a lot of these lessons learned, rather than put them into a plan and let the plan stay on the shelf,” Lutzker said.

According to the memo, the lessons learned from Healthy Streets will inform changes to the next update for Berkeley’s Bicycle Plan, which is expected to be adopted in 2023.

Amy Zeng is a general assignment reporter. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @amyzengg.