A new “protected” bike lane — set off from vehicular traffic — has been completed this week in Berkeley on Fulton Street with a ribbon cutting scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday just in time for Bike to Work Day.
Advocacy group Bike East Bay, which has been pushing hard for the lane since last year, renewed calls for its creation in February after Berkeley scientist and new mother Megan Schwarzman was nearly killed while cycling nearby.
Schwarzman’s husband, Mike Wilson, addressed the Berkeley City Council in March and asked for speedy action. (He and his wife are avid cyclists and were members of Bike East Bay at the time of the crash.)
“You can imagine the strain on our family as Meg struggled to live through the first 12 hours, with a bleeding liver, 20 fractured ribs, a smashed pelvis, two partially collapsed lungs, and complex facial fractures,” he told council. “Let’s learn from what happened here and implement the long-overdue improvements in bicycle and pedestrian safety that are already embodied in Berkeley’s bicycle plan and Downtown plan. Meg and I will thank you, as will the thousands of cyclists and pedestrians who rely on your decisions to keep them and their families safe.”
Scroll down for a video of what it’s like to ride in the new lane.
Wilson also noted that the driver who ran over his wife was impaired, which “contributed to the severity of the collision.” But he said that better traffic planning would be critical in making a difference in the long run as far as safety for cyclists and drivers.
On May 2, 47-year-old Berwick Haynes was charged with driving under the influence of drugs and causing great bodily injury, according to the Alameda County district attorney’s office. According to the police report, acquired by Berkeleyside through a Public Records Act request, Haynes had bought medical marijuana from the Berkeley Patients Group dispensary shortly before the crash, which took place Feb. 2 at about 5 p.m.
According to the police report, Haynes admitted to smoking marijuana at the Berkeley Marina at 3:30 p.m., appeared high to police on the scene and “performed poorly” on a sobriety test conducted by a BPD officer after the crash. Police found marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the car, which also smelled strongly of burnt pot. Also found in the vehicle were numerous empty plastic “BPG House Blend” canisters.
Haynes — who is from Berkeley but lived in Sunnyvale as of February — told police he had stopped for the red light at Fulton and Bancroft right before the crash. When the light turned green, according to the police report, he drove forward and “he then felt ‘bumps’ from the front area of his vehicle. He said he did not know what the bumps were. He said he tried to stop but the vehicle began … going into a skid.”
Haynes said he was able to stop just south of Bancroft. He and his passenger — his husband, Lonnie Sears — got out of the car “and saw there was a person (Schwarzman) underneath his vehicle.”
Within minutes, BPD had decided to call in its Fatal Accident Investigation Team. The dispatch log later noted that the cyclist’s condition “does not look very promising.” Schwarzman was in critical condition at Highland Hospital by that time. She had arrived there unresponsive from blood loss.
Haynes was arrested at the scene on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs and DUI causing great bodily injury. His blood was drawn and was set to be sent to the lab for toxicology screening but the results of those tests were not included in the police report.
The officer noted that Haynes “was extremely remorseful and sad,” and “cried numerous times” while speaking to police that night.
Sears told police, according to his written statement, he had seen a cyclist off to his right when they were at the red light. After the light changed, he noticed the cyclist was in front of their vehicle, a Mazda 626.
“Now I don’t know why the cyclist stopped, but I don’t think Berwick … saw her and he ran over her,” he told police. “We was [sic] not going fast at all. 5-10 mph.”
He told police that the two of them had smoked half a joint together at People’s Park 20-30 minutes before the crash.
“We where [sic] driving around because we where [sic] early and we where [sic] wasting time,” Sears said, according to the report. They were planning to drive to College Avenue where Haynes was working. (Before the crash he had been part of a cast preparing for a show at the Berkeley Playhouse. He was replaced after his arrest.)
“I was the one who told Berwick that we had just hit the bicyclist,” Sears reportedly told police. “Berwick was not aware until I told him that he had just hit someone.”
One witness to the crash told police it looked to him like the Mazda — which had been in the left lane — had been moving into the right lane as it crossed Bancroft when the driver hit the cyclist and dragged her southbound through the intersection.
After the Mazda stopped, “The driver and the passenger looked as if they were frightened and didn’t know what to do,” the witness told police, according to the report. “I told the driver not to move the car since we didn’t know the condition of the bicyclist.”
According to the police report, the case was closed by the arrest and was slated to be forwarded to the district attorney’s office for prosecution.
As reported by the city, Berkeley has the highest percentage of bike commuters — nearly 10% — among all U.S. cities with more than 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It stands out in the region, too: “Berkeley’s proportion of people who bike to work is more than four times the Alameda County average and nearly five times the Bay Area average.”
But Berkeley has also ranked first among similarly sized California cities in bicycle and pedestrian injuries and fatalities, according to a letter submitted to council by Claudia Polsky, a friend of Schwarzman’s.
After council members expressed support for the new bike lane in March, Bike East Bay said the transformation had been a long time coming. Organizers also thanked members for their advocacy work, which they said had been of critical importance.
“In just six weeks after a serious collision involving a Bike East Bay member, we pushed through a project approval that has been delayed for 16 years. And in three months from Megan’s crash, a new bike lane should be on the ground,” the organization wrote in March. More recently, the group lauded the lane as one of the fastest installations it has seen.
After a brief public hearing, council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night recognizing the bike lane installation. Only one person spoke during the hearing; he thanked the city for its biking improvement efforts. Most of the evening was devoted to plans to add a fourth medical cannabis dispensary to the three already open in Berkeley, with the possibility of adding two more dispensaries down the road.
To create the lane, the city had to remove parking from the area, according to the staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting. Project costs were estimated at $107,000, some of which was covered through Measure BB and Measure B.
According to the staff report, “there is no evidence that the aforementioned collision was caused by the lack of a bikeway at this location. However, to accommodate the public’s request, installation of the bikeway will be accelerated.”
A traffic study completed by the city found that the lanes “will not have a significant impact on vehicular traffic and will have no negative impact on pedestrian and bicycle safety.”
The city did acknowledge in the report that the lane “closes a gap in the City’s bikeway network between existing bike lanes on Fulton Street/Oxford Street north of Bancroft Way and the Bicycle Boulevard on Channing Way. Demand for bicycle travel in this area is high, due to the proximity of major destinations such as UC Berkeley and downtown businesses and transit services.”
The new southbound bike lane now runs for two blocks on Fulton from Bancroft Way to Channing Way. The existing bike lane previously ended at Bancroft, dumping cyclists and motorists together in the intersection. Thursday’s ribbon cutting is set to be followed by a ride by attendees to City Hall.
Kent Chen, who lives near Fulton and Bancroft, has been documenting the lane’s creation on Twitter. He took this video Wednesday of what it’s like to ride there.
— Kent Chen (@kentschen_) May 12, 2016
— Kent Chen (@kentschen_) May 12, 2016
Other bike-related efforts planned in Berkeley include the Hearst Complete Streets Project, from Shattuck Avenue to La Loma Avenue/Gayley Road, and the Gilman Interchange project, which is set to feature a pedestrian and bicycling overpass.
According to the city, “Projects elsewhere include bike lanes and a rapid flashing beacon crossing on Tunnel Road, a pedestrian hybrid beacon signal at Ashby-Hillegass, a signal controlled bike path crossing of Ashby at the 9th Street Path, and signal modifications at several other intersections.”
Update, 11:50 a.m. The Alameda County district attorney’s office charged Berwick Haynes on May 2 with driving under the influence of drugs and causing great bodily injury. If convicted, he could be sent to prison. A warrant has been issued for Haynes’ arrest. Berkeleyside has asked BPD if there is any further information to release.
Update, 10:30 a.m. According to the spokeswoman from the Alameda County district attorney’s office, DUI charges have been filed against the driver. Berkeleyside has requested documentation of the charges and will update this post if that is provided. Currently, the case does not appear in county records online.
Bike to Work Day plans in Berkeley (partially compiled by the city)
- 7-9 a.m. More than 20 energizer stations have been organized by Bike East Bay.
- 7:30-9:30 a.m. Free breakfast at the Berkeley Bike Station, 2208 Shattuck Ave.
- 8 a.m. A ribbon cutting at Fulton and Bancroft will be followed by a ride to City Hall.
- 5:30-8:30 p.m. The Berkeley Bike to Work Day Happy Hour takes place at Sports Basement, 2727 Milvia St.: There will be food trucks, beer, live music and games for all ages. Derby Street will be car-free at Milvia. Celebrate Alameda County Bicycle Commuter of the Year Dan Beringhele, who works for the city of Berkeley. Visit the Berkeley Bike Plan public outreach table at Sports Basement to offer feedback on improvements for biking in Berkeley. (Read more about the bike plan on Berkeleyside.)
Read more about the ribbon cutting from Bike East Bay. Find an energizer station near you. Learn more about 2016 Bike to Work Day plans and protected bike lanes. Visit the city website to learn even more about Biking in Berkeley.
2 Berkeley officials call for Fulton Street bike lane (03.15.16)
Op-ed: An urgent call for better bikeways in Berkeley (03.01.16)
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)
Dump truck collision did not kill visiting Israeli professor (12.26.12)
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[Editor’s Note: The original version of this story reported that the driver in the crash had not been charged because the information was not available online through the public system that tracks Alameda County court cases. This story was updated after publication to reflect that the driver was charged last week.]