The city of Berkeley has mandated that 50% of its repaving monies go toward its bicycle and pedestrian plan for the next five years. This is not a bad strategy. The problem arises in how the city plans to implement it. Without involving the affected community, expensive mistakes are being made.
No wonder residents surrounding the Hopkins corridor are up in arms about the current cycle path plans down the length of Hopkins Street west of Gilman. Removing about 200 parking places in front of residences and businesses and installing two 5-foot bike lanes and a 2½-foot concrete bike barrier in front of over 70 driveways on the street only 36 feet across is not a logical plan. It doesn’t consider the residents who need parking in front of their homes (caretakers, service vehicles, delivery trucks) or their ability to exit their driveways safely. Imagine traffic jams caused by garbage trucks that cannot pick up garbage from a 2½-foot barrier, so they must pull into both lanes to do so or the danger for cyclists who try to pass stopped vehicles.
Once again, the city of Berkeley and Walk Bike Berkeley still need to consider important aspects that will not only create a dangerous situation for emergency vehicles, city vehicles, service trucks and motorists but will make it more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians.
According to Walk Bike Berkeley, the plan is what it should be. To make this plan come to fruition, they have lobbied hard and won the support of the City Council and Farid Javandel, the Transportation Division Manager, an avid cyclist himself. They are not willing to consider alternatives or compromise on the current plan. They feel opponents to the project are just “NIMBYs” who do not want to protect cyclists and pedestrians.
Hopkins is primarily a residential street that has a small commercial business area. It is also a main evacuation route for fires and earthquakes. The objections are with the bike part of the plan. Why not just turn Hopkins Street into a bike boulevard with sharrows? Even Farid Javandel says, “experienced riders will not use and will be encouraged not to use the bike paths.” Rose and Ada streets are better alternatives for inexperienced riders or children going to school and will be far safer than Hopkins Street with the proposed bike barriers.
It’s a heated situation. Only time will tell what the outcome will be. Let’s hope the result is not one where the city of Berkeley spends money only to find its solution does not work. Let’s hope the council members complete a thorough and unbiased due diligence that includes involvement from all affected parties – the fire department, emergency vehicles, waste management, transit organizations, disabled citizens, senior citizens, residents, pedestrians and cyclists. Let’s hope we can create “a model Complete Streets project” like Mayor Jesse Arreguín says we must do throughout Berkeley without destroying neighborhoods.
Lisa Oglesby, a homeowner who lives on Hopkins Street, is a retired Information Security Consultant.