Sent to Farid Javendal and Sean Rose in Berkeley Public Works, September 1, 2015
Dear Farid and Sean
I am writing to ask for your support to include additional protected bike lanes in the Hearst Ave Complete Street Project, which staff are currently considering after having met today to discuss. Specifically, Bike East Bay feels it is feasible and protected bike lanes should be included on the north side of Hearst Ave between Shattuck Ave and Oxford, and on the south side of Hearst Ave between Oxford and Arch. We understand that staff are optimistic that they can accommodate southside protected bike lanes east of Oxford (as well as other changes requested by the Fire Department and neighbors), but feel the northside running protected bike lanes west of Oxford are a challenge.
We have taken a close look at the northside of Hearst Ave and feel protected bike lanes are entirely doable. The street is 56ft wide, providing plenty of room for protected bike lanes by removing a minimum of up to four on-street parking spaces over and above the buffered bike lane designs in current plans. We also feel the loading zone issue at Earl Warren Hall can be a conventional design with the bike lane outside the loading as proposed by staff, but then should immediately transition to curbside bikeway protected from traffic with parked cars.
We realize these changes are being considered in the last few months of design, but this project was originally proposed in 2011 and was awarded funding in 2013. It is through no fault of the public that the timing of these requests are where they are at. Regardless, we feel our request is doable, and should a goal for a city with 10% bike commute mode share, on a street leading directly to UC Berkeley where a recent transportation survey of staff, faculty and students showed that 12% of commute trips are made by bike. In our opinion, this is a perfect project to show that protected bike lanes will be popular with the vast majority of Berkeley residents using Hearst Ave to commute.
In addition to the design of protected bike lanes being doable, as we further explain below, Berkeley cannot continue to wait to build protected bike lanes. The year is 2015 and over 200 miles of protected facilities are on the ground in North America. We should all be well-comfortable with protected bike lanes by now, and we are including staff, elected officials and advocates alike. We carry some fault here by not pushing for protected bike lanes sooner for many projects around the East Bay. But we are doing double time to make attractive, comfortable, low-stress protected bike lanes happen everywhere now.
Cities such as El Cerrito, Richmond, Albany, Alameda, Oakland, Walnut Creek and Emeryville are designing and starting to construct protected bike lanes. Shoreline Drive in Alameda was finished earlier this year; Emeryville is currently constructing a protected bikeway on Christie Drive and Oakland will soon start construction of parking-protected bike lanes on Telegraph in the KONO District. It’s time now for Berkeley to get in this game.
In fact, the time was yesterday to be in this game. Berkeley’s 2002 Climate Action Plan places a particularly heavy burden on us all to reduce polution from cars, and new protected bike lanes are a big part of the solution.
From Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan Report:
“Vehicle trips account for about half of total community-wide emissions. The Climate Action Plan sets the goal of reducing transportation emissions by 33% below 2000 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050. To say that achieving this target requires significant change is an understatement. Transportation modes such as public transit, walking, and cycling must become the primary means of fulfilling our mobility needs and remaining motor vehicle usage must be far less carbon intensive.”
Berkeley currently reports that greenhouse gases have decreased 3% from 2000 levels. With five years left until the year 2020 goal of a 33% reduction, significant change indeed is needed. Bike East Bay submits that protected bike lanes on Hearst Ave are a significant change in our bicycle infrastructure, and buffered bike lanes are not. Buffered bike lanes often become auxiliary loading and drop off spots for cars and trucks, blocking the bikeway and further discouraging people from bicycling.
These two recent national reports evidence that it takes protected bike lanes to achieve significant changes in the number of people bicycling:
Average 70% increase in bicycle traffic on protected bikeways nationally. Survey data showed that 10% of current riders on protected bikeways switched from other modes and that over a quarter of riders are bicycling more in general because of the separated bike lanes.
Separated bike lanes have great potential to fill needs in creating low-stress bicycle networks (generally separated from heavy vehicular traffic or sharing the road with motorists only on very low-volume residential streets). Many potential bicyclists (including children and the elderly) may avoid on-street bicycling if no physical separation from vehicular traffic is provided. This cohort falls into the “Interested, but Concerned” category. To encourage this group to use cycling as a transportation option for short to moderate length trips, many municipalities are focusing on creating a connected bicycle network that “Interested, but Concerned” riders will confidently use.
This last point is of particular relevance in Berkeley where recently we learned from the City’s public opinion survey that 71% of Berkeley residents are ‘interested but concerned,’ that is they are interested in bicycling but are concerned about their safety. This 71% is higher than similar figures recorded in other other US cities. It’s not surprising as Berkeley is a top five city nationally for bicycling and has better weather than all the other cities it is in competition with, save Palo Alto.
To acheive Berkeley’s 2002 Climate Action Plan goals of a 33% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020, Berkeley needs to start building a network of low-stress bikeways that connect all parts of Berkelye, and this includes protected bikeways on busy streets such as Hearst Ave. We have ridden new buffered bike lanes on Broadway and E.12th St in Oakland and they are anything but low-stress.
We agree that designing a protected bike lane on the southside of Hearst Ave between Shattuck Ave and Oxford St is difficult with the location of a new bus stop mid-block. Since much of the proposed buffered bike lane runs along the curb anyway, this is an acceptable compromise to us;
However, on the north side of Hearst Ave between Shattuck Ave and Oxford St, there is sufficient room to provide protected bike lanes, and switch the location of the parking, to look like this:
To acheive this design over proposed buffered bike lanes on this block, up to four additional parking space need to be removed or relocated. Berkeley regularly removes on-street parking for new driveways, relocated bus stops, fire hydrants, turn pockets and to improve sight lines. It’s time for Berkeley to become comfortable continueing this practice to create a low-street, comfortable bikeway network around town. In addition, the GoBerkeley Report shows that smart parking management in Berkeley has achieved a 30% increase in parking meter transactions–that equals more customers. Hearst Ave is on the border of the GoBerkeley program and could be easily incorporated into it if necessary
Protected bike lanes allow for painted bulb outs that extend further into the street than raised concrete bulb outs. The Lessons from the Green Lane Project report above documents how pedestrians using protected bike lanes much prefer them because they shorten distances to cross moving traffic and because they make drivers more aware of people walking and bicycling
The loading zone in front of Earl Warren Hall can be shortened by 50ft in length and left in place, with the bike lane running outside of it, but immediately transitioning back along the curb. This allows for 3-4 on-street parking spaces to be retained on the block between Walnut and Oxford
We appreciate many of the other proposed improvements in this project, including bike boxes, green paint in conflict zones, bus boarding islands, and a bicycle traffic signal at Euclid. And we also appreciate that staff is considering protected bike lanes east of Oxford, on the campus side of Hearst Ave between Oxford and Arch. Such a protected bike lane will create a consistent experience with the planned protected bike lanes east of Arch in the uphill direction. We also note that this project’s design from the start included a compromise of downhill sharrows on Hearst Ave between Euclid and Arch, in order to preserve on-street parking along a long stretch of Hearst Ave where back in 2000 six tennis courts and a skatepark were converted to a parking lot by UC Berkeley. We accepted this compromise from day one and have not challenged it to date.
Overall, this is a good project and we appreciate the City’s and UC Berkeley’s prioritizing it. However the project needs to be better and all involved–residents, staff, advocates, and elected officials need to become comfortable with the reality that moving forward, bikeways on busy street should be designed next to the curb and protected or at least separated from traffic, both moving traffic and parked cars. People are tired of dodging traffic, and no one should be expected to do so on new facilities.
Thank you for improving this project and including to the maximum extent feasible the inclusion of curb side bikeways protected from traffic.