City rips out brand-new barriers on part of Milvia Street bike route

City officials said the barriers posed a problem for delivery trucks accessing the nearby Alta Bates campus.

A bicyclist rides past a recently removed concrete island that separated Milvia Street’s new protected bike lane from car traffic. The island was one of two barriers on the 2400 block of Milvia Street that were torn out just months after they were installed. Credit: Nico Savidge

Bicycle safety advocates are incensed after the city of Berkeley removed two recently installed concrete barriers meant to protect riders along Milvia Street.

The barriers were part of a $3.9 million project set to wrap up this spring building a mile of new protected bike lanes and redirecting car traffic along the busy route through downtown.

But city officials said the pair of barriers on the 2400 block of Milvia Street, between Dwight Way and Haste Street, have proven to be a problem for large trucks that deliver oxygen to the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Herrick Campus, which occupies the east side of the block.

Farid Javandel, the head of Berkeley’s Transportation Division, said the bikeway was designed to accommodate smaller delivery trucks that access the campus each day. After construction, however, Javandel said Alta Bates told the city about its monthly oxygen delivery, which arrives on a less-maneuverable tractor trailer that needs more space when pulling out of the parking lot and onto Milvia Street.

A cyclist rides past the bare patch of asphalt that replaced a concrete barrier separating the Milvia Street bike lane from cars. The barrier was removed so that large delivery trucks could exit the Alta Bates parking lot across the street. Credit: Nico Savidge

City crews this week tore out the barriers — one, a narrow strip of concrete lining the bike lane on the west side of the street, the other, an oblong island on the east side — and removed two street parking spaces to ensure trucks had access to the street.

“This was a huge disappointment to all of us,” Javandel wrote in an email. “We tried to identify a number of alternatives, but encountered technical and regulatory issues that prevented us from being able to preserve the new barriers.”

Photos of the bare asphalt patches that replaced the barriers drew the ire of many Berkeley bicyclists.

“We shouldn’t be in a position of having to take out infrastructure a couple of months after it was put in,” said Ben Gerhardstein of Walk Bike Berkeley.

The conflict with delivery trucks should have been foreseen during the extensive planning that went into the project, Gerhardstein said.

“We fight tooth and nail to get this infrastructure put in place, and it’s not cheap,” he said. “It takes time and planning, and removing it without any kind of process is a slap in the face.”

Javandel said he did not know how much the two barriers’ installation and removal cost. City officials are now coordinating with Alta Bates to develop a plan for what will replace them, he said, and are hoping to install a lower-profile mountable curb that would offer protection to bicyclists without blocking trucks.

Nico Savidge is Berkeleyside's senior reporter covering city hall. Email: nico@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: NSavidge.