Berkeley cycling aficionados have two big events coming up in the next week: the city’s third annual Bikes in Berkeley Festival on Sunday, followed by an open house Monday focused on a major update to the city’s Bicycle Plan.
The Bikes in Berkeley Festival is scheduled to take place Sunday at Malcolm X Elementary School, 1731 Prince St. (between Ellis and King streets), from noon to 4 p.m. It is set to kick off with a family cycling workshop (more information and a pre-registration form is here), followed by a youth bike swap (details here) and the festival itself.
The festival, called Fiesta de la Tierra — a nod in part to this week’s Earth Day (on Wednesday) — will have a bike and helmet decoration station, a “bike rodeo” to practice rules of the road, helmet fittings, bike-blended smoothies, bicycle-inspired entertainment, a cargo bike demo station, “and a whole lot more to inspire, educate and encourage bicycle riding,” according to organizers.
The event is a project of the Berkeley Task Force of Alameda County’s Safe Routes to Schools program in partnership with the Berkeley Unified School District. Learn more on the event Facebook page and sign up online to volunteer. See a program flier with more of the details.
Sofia Zander, a Berkeley resident who helped organize the event, said “This year’s festival is shaping up to be a great one — lots of opportunities for bike riders of all abilities to learn, practice, explore and celebrate. Plus, between the bike swap and the BikeMobile, folks can leave the festival with a good, working bicycle that’s just right for them.”
And, speaking of upcoming bike-related events, Zander noted that residents should mark their calendars for Bike to School and Work Day, coming May 14. (See Bike East Bay’s overview of that event.)
“This day of bicycle celebration and education will prepare families for Bike to School and Work Day,” Zander said of Sunday’s festival, “and bring the community together to celebrate all things bike in honor of the Earth.”
Help update the city’s Bicycle Plan
Then, on Monday, the city is holding an open house at the Central Library, 2090 Kittredge St. (between Shattuck Avenue and Milvia Street), from 4:30-7:30 p.m. to collect feedback on the city’s cycling conditions as part of a lengthy public process to update the city’s Bicycle Plan, which was adopted in 2000. (The city published a brief addendum to that plan in 2005.)
The city wants to know “what could make bicycling safer and more comfortable for you and your family.”
Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington, who can often be spotted cycling around Berkeley, said the city needs to focus on more and safer bike parking, better boulevard intersection safety, and fully including bikes in complete streets.
“As an avid everyday cyclist I see up close and personal what is working and what isn’t,” he said. “Other cities have surpassed Berkeley in providing safer spaces for bicycling. Our thousands of devoted cyclists and want-to-be cyclists deserve safe streets for people of all ages.”
Monday’s workshop will be held in an “open house format” with a presentation scheduled for 6 p.m. Activities for children will be provided.
The city has created a website about the bike plan effort, which officially began in November and is slated to wrap up next year with a presentation before the Berkeley City Council in April or May of 2016. There’s also a Facebook page for those who want to stay informed. Monday’s open house is the first big public event related to the effort.
According to the Facebook page, this will be the first time the city will significantly update the bike plan in 15 years. The plan itself is an overview of the city’s existing bike networks, facilities and programs. It discusses local bike use, problems in the infrastructure and how cycling fits into the city’s sustainability goals.
Dave Campbell, advocacy director for Bike East Bay, said cyclists need to advocate to ensure the city has the infrastructure and plan it deserves.
“As the fourth most popular city in the U.S. for bicycling,” he said, “Berkeley should be a world-class city for getting around by bike. But it’s only going to happen if we ask for it.”
The non-profit bike advocacy group — formerly known as the East Bay Bicycle Coalition — keeps a close eye on local cycling issues in 33 cities and 50 jurisdictions in the region. The organization surveyed more than 200 people to ask them about their priorities related to biking in Berkeley. The results appear below.
According to that survey, the top four priorities for those who responded were safer crossings at the intersections of bike boulevards and arterial streets; protected bike lanes on busy streets; better pavement conditions; and more numerous regular bike lanes.
Campbell said there are, by his count, 18 crossings that need to be improved within Berkeley so cyclists can more safely get across town to their destinations. Then, once they arrive to shop on Shattuck, San Pablo, Solano or other popular destinations, Bike East Bay‘s goal is to have protected lanes for cyclists. Finally, he said, the city needs to prioritize keeping the pavement in good condition throughout the bike network so people feel safe and comfortable using it.
Improving the crossings generally takes some kind of traffic signal, he said, which can be expensive. But the city is slated to get its first HAWK beacon this summer at Hillegass Avenue as part of the Ashby Avenue/Fourth Bore project; those beacon lights cost less than a typical signal, and stop traffic only when needed. New bike lanes are planned this summer on Tunnel Road, too.
Campbell said the Bicycle Plan will help the city by making it ready to receive or go after grant funding for projects that need doing, and help the city prioritize which projects to do first. And, he added, the bike plan is an issue of concern for the whole community, not just cyclists.
“We’re saving money by doing this,” he said. “The expensive thing is to repave streets and get them ready for more cars and more trucks, which means you have to repave more often. By getting people out of cars, and onto bikes, or walking, or taking the bus, you actually save money. Other cities that are prioritizing active transportation, they’re actually starting to see that they’re saving money as a result.”
Campbell continued: “The issue is, how do we make these better streets for everybody?”
Mayor Tom Bates said he supports the Bicycle Plan effort and is looking forward to seeing results.
“My commitment is stronger than ever to try to make Berkeley the best community for bicycling in America,” he said.
Stay tuned to Berkeleyside for continuing coverage.
Read more about the Bicycle Plan on Bike East Bay’s website. See a March 2015 overview of the Bicycle Plan update process that was part of the April 9 city Transportation Commission meeting, as well as minutes from a recent Bicycle Subcommittee meeting.
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