Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and mayoral hopeful Councilman Jesse Arreguín have teamed up to ask the city manager to move quickly to extend a bike lane two blocks south on Fulton Street by the site of a near-fatal crash involving a cyclist and vehicle in February.
In a Berkeley City Council consent calendar item scheduled for Tuesday, March 15, they ask the “City Manager and Transportation staff to prioritize and expedite the installation of a bicycle lane on Fulton Street between Bancroft Way and Channing Way.”
The council item notes that the city needs to conduct a traffic study and public hearing before a new bike lane could be installed.
“This item urges staff to prioritize completion of all steps necessary to install the bike lane by May 12, 2016, Bike to Work Day or as expeditiously as possible thereafter,” according to the brief report. There is a bike lane on Fulton Street north of Bancroft Way but it ends at that intersection.
Advocacy group Bike East Bay has been actively pushing for that extension since last year when the street was repaved, and say city bike planning documents already lay the groundwork for making it happen. They renewed calls for the lane after Megan Schwarzman, a mother, medical doctor and UC Berkeley scientist, was struck by a driver Feb. 2 at Fulton and Bancroft Way and critically injured.
The group has called for members to turn up to the Berkeley City Council meeting with bike lights and neon safety gear to make their support for the bike lane clear. For the first time, and on a pilot basis, the council meeting will be held at 2020 Bonar St. in West Berkeley, in the Berkeley Unified School Board meeting room.
Bike East Bay wrote to the city manager in February to outline its rationale for the extended bike lane. On Feb. 23, the city’s transportation division chief Farid Javandel responded to describe other projects underway in Berkeley related to cycling infrastructure improvements, and note that other Berkeley intersections have historically had more crashes than Bancroft and Fulton.
Javandel told Bike East Bay that, pending new CEQA rules under review by the state, the city would have to do a traffic study and hold public hearings before striping the bike lane. He said, too, that the new lane would remove a block of parking and eliminate a traffic lane.
Police have not released the specifics of how the February crash took place, and the driver who was arrested afterward has not yet been charged. But Renee Rivera, executive director of Bike East Bay, said she believes having a bike lane extend farther on Fulton could have made a difference.
“Part of what makes that section of Fulton so dangerous is that the bike lane ends,” she said, north of Bancroft. The shared parking and bike lane then become a right-hand turning lane. South of Bancroft, cyclists must share the road with motorists. “If you’re going through on a bike, you’re having to come out of the bike lane and merge into the lane where there are cars.”
The extension of the bike lane south of Bancroft would mean that cyclists would not have to merge back into the vehicle lane, though there could still be conflicts with vehicles turning right, she said.
Bike East Bay is calling for what’s known as a “protected” bike lane south of Bancroft, where the cycling lane is actually separated from vehicular traffic by planters, curbs or even parked cars. The city council item does not specify a protected lane, however.
Rivera disputed the city’s assertion that it must wait for the new CEQA rules to go into effect at the state level, and says the city could simply adopt those new rules now, which has been done elsewhere, she said. Under the new rules, the city could stripe the bike lane with less of a public process.
As far as the city’s assertion that it’s doing cycling-related projects in other places that may have seen more crashes, Rivera said she is glad to hear it. But she said the city needs to take a hard look at Bancroft and Fulton too. She recalled that, several years ago, a visiting Israeli professor was killed while biking through the area near where Schwarzman was struck.
“We really need to address all of these places where we have high collision rates,” she said. “We’ve seen a couple of really devastating collisions here. It does really need to be addressed.”
Rivera also noted that Berkeley has one of the highest rates in the state of collisions between vehicles and bicycles.
“It’s a great place to bike, and it needs to be a lot safer,” she said. “There haven’t been significant upgrades to the cycling infrastructure in Berkeley for a long time.”
Earlier this month, the neighborhood association representing the area where the Schwarzmans live released an update about her condition: “Meg is making a remarkable recovery from multi-site injuries that ranged from internal organ damage to multiple broken bones. Although she presently has stitches, wraps, a sling, and new bodily hardware, and must take constant medication to cope with the extraordinary level of pain, it is now clear that she will make it, with brain and mobility intact.”
In late February, “she moved to acute rehab for the long process of rebuilding her body, piece by piece. On the other side of this process, Meg’s one-year-old baby boy — whose first birthday passed in her absence from home — eagerly awaits his mom’s return. This is the most enormous motivator for Meg as she pushes through her difficult recovery.”
The notice continued: “We have enough data about the dangers of the intersection and stretch of road where this accident occurred. Let’s not make any more families go something through this. Please consider taking action by writing to Berkeley’s City Manager to call upon her to fast track the project to make Fulton Street safer.”
[Note: This story initially incorrectly identified the source of the latest update about Megan Schwarzman. It has been fixed.]
Advocates: Berkeley must extend bike lane on Fulton (02.11.16)
Hope, gratitude after near-deadly collision in Berkeley (02.05.16)
Driver arrested, cyclist critical after crash (02.02.16)
Women charged after Berkeley hit-and-run, cyclist crash (12.03.15)
Driver in stolen vehicle strikes cyclist while fleeing police (11.23.15)
Fallen tree cuts power in Tilden, sends cyclist to hospital (09.29.15)
Berkeley cyclist dies after hit and run (01.27.15)
Cyclist hurt, 5 elevator rescues in power outage caused by PG&E equipment failure (01.23.15)
Cyclist seriously injured in Berkeley hit-and-run (01.15.15)
Berkeley police rule cyclist responsible for fatal crash (10.15.14)
Cyclist dies after North Berkeley crash with car (09.23.14)
Bicyclist suffers life-threatening injuries after colliding with car at Spruce and Eunice (09.21.14)
7-year-old cyclist in serious condition after traffic accident on Bancroft Way (06.16.14)
Bicyclist killed while trying to cross I-80 in Berkeley (06.01.13)
Dump truck collision did not kill visiting Israeli professor (12.26.12)
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