Berkeley approved an innovative new bike plan on May 2 and is currently busy building two new bikeways that are high priorities in that plan–Hearst Avenue and Bancroft Way. Thanks to our effective advocacy, Berkeley will get to work next year on Milvia Street, the highest priority bikeway of the plan. Your 130+ emails to City Council and almost 30 speakers staying through the night in support on May 2 are what made the difference.
“My name is Ella Newman. I am eight years old in third grade. I was at the council meeting tonight but had to leave now because of bedtime. Instead of speaking at public comment later, I am writing you with my speech: I’m here to support the Berkeley bike plan. I enjoy biking with my dad and would feel safer and have more room to bike if there were more protected bike lanes. Please support the Berkeley bike plan. Thank you.”
“Great turnout of supporters. I was really thrilled and awed and of course brought to tears again by Meg as she got up for (I believe) the first time to tell her own story in public. Thank you Bike East Bay so much for what you’ve done for us and bike safety in Berkeley. Your name and all your good work to make this possible was mentioned several times this evening.”
Berkeley’s approved plan pushes the envelop in several respects, most notably in insisting that the bike network in the plan be a reflection of the public’s vision for bicycling in Berkeley, not a compromise. The plan also underscores the importance of “pilot project bikeways” and “interim treatments” to get bike improvements on the ground sooner so that the public can experience them and provide better feedback. Bike East Bay built popup bikeways on Hearst Avenue and Milvia Street in the past two years for this reason and will do even better pilot bikeways in the future with support from the bike plan.
A Difficult Process
However, the process for getting the bike plan across the finish line was a mess. Transit supporters attempted to block or stall the plan, and then it took until almost midnight on May 2 for City Council to cast a vote. At least 4 council members were ready to water things down by removing from the plan the importance of the bike network and its bicycle facility designs, requiring that these planning and design details be addressed on a project by project basis. It was a salute to transit’s efforts to inappropriately change a bike plan, but also in response to a few residents concerned that bike boulevards could add traffic to their streets. Essentially, it was a proposal to suggest that a three-year effort to develop a vision of better bicycling in Berkeley was more an academic exercise than an approved plan to direct future work of Berkeley Public Works Department. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, and City Council unanimously voted to keep the bike plan network and its recommended bike facilities in the plan. Because of this, future project development should be quicker, more efficient and better reflect what people in Berkeley want in a modern bike network.
Last Minute Improvements to the Bike Plan
With the support of Bike East Bay, City Council made several changes to the bike plan as part of their May 2 council approval. Bike East Bay asked Council to request a staffing report so that the public can see how Public Works is going to deliver on the bike plan and build a bike network “without gaps” by 2025. We also asked that Milvia Street be green-lighted for construction right after the new Center Street Garage is completed in 2018, and that at least one complete street study by piloted by 2025.. Councilmember Lori Droste also succeeded in having Claremont Avenue moved up on to the Tier 1 priority network, a street where serious collisions continue to happen because of high-speed traffic.
These are the Council directions on the Plan:
Get a report back on staffing requirements to implement
Prioritize Milvia Street as the highest priority project and schedule implemenation after the Center Street garage is completed (late 2018)
Pilot a Tier 1 complete street corridor cycle track and complete one bike network by 2025
Elevate Claremont Avenue to a Tier 1 priority project
Consider the issue of parking configuration on Addison Street to accommodate commercial needs of Berkeley ACE Hardware.
Thank you everyone for your sustained efforts to get Berkeley’s innovative bike plan across the finish line.