City Council is voting tonight on whether to move forward with the proposed conceptual design for Hopkins Street in North Berkeley. We are also thrilled to see Councilmember Kesarwani’s supplemental item proposing to extend protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements from Gilman to San Pablo!
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation and vocal opposition fighting these much needed safety improvements for people walking and biking. Please join us in writing to City Council and calling into the City Council meeting to show our support for a complete Hopkins street that keeps our community safe and healthy, supports businesses, and reduces emission. Talking points include approving the proposed conceptual design with Walk Bike Berkeley, North Berkeley Now!, and Bike East Bay’s proposed changes.
In adopting the City’s Climate Action Plan, Vision Zero Action Plan, and Bicycle Plan and approving the Hopkins Corridor Placemaking and Traffic Study, Council chose to prioritize safety improvements on this high-injury corridor. Approving the conceptual design with our additions and changes will further all of the ambitious goals set out in these adopted City plans.
Here’s what you can do:
1) Send a Letter to Council to let them know you support the plan (includes some requested safety improvements)
2) Call into Tonight’s Meeting at 6pm and give public comment to approve the Hopkins Corridor design (item #33) with our proposed changes
Recently, the City of Berkeley hosted three community Q&A sessions about the final Hopkins Corridor Traffic and Placemaking Study conceptual designs which they split into three sections. The first section from Sutter St to the Alameda, the second from The Alameda to McGee Ave and the third from McGee Ave to Gilman St. This was the final set of sessions on this project– the first three workshops were meant to establish existing conditions, vision the project and collect feedback on placemaking features. In this final set of sessions staff shared their recommended design proposals for the corridor with residents and stakeholders.
Each session started with background information from the staff on how this project came to be. In brief, Hopkins Corridor was identified as a high-injury street and was recommended for a complete streets corridor and cycle track study. From 2015 to 2018 36 collisions took place along this corridor, 36% of which involved a pedestrian or person on a bike including one pedestrian and one cyclist fatality. Staff mentioned speaking to about 40 business owners or representatives from Hopkins’ institutions along the corridor, receiving over one thousand emails and phone calls, and collecting feedback during the previous workshops and on the social pinpoint mapping tool.
The first section, Sutter to The Alameda, includes installing a parking protected bike lane in the eastbound direction (uphill) and a buffered bike lane in the westbound direction (downhill) while retaining parking on both sides of the street. This section of Hopkins is largely single-family homes with a church at the corner of Napa Ave. The bike lanes are a great improvement to current road conditions, however, in the design’s current configuration bikes traveling in the bike lane in the westbound direction must cross over to the two- cycle track on the south side of the road at The Alameda which is a busy and complex intersection. It also misses the connectivity opportunity with Milvia St on the south side of the street. Finally the bike and vehicle mixing zone in the eastbound direction at Sutter is concerning and leaves bikes exposed.
The second section, The Alameda to McGee, includes a two-way protected cycle track on the south side of Hopkins and retention of most on-street parking on both sides of the street. This section includes King School Park on the south side and single-family homes on the north side. The two-way cycle track is parking protected along this entire section, however, it is only 8 feet wide which is well below the NACTO desired minimum of 12 feet.
The final section, McGee to Gilman, includes a continuation of the two-way cycle track on the south side of Hopkins. This section is a mix of mostly single-story businesses, single-family homes, and apartment buildings. This section saw the most drastic reduction in parking and, therefore, was the most contentious among residents and stakeholders who joined the meeting. In this design, all parking will be removed between Sacramento and Gilman to accommodate the two-way cycle track. This is largely due to the existing design constraints around the width of Hopkins– it narrows from 60 feet at Sutter to 36 feet at Gilman. While this is a great example of prioritizing safety over parking, there are still some major safety concerns in this section including the preservation of the slip lane from Hopkins to Sacramento in the eastbound direction and how bikes will cross from the two-way cycle track onto Gilman. The design also includes one raised crosswalk across Monterey at the intersection with Hopkins. Raised crossings add visibility for pedestrians and help to slow approaching motorists.
We commend Berkeley for taking action on this high injury corridor and we thank the project team and city staff for their thoroughness in gaining community input and feedback. This is a complex corridor with many competing interests and design challenges. We support staff’s recommendations for pedestrian safety, transit improvements, and protected bike lanes along this corridor. Making these changes will improve safety for people walking and biking and support environmental sustainability, consistent with all established City transportation plans and policies. It also creates the potential for Hopkins to be part of a low-stress bike network, helping people from across the City travel to and through the area. And while this design is certainly an improvement over the wildly unsafe conditions currently present, there are still significant design and safety concerns with this proposed conceptual design.
A number of safety concerns brought up during the session, and largely brushed off by staff or explained away by citing this corridor as an emergency access route, include lack of protection for buffered bike lanes, lack of raised sidewalks, crossing to/from the two-way cycle track, and preserving the slip lane at Sacramento and Hopkins. In most stretches of this corridor lane widths were only reduced slightly or remained the same and in the case of McGee to Monterey lane widths were actually increased from 11 feet to 12 feet. Narrowing lane widths can have positive safety outcomes including slowing vehicle traffic, an issue with this corridor even the pro-parking residents complain about. Raised crosswalks are also a visual and proven method for slowing vehicle speeds at highly utilized pedestrian crossings but only one is used in the highly pedestrianized zone from McGee to Gilman.
Slip lanes are dedicated right turn lanes that allow cars to maintain a higher speed while making a right turn and increases the crossing distance of a pedestrian and their interactions with cars. Specifically, the slip lane at Sacramento and Hopkins causes unsafe interactions between cars and people on bikes and pedestrians and will continue to do so if it is retained in the final design for this intersection. With the cycle track on the south side of the street, it will increase the number of interactions between cars turning at higher speeds via this slip lane and people on bikes navigating the intersection.
There is also the ADA accessibility concern of providing only a three foot buffer between parked cars and the parking-protected bike lane. Many cities, including San Francisco, have adopted wider standards to provide more sufficient room for deploying ramps from a parked car and wheelchair access when traveling down the buffer to reach a curb cut to access the sidewalk.
Finally, the obvious priority put on reducing the impacts to existing parking over the safety of people walking, biking and taking transit is frustrating. The project team and city council member, Sophie Hahn, praised the fact that this proposed design meets everyone’s needs, but this is simply untrue. Pro-parking residents are outraged by the removal of any existing parking, however minimal, and vulnerable road users are left feeling underwhelmed and underprotected. So rather than creating a design that prioritizes safety and works to mitigate the concerns of pro-parking residents the project team created a design that is dissatisfying to almost everyone and doesn’t go far enough to address the serious safety issues in this corridor.
Call to Action
While the project team was clear that this is the design they’ll be taking to city council for approval on April 26, they did say that it is subject to changes in the final engineering design phase. This means we still have the opportunity to advocate for changes that will help make this street safer for vulnerable road users without scrapping the project entirely and losing the progress we’ve made. Bike East Bay joined Walk Bike Berkley and North Berkeley Now! in signing a letter that outlines our safety concerns with the project design in its current form and asks city staff to make specific improvements along the corridor. We will also be sending a letter asking City Council to move forward with this proposed conceptual design but with a directive to staff to make safety enhancements in the final engineering design phase in alignment with the letter sent to staff.
Please join us in sending communications to Berkeley City Council to push to extend the protected bike lanes to San Pablo when the road is repaved in 2023 and to direct staff to address key safety concerns with the current conceptual design in the engineering design phase, most importantly removing the slip lane at Sacramento and Hopkins, adding a raised crosswalk across Hopkins at the Hopkins and Monterey/California intersection, and widening the 8-foot two-way protected bike lanes from Monterey to The Alameda. We will continue to share updates and updates will also be available on the Walk Bike Berkeley website and social media. On May 10 you can also call into the Berkeley City Council meeting to make a public comment on these same points. More details will be published on the Walk Bike Berkeley website and sent out in our May 10 eNews for this meeting.