On May 2, 2017, the city of Berkeley approved the Berkeley Bicycle Plan 2017. The plan recommended a network of bike facilities that would connect Berkeley as a whole, making it possible for people to get around without unsafe intersections and high volumes of traffic.
However, some allege these bike plans are unenforceable. Many local activists have expressed their concerns with the speed at which Berkeley is implementing its bike plans.
“Berkeley has been leading in terms of building Complete Streets projects throughout the city,” Telegraph for People President Sam Greenberg said. “We recently completed the Milvia (Street) protected bike lanes from Hearst to a little further than Haste. Those completely transformed how people get around in the center of the city, but we have a long way to go in terms of filling gaps in our bike network and building actual protected facilities.”
Telegraph for People is a student-led advocacy organization that Greenberg co-founded about a year ago. The initial objective was to use the Southside Complete Streets process to advocate for a car-free Telegraph Avenue from Haste Street to Bancroft Way.
However, the organization has since then expanded beyond that — still with a transportation focus — to engage students in opportunities to get involved in city politics, which Greenberg says they are often excluded from.
“Students are kind of treated as second-class citizens in the city,” Greenberg said. “People think they’re temporary residents who don’t really deserve the same voice as permanent residents in the city, but since students are a third of the population in the city, excluding them from city politics is just very egregious.”
There are many bike projects that the city is currently working on, according to Greenberg, including the Southside Complete Streets projects in which Bancroft Way, Dana Street and Fulton Street will all get protected bike lanes; and the Telegraph Avenue multimodal corridor project where the city will receive protected bike lanes from Dwight Way to the Oakland Border on Telegraph Avenue, as well as bike lanes on San Pablo Avenue that extend into South Berkeley.
Although Greenberg said he believes that there will be many high quality protected bike lanes in the city by 2025 as a result of standardization, he still thinks Berkeley is moving too slowly.
“The fact that we have to fight at three separate public meetings and then have a couple of councilmembers try to reverse the Hopkins bike lanes recently,” Greenberg said. “We’re needing to fight way too hard for safe infrastructure that’s been proven to be safe over and over again, all over the world.”
Berkeley became a “Vision Zero” city in 2019, which means that the city has a goal to eliminate severe and fatal traffic collisions. Yet, according to Ben Gerhardstein, a volunteer at the local advocacy group Walk Bike Berkeley, the city has allegedly fallen short of these plans, because bike plans themselves are not enforceable.
Greenberg said he hopes that the plans can nonetheless serve as a vision for how the city should be, in order to point to where funds like Measure L can potentially be placed.
According to Councilmember Rigel Robinson, Measure L on the ballot this November includes $300 million for street infrastructure and safety improvements. Councilmembers Sophie Hahn and Robinson, as well as community activists, are advocating that it be passed.
“We do this great job of planning, and then we only can kind of scrape the surface,” Gerhardstein said “One of the reasons that we’re excited about the possibility of voters approving this Measure L bond in November, is that it could actually provide the capacity to make rapid progress on our pedestrian and bike plans.”