In mid-October, the city of Berkeley announced that it planned to continue its investment in the construction of new, protected bike lanes on Hopkins Street.
Though the project is not yet finalized due to controversy about the number of parking spots bike lanes will take away, Berkeley should continue with this effort to make the streets safer for bikers — a move that is both eco-friendly and people-centered.
Transit activists, such as Darrell Owens of North Berkeley, have been making this point for years, and the reasons to listen to them become more compelling as time goes on.
Intersections in Berkeley are becoming more dangerous as time goes on — between cars, students, motorized scooters and skateboards, and so on, each intersection seems like an accident waiting to happen. When this congestion gets added to the fact that many streets lack clear crosswalk distinctions, the streets become even more dangerous, not to mention the amount of poor driving you can observe in the Bay Area on any given day.
Adding bike lanes makes biking safer for those who normally ride in the street, where drivers may be distracted.
Beyond the dangers of the current system, there are other enticing factors when one considers a Berkeley with fewer cars. The environmental impact alone would be hugely beneficial for the city.
Also, bike lanes force people to consider bikes — although some people may not have a choice whether or not they use a car — if it becomes more convenient for them than driving is. If bike lanes take up space and temporarily make traffic worse, people who have the option to commute on a bike may choose to do so instead or use public transit, removing cars from the road.
Although the progress of continuing work on Hopkins Street is amazing, the city must build on its investment in more bike lanes, most importantly on its busiest streets or in especially car-crowded areas, such as Dwight Way, or as it is popularly known, usually-only-one-lane-because-of-Doordashers Way in Southside.
Other measures can support bike lanes by encouraging people to stop driving — having more buses run during busy commuter times, for example, would reduce the amount of people who need to take a car.
Campus, too, can support the city in creating more bike lanes and less traffic. For example, running more Bear Transit buses after 6:30 p.m., when services decrease, could allow students commuting later in the day to pass over gas-guzzling cars in favor of a free bus. More buses, too, means more students can be transported, further reducing the number who need to rely on cars. Perhaps the funding for more drivers and buses could come from football coach Justin Wilcox’s nearly $30 million dollar contract.
Finally, the city can consider more drastic measures, such as adopting Telegraph for People’s proposal to fully ban cars on certain sections of streets, keeping them safe and accessible to walkers, bikers, skateboarders and roller skaters alike.
Whatever the city chooses to do, it’s important that they keep bikers and pedestrians in mind. When we imagine a better Berkeley, we imagine one that serves all its residents — and that means checking the use of vehicles in favor of safer, more environmentally friendly options.