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What We Want on Hearst Avenue

Author: Bike East Bay

Date: March 14, 2015

The Hearst Avenue Complete Street project is a really good project, but it can be way better, and more consistent with what people want to see improved for bicycling in Berkeley, the East Bay’s most bike-popular city. The project proposes a lane reduction on Hearst between Shattuch Ave and LeConte, bringing Hearst Ave down to one travel lane in each direction, with turn pockets where needed. The extra space allows for new bike lanes, which staff are proposing and an opportunity to bring to the East Bay our first modern bikeway intersection design. In addition, a new side walk and protected bike lane is planned in the uphill direction east of LeConte, with sharrows in the downtown direction.

What We Like

  1. Modern Intersections: The modern bikeway intersection design is most on display at Oxford and Hearst. On three approaches, full-width green bike boxes frame the intersection and make turning movements much better for bicyclists. Bike boxes like these provide many benefits. They allow for people bicycling to bunch up in front of cars at a red light, so that when the light turns green, they can go first and get through the intersection safely in full view of drivers. By getting a head start, people on bikes clear the intersection sooner, allowing drivers to more easily make a right turn. For left turning movements, green bike boxes allow bicyclists to move over to the left side and into the left turn lane, all during a red light phase. This way, they are positioned safely to make a left turn in front of traffic. The intersection also includes leading green paint at the beginning of each bike lane, to help position bicyclists as they approach the far side of the intersection, and more importantly to remind drivers that there is a bike lane on that block, and to look for people bicycling. And extended bikeway striping in the intersection is included to guide people bicycling where the bike lane is off-set slightly on each side of the intersection.
  2. Bike Traffic Signal: At Northgate, the project also includes a bicycle traffic signal at Euclid and Hearst, as you exit Northgate–a nice touch and in fact needed to let you know when it is your turn to move through the intersection.
  3. New Sidewalk with Protected Bike Lane East of LeConte: Approaching Northgate, a new sidewalk will be added, between LeConte and Euclid on the south side of Hearst. To do this, parking on the south side is being removed. Some residents are worried about this loss of parking. However, there still is a net gain in parking in the area when factoring in the University paved over 6 tennis courts and a sport court years ago on the top deck of the parking garage across the street.

What We Want Improved

  1. More Protected Bike Lanes: Hearst Ave between Shattuck Ave and Oxford Ave is plenty wide for protected bike lanes–58ft. Here’s what it would look like:At intersections, protected bike lanes merge with right turn lanes, like this:Staff are proposing buffered bike lanes for these two blocks of Hearst, but it’s time to stop the nonsense of building new bike lanes on busy streets with the bike lane between moving traffic and parked cars that are pulling in, pulling out, and opening and closing their doors. Which do you prefer? Additional protected bike lanes are feasible on Hearst Ave between Spruce and LeConte, and at the east end of the project as the bike lane approaches Euclid. This is shown below in our photos in connection with bus island improvements discussed.

    Protected bike lanes have a huge benefit for pedestrians as well, as they extend the pedestrian bulb out further into the intersection, shortening crossing distances and making pedestrians much more visible to motorists. They also slow traffic speeds, which helps everyone. Several local residents at the March 11 open house appreciated this advantage. To design protected bike lanes, a few additional parking spots need to be removed, less than 5 in our estimation, to improve sight lines and visiblity of people bicycling behind parked cars. Such a small loss of parking is well worth the added benefits of protecting you from traffic. Lessons from the Green Lanes, a national report from Portland State University documents the many benefits of protected bike lanes. It’s time to bring these to Berkeley, the fourth most popular city in the US for bicycling.

  2. Bus Boarding Islands: at the intersection of Arch/LeConte/Hearst, there is sufficient room to move the bus boarding island out away from the curb, and build a protected bike lane behind it. In fact, a protected bike lane can be provided on Hearst between Spruce and this intersection, at least in the uphill direction. Bus boarding islands are proven effective at eliminating bus/bike conflicts and are the go-to design in Seattle. San Francisco also has one on Duboce at Church. Here’s what it would look like:Traffic needing to get around a bus while the bus is loading/unloading passengers can move into the left turn lane, or simply wait for the bus to start moving again. Between Spruce and this bus boarding islands, the proposed buffered bike lanes should be changed to parking-protected bike lanes, placing the bike lane next to the curb, where it belongs, and aligning it with the bike lane behind the bus boarding island. This arrangement creates a much more enjoyable and relaxing experience bicycling up to campus.
  3. Second Bus Island at Euclid: the AC Transit 65 and 67 buses traveling up Hearst make a left at Euclid. It is difficult for these buses to pullover to the right before making this left, to pick up passengers. A bus only traffic signal is one solution to this challenge, but another more sensible idea is to place a bus boarding island out in the street, between the left turn lane and the thru lane. It would look like this image here. The floating bus island drawn here would have to be moved closer to the crosswalk of the intersection, but this is feasible. A floating bus island would allow for continuing protection of the bike lane almost all the way up to the intersection with Euclid. Note: straight through buses would stop on the far side of the intersection, further improving service for these routes.
  4. Pedestrian Safety Improvements at Hearst & Shattuck: this intersection is notoriously dangerous and way over-built. On Shattuck Ave, pedestrian bulbouts should be added. The proposed right turn lane on Hearst heading east at Shattuck should be eliminate, and the sidewalk widened–the owner of Berkeley Espresso has ‘espressed’ interest in this (get it?). Many years ago Berkeley installed pedestrian warning flags at this intersection, as bad as an idea that was, is how bad the intersection is for simply walking across the street.
  5. Additional Ideas for Improvement:

    1. Add a “No Right Turn” restriction at the bike box on Hearst Ave heading west and approaching Oxford;
    2. Add a “Bicycles Excepted” to the right turn only sign on Spruce at Hearst;
    3. Add armadillos or mini parking stops as low level protection for the curbside buffered bike lanes, to upgrade them into protected bike lanes;
    4. Add a green bike box on Hearst Ave at Shattuck Ave heading west;
    5. Ensure that the flashing beacons at Spruce St are able to be activated by people bicycling turning on to Spruce;

You can help improve this good project design by contacting Project Manager Aaron Sage, [email protected] and letting him know that you agree with our goal of more protected bike lanes and bus boarding islands, which allow the design to keep the bike lane along the curb, and move cars-buses-trucks-motorcycles-parked cars out to the left.

March 11 Open House Recap

Thank you everyone who came to the March 11 open house and showed strong support for the project, and for extending the protected bike lanes west to Shattuck Ave. A large crowd filled the room, many who were local residents supportive of a more walkable Hearst Avenue. Full recap here.

Background information:

Your support over the past several year made a huge difference in convincing Berkeley to apply for full funding of the Hearst Avenue Complete Street project from competitive county funds, and your votes in our online polls in April helped sway county decision-makers that this project is a priority and should be awarded funding. From our Berkeley Sunday Streets DIY demo project (shown above), to online petitions you signed in support, and a huge showing at the Berkeley Transportation Commission, our calls for a better Hearst Ave were heard.  A new $3 million complete street is on the way.

This project is a high priority new bikeway because it is not only going to benefit Berkeley with safe and comfortable new bikeways, but will benefit all of the East Bay by implementing the type of modern, American-class bikeway that the rest of the East Bay will learn from and replicate. Other East Bay cities will learn about bike boxes, green paint and protected bike lanes. 

The project extends from Shattuck Ave to Euclid Ave and also includes many great pedestrian and transit improvements, detailed below.

Because the project is fully-funded, Berkeley will do a complete environmental analysis starting this year and complete final designs in 2014, with construction expected to start in 2015. We know this is still two years away, and we wish it could happen sooner, but it is a tremendous victory of our collective grassroots advocacy, and we are confident that you are going to have a smile on your face when you start riding this amazing new bikeway. We will continue to work with Berkeley to ensure this project is completed as promised and as soon as possible.

Preliminary designs for the Hearst Avenue bikeways can be found online here:

You can Sign up on our Hearst Avenue Bikeway Mailing List to keep updated.

The Hearst Avenue Bikeway Project is a proposal to do a road diet on Hearst Avenue and install many much-needed bike and pedestrian improvements. Staff are proposing to reduce the road from 4 lanes to 2 lanes, install bike lanes, install a center median to help pedestrian crossing, redo the intersection of Hearst at Arch/LeConte, install Berkeley’s first buffered bike lane, add green bike bikeway features including advance stop boxes, and more. We will need your continued support to convince the City to finally make Hearst Avenue a safe street to walk across and a safe street to bike on. See you there.

The City of Berkeley is working with UC Berkeley on many exciting bicycle and pedestrian improvements on Hearst Avenue, between Shattuck Ave and Gayley Road, the entire north side of campus. Most exciting is a road diet, bringing Hearst down from 4 lanes in each direction to 2 lanes with bike lanes and a center median. A road diet not only makes pedestrian crossings much safer and allows space for bike lanes, it also improves traffic flow significantly. Advocates will also get green bike lanes and advance stop boxes at the intersection of Hearst and Oxford, and possibly at the intersection with Le Conte. East of Le Conte, a separated buffered bike lane and a new sidewalk is proposed, up to Euclid and North Gate. In the downhill direction, green-backed bike sharrows are proposed in a shared lane arrangement, which should be sufficient given the downhill on this stretch of Hearst. More information on the Hearst Avenue Corridor Project. Background information on Hearst Avenue Bike Lanes.

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