Imagine you and your friends are walking home after a long day of classes. As you make your way down Telegraph Avenue, you stop and decide to get something to eat. You have a seat at a newly constructed outdoor seating area and take a moment to decompress. The atmosphere is buzzing around you: People are listening to music, riding bikes and shopping with their friends. No longer are cars speeding through and corrupting the gateway to campus. This is a space inhabited by its users. This is the Telegraph we deserve.
You may have heard of a group that wants to ban cars on Telegraph. Maybe you’re supportive of the idea, but you still have some questions. Maybe you want to help, but are unsure what you can do.
Telegraph for People, or TFP, has been advocating for a car-free vision of Telegraph from Haste Street to Bancroft Avenue. We believe Telegraph under its current alignment does not give pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders the space they deserve. Today, students are forced onto crammed sidewalks. Cyclists narrowly navigate between cars and bus riders stall behind double-parked cars on their way to class. Despite Telegraph’s heavy pedestrian volume, disproportionate space is allocated for cars instead of people.
Telegraph is the ideal street to “pedestrianize.” It is in direct proximity to one of the world’s top public universities, boasting a student body where 95% of people regularly get to campus without a car. Telegraph has a long cultural and historical relevance characterized by student activism and mobilization. There are few streets in the United States that are as suitable for pedestrianization as Telegraph.
After a massive public outreach campaign that solicited well over 1,000 public survey responses and more than 100 online open house participants, the city selected to adopt a “shared street” redesign reminiscent of the 2016 Telegraph Public Realm Plan, which elevates the street to sidewalk level and adds a bus lane. But it’s not car-free.
Our vision is one of the dominant visions for a reimagined Telegraph. Our mission resonates with the community and represents the long-standing desire to make Telegraph Avenue a destination rather than a thoroughfare. Car-free Telegraph has unanimous support from the transportation commission. Yet, the city has yet to provide us with a car-free option.
In April, Councilmember Rigel Robinson introduced a supplemental item to direct the city to study the possibilities of a car-free redesign of Telegraph Avenue. The item passed the city council unanimously. Despite this huge milestone, we are still far from realizing our goal.
At a recent Berkeley City Council Candidate forum, Robinson emphasized the importance of continued political pressure to keep this effort on the minds of City Council. We can’t let this be a temporary moment of action, but rather a sustained movement driven by the power of student mobilization. We need to continue raising our voices and demand the city follows through with a car-free Telegraph.
Over the summer, TFP established its board and began to grow from a group of passionate students into a full-fledged organization set on transforming not only Telegraph, but the entire city of Berkeley into a place that prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists. We know removing cars from one street among thousands is not the radical move some businesses may try and make you believe it is. This is simply the first step in creating a city that values people over cars.
We have been partnering with local housing and transportation organizations on various projects. From replacing the slip lane at Dwight Way and Telegraph with a new plaza to co-hosting forums with city council candidates, we have also planned and coordinated rallies, strengthened our social media presence and lent public comments on crucial City Council items. Our organization is evolving alongside the diverse skills of our members and it is always looking to grow further.
We need to build a strong coalition of students to sustain the extraordinary support for car-free Telegraph. We must ensure that TFP continues to be a force in Berkeley politics uplifting the demands of students. We seek to find common ground with businesses that want to disrupt the progress we’ve made by highlighting the economic impacts of car-free spaces.
To do all of this, we are searching for new members to resonate with our effort and join us. There are many ways to get connected and start working with teams on a variety of projects that fit your interests. From social media and content creation to external affairs, design and engineering, membership and event planning, there is a place for everyone to help.
This is our opportunity to leave behind a vibrant and sustainable Telegraph for generations to come. This is the moment our community is waiting for and we need to act now. We know that students, when mobilized, have the power to reshape the world around them. I hope you will join us in reclaiming our streets and building a Telegraph for people.