A Bikeway Forward for Tunnel Road

Your emails of support and personal stories provided during public comments at many neighborhood meetings have secured a way forward for building a better bikeway up Tunnel Road. Enjoying a rare moment of consensus, the Berkeley Transportation Commission approved a bike lane in the uphill direction with some on-street car parking preserved. The design is a compromise for sure but also an iterative plan designed to create a safe bike route thru a series of improvements made as soon as possible. Given intense neighborhood concerns for parking loss, the original plan to remove all on-street parking spots was a challenge. However, all neighborhood residents spoke in support of safe bike lanes and indeed many local residents bicycle themselves. The devil is in the details.

  • Phase 1 of the plan includes a bike lane most of the uphill route, except for the stretch between Oak Ridge and The Uplands, where there will be parking restrictions during commute hours and on weekends, leaving a wide shoulder for you to ride up Tunnel Road more safely. We expect Berkeley to implement this phase by March next year, a few months after the 4th Bore of the Caldecott Tunnel opens.
  • Phase 2 converts the on-street parking retained to roll-up parking, where cars park halfway up on to the planter strip between the curb and sidewalk. This adds additional bike lane width on street so the uphill bike lane can be 24/7. Phase 2 will take at least a year to happen. Downhill, greenback sharrows are striped and the existing shoulder retained.

What you can do:

  • Contact Farid Javandel, Transportation Division Manager and thank him for implementing a 2 phase approach to bike lanes on Tunnel Road. Remind him that you look forward to the City completing Phase 1 by March 2014, and Phase 2 as soon as possible thereafter.

“Putting a bike lane on Tunnel Road could not be more important for bicyclist safety. Two years ago a BBC member got hit by a car and was lucky to escape with only minor injuries. I fear it is only a matter of time before someone will get hurt far more (or worse) on that stretch of road - cars frequently speed on it because they view it as a thoroughfare, almost an onramp to Hwy 13, and because it winds and curves they often drift over close to the curb despite the width of the roadway. At the same time, it is the most common access to the hills from Berkeley for cyclists of all ages and levels of experience (who in addition to the fast and often heavy traffic also have to navigate the often scary cross-over to the left turn lane to stay on Tunnel before the Hwy 13 entrance). The width of that road not only permits, but requires a bike lane, which will act as a buffer for riders and likely also slow traffic. The cost of doing the right thing and putting it in is small. The cost of failing to do so may be immeasurable. We should not wait for another accident to find out,” says Hussein Saffouri, President, Berkeley Bicycle Club.

The Tunnel Road bikeway project extends from Domingo Road up to the Oakland City Line (Oakland is redesigning its bike lanes on Tunnel Road to include an expanded buffer zone and flexible posts for separation from traffic, and Oakland is installing a traffic light at SR 13 and Tunnel Rd). This bikeway project is included in plans for spending the $2 million in Caldecott settlement money that the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and the Fourth Bore Coalition successfully secured to address traffic impacts from the new 4th Bore. The Fourth Bore Coalition supports this bikeway as a needed mitigation for the increased traffic of the 4th Bore 

What bike projects are included:

  1. Tunnel Road Bike Lanes: Berkeley is proposing to remove car parking and stripe a bike lane on Tunnel Road, but due to concerns about residents getting upset about the loss of on-street parking, these plans may change. Above The Uplands, the City is planning to remove on-street parking in the uphill direction and stripe a buffered bike lane, which is great news. However, residents 1st may get to vote on whether they are willing to lose their supplemental on-street car parking, and they are not going to go for this. The City needs to hear from us that the bike lane is a priority and that safe bike access is not a popularity contest, but rather an obligation the City has to make it’s streets safe for bicycling and to encourage more residents to try bicycling. Berkeley has the 4th highest rate of bicycling in the country and it should not have to accommodate on-street parking for residential houses that have their own driveways. While narrow in sections, Tunnel Rd has sufficient room for a safe, uphill bikeway, in the form of a bike lane, but on-street car parking needs to be restricted. If you ride Tunnel Rd, or would if it had buffered bike lanes, please send an email of support to the City-see below:
  2. Hillegass Bicycle Boulevard Needs Support for Well-Designed Bike Signal: The City raised the Hillegass/Ashby Intersection Bike Signal to a higher priority of projects to be funded, which is good news. However, the City is still evaluating ‘turn restriction’ options for cars traveling on Hillegass. We want cars restricted to right turn only out of Hillegass and onto Ashby. Some neighbors are going to oppose this, for fear of convenience and that some traffic may divert onto Regent or Benvenue. 
  3. 9th Street Bicycle Boulevard Crossing at Ashby: the City plans to build a new bike/ped crossing at 9th & Ashby along the alignment of the railroad right-of-way and tie this crossing into the existing traffic signal there leading into the West Berkeley Bowl. This project will include new sidewalks and pathway segments, and the City is trying to tie this work into the upcoming repaving project on Ashby, between San Pablo Ave and I-80. There are still many details to be worked out but at least this project is included and will get funded.

Contact Farid Javendel, Senior Transportation Planner and demand the City build a bike lane on Tunnel Road and a safe bike crossing of Ashby Ave at Hillegass!


EBBC Letter to Mayor Tom Bates and Berkeley City Council November 20, 2012 Mayor Tom Bates Berkeley City Council City of Berkeley 2180 Milvia Street Berkeley CA 94704 Re: Bike Lanes on Tunnel Road/Priority of Hillgass Bicycle Blvd Crossing at Ashby Dear Mayor Bates and Berkeley City Council members: At the November 15 meeting of the Berkeley Transportation Commission, we learned two potentially troubling things about the projects staff are developing as part of the Caldecott 4th Bore Mitigations.

  • Reluctance of staff to develop bike lanes along the entire stretch of Tunnel Road: As part of the settlement between Caltrans and the Fourth Bore Coalition, of which EBBC was an active member, over the lawsuit for the 4th Bore of the Caldecott Tunnel, Caltrans agreed that the settlement would include bike lanes along the entire stretch of Tunnel Road. In fact, the undersigned looked Bijan Sartipi in the face during the settlement discussions and asked him if he was committing to bike lanes on the entire stretch of Tunnel Road and he confidently said he was. In addition to this, the CENA neighborhood, as part of the Fourth Bore Coalition, also agreed to this bikeway project, in its entirety, as part of the plan to spend the $2 million in mitigation monies Caltrans gave to the City of Berkeley. Berkeley’s Bicycle Plan calls for bike lanes on Tunnel Road and Berkeley’s award-winning Climate Action Plan requires, as you learned last week, that Berkeley needs to find a way to replace 28,000 auto trips/day with better commutes. However, at the Transportation Commission meeting, staff initially proposed bike sharrows along the uphill portion of Tunnel Road between Domingo and The Uplands, and stated in their report to the Commission that there are parking removal concerns. After getting direction from the Transportation Commission that the TC wants to see full bike lanes developed, staff agreed to do so. However, this ask by the TC should not have to take place. The Bicycle Plan calls for bike lanes on Tunnel Road, we now have funding for these bike lanes, the neighborhood association and Caltrans have both agreed to bike lanes, it’s time to develop a plan for bike lanes the entire way and get to the challenging work of implementing the Climate Action Plan. Regarding the parking issue, we surveyed the street and for the first block of Tunnel, between Domingo and the Claremont Hotel, where on-street car parking occurs, each house on the south side of the street has a driveway with the exception of one house. In front of this one house, the City has already removed on-street car parking in favor of an additional thru travel lane uphill of the traffic light at Domingo. In other words, the City has a de facto policy of removing on-street car parking for the benefit of additional vehicle capacity. It is not too much for your local bicycle advocacy coalition to insist on using this same policy to implement the City’s Bicycle Plan and provide a safe bikeway on Tunnel Road.
  • Dropping the Hillegass Bicycle Boulevard Crossing at Ashby to Last on Priority List We also learned at the Transportation Commission meeting last week that the Hillegass Bicycle Boulevard crossing at Ashby has been dropped by City Council to the lowest priority for the top tier projects of the Caldecott mitigations, contrary to the approved list and priority of the Transportation Commission (TC). This was done to add two new projects to the TC approved list of projects: 1) Telegraph Avenue & Ashby and 2) MLK Jr Way & Ashby turn pockets. For both of these projects, staff explained to the public that they help keep additional traffic caused by the 4th Bore on Ashby and other arterial streets, and off of residential bikeways. If this were Houston or Miami, such as argument might be plausible. But in Berkeley, we expect better. This is no approach to improving bike safety and access and should not be condoned. It certainly is not our sanctioned approach to implementing the Bicycle Plan and is not how Berkeley should spent precious public funds. Berkeley has achieved to date its high rate of bicycling by building bikeways. We also know full well that these two projects were added to the list of 4th Bore Projects in order to give each Council member a project from the Caldecott mitigations. While this spreading out of projects into each District is a nice thought, it is no substitute for good public policy. The Caldecott 4th Bore Projects are suppose to mitigate neighborhood, bike and pedestrian safety & access impacts caused by the expanded Caldecott Tunnel. The MLK Jr Way and Telegraph intersection projects do not do this and thus don’t satisfy the conditions of the settlement. As the Fourth Bore Coalition has review authority over the final list of projects, you should expect to receive some dissatisfaction from the addition of these two projects. It is particularly frustrating when the addition of the two projects did not happen with any input or review of the Transportation Commission. It raises the question of what roll the Transportation Commission plays in this City when Council can on their own and with no standard of review or accepted justification make changes such as these. The list of projects should have been sent back to the TC for further discussion of Council’s concerns.

We propose that City Council go back to the original list of projects approved by the Transportation Commission and Fourth Bore Coalition, and trust your volunteer public servants who have spent so much time and effort on these projects. The good news is that the TC approved projects are going to result in a much more walkable, more bikeable and more livable city than the modified list approved by City Council. The TC list is also going to help the City reach its adopted goals of reducing greenhouse gases by 33% below 2000 level by the year 2020. To do this, we need to significantly increase the rates of bicycling and walking, and we are not going to be able to do this if we have to continue to accommodate every car trip and parking spot in demand today. There will be an informative presentation on December 5 at the City of Oakland on how improvements to walking, bicycling and transit have an effect on reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT). The speaker is Abby Thorne-Lyman - Director of the Center for Transit Oriented Development at Reconnecting America. We hope that a representative of City Council and staff can attend and learn more about why projects like the list approved by the TC will help the City reach its GHG reduction goals. (contact Ferial Mosley at fmosley@oaklandnet.comor for more information). Thank you for directing staff in accordance with these concerns. Sincerely,  Dave Campbell Program Director East Bay Bicycle Coalition cc: Farid Javendel Ann Smulka Dean Metzger


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