Berkeley approves number of bike-friendly initiatives

The West Street Pathway between Deleware and Virginia streets is now open to cyclists. Photo: courtesy EBBC

By Dave Campbell

At a time when cities are facing budget cuts and reducing staff, Berkeley is pushing ahead with several bikeway projects and initiatives to make the city more walkable and more bikeable.

Many of the Berkeley’s bikeway improvements were highlighted at the June 25 meeting of the Berkeley Bicycle Subcommittee, where the City’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Planner, Eric Anderson, had a lot of exciting updates to share with a group of 18 interested residents. Anderson led a discussion of the Hearst Avenue Corridor Study and its proposed road diet, green bikeway features, and significantly improved pedestrian crossings.

Green bikeways proposed on Hearst Avenue

The City of Berkeley is working with UC Berkeley on many exciting bicycle and pedestrian improvements on Hearst Avenue, between Shattuck Avenue and Gayley Road, the entire north side of campus. Most exciting is a road diet, bringing Hearst down from 4 lanes in each direction to 2 lanes with bike lanes and a center median.

A road diet not only makes pedestrian crossings much safer and allows space for bike lanes, it also improves traffic flow significantly. Advocates will also get green bike lanes and advance stop boxes at the intersection of Hearst and Oxford, and possibly at the intersection with Le Conte. East of Le Conte, a separated buffered bike lane and a new sidewalk is proposed, up to Euclid and North Gate. In the downhill direction, green-backed bike sharrows are proposed in a shared lane arrangement, which should be sufficient given the downhill on this stretch of Hearst.

Green bike lanes and advance stop boxes are planned for the intersection of Hearst and Oxford streets.

Bike parking

Over the next few weeks Berkeley is completing the installation of several hundred new bike racks and plans to start another round of bike rack installation this Fall. If your favorite business needs a bike rack, please contact Eric Anderson, Berkeley Bicycle Planner to request a free rack on the sidewalk in front (

In addition, the city expects to finalize its new Bicycle Parking Ordinance later this year and have the Council adopt the new ordinance in early 2013. These new guidelines will include a plan for more on-street bike parking corrals like those in front of the Downtown Library.

West Street Pathway is open

The gates are down on the extension of the West Street Pathway between Deleware and Virginia. Mayor Tom Bates rode with the EBBC on Bike to Work Day to survey the nearly completed bikeway, and now it’s done. Construction starts soon on the connecting segment between Virginia and the Ohlone Greenway and it is hoped that this part can be completed in the Fall.

Berkeley Bicycle Plan update

Berkeley has secured $162,000 for updating its Bicycle Plan and is awaiting word in July from Caltrans on an additional grant to complete funding for what will be the city’s first update to its Bicycle Plan since 2000. The new Bicycle Plan will include designs for improved crossing of arterial streets at Bicycle Boulevards, the final missing piece to the Bicycle Boulevard Network.

Dave Campbell is Program Director for the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. Team EBBC is forming for Climate Ride 2012 and you can support its efforts in many ways. Join the Team and enjoy a 5-day scenic, fully supported bike tour from Eureka to San Francisco in September, or make a donation to the Team and help its efforts to raise money for the work it does to make the East Bay more bike friendly. For more information visit EBBC Climate Ride 2012.

A record number of cyclists ride on Bike to Work day [05.10.12]
Op/Ed: Safe cycling in wake of hit and run collision [04.30.12]
Video: Two cyclists struck by hit and run driver on Tunnel Road [04.27.12]
Podcast: What exactly are Berkeley’s rules of the road for cyclists? [11.29.11]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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  • Bob

    Another bike friendly idea:  pave Wildcat.  And enforce the no parking signs on Grizzly Peak, south of Centennial Drive (actually, that’s a revenue opportunity for Oakland).

  • Berkeleyfarm

    I’ve noted a lot more bikes on Dwight in West Berkeley where Channing (1 block N) is the Bicycle Boulevard and far less trafficed by autos.

    But while crossing Sacramento St is easy for both cars and bikes because of the parkway, San Pablo is tricky.  I presume that’s why the cyclists are on heavily trafficked and heavily parked Dwight.

    To improve the BB system and make it easier for bikes, there needs to be traffic control across town. 

  • Berkeleyfarm

    Well, I went to UC Davis, and bikes tended to follow the rules of the road precisely because tickets or warnings were often issued for violations.   Even the cops with the bullhorn saying “Hey that was a stop sign” by one major exit of the campus tended to put the fear of God into cyclists.

    Traffic school is often offered to drivers with fairly minor violations and otherwise good records so I’m in favor of it for cyclists as well.   

  • Berkeleyfarm

    Your friends aren’t good drivers if they’re potentially violating code 5x per mile. 

  • Gimpytoll

     Yeah you’re right, the laws aren’t enforced fairly. Bicyclists should be required to have license plates and carry insurance as well. Get ticketed whenever they ride on sidewalks and when they blow through stop signs and whenever they talk on their phones while riding. Glad you agree.

  • guest

     The common theme throughout this comment thread is that cyclists feel they are above the law, and justify that with any reason that’s convenient.

  • Prinzrob

    It has nothing to do with my friends, I see vehicle code violations (by both drivers and cyclists) occur on every block I travel and at every intersection. I’m sure most of those drivers are not breaking the law with malice, but in many cases people are just either oblivious to the law or apathetic about following it, since certain violations have become the status quo on our streets.

    When I see a motorist make their way through traffic without breaking any laws it makes me want to stop them and give them a gold medal, because it is simply such a rare occurrence.

  • Prinzrob

    Sorry, but I didn’t get that sense at all from the comments I have read here. Can you be more specific about which comments you are referring in this thread and in what way they are advocating for cyclists not to obey the law?

  • Always good to hear that another section of rail-trail–as the West street bikeway is–has been completed.

    And I’d never run across the term “sharrow” ( before, though I’ve certainly seen them in the street… but can anyone tell me exactly what a “buffered” bike lane would be (as “proposed, up to Euclid and North Gate” for Hearst eastbound)? Would this be separated from the traffic lane by a curb, or just wide stripes as on Marin?

  • Charles_Siegel

     The purpose of the Marin road diet is to protect residents from high-speed traffic: the bike lanes were just incidental.

    At the time this road diet was proposed, I was on the board of Bicycle Friendly Berkeley Coalition.  The first we heard about the project was when we were contacted by a resident of Albany, who told us that Albany was planning a road diet to protect residents from traffic speeding down from the Berkeley Hills, and he wanted us to back the road diet on the remaining two or three blocks in Berkeley. 

    We backed it because we wanted a safer street for residents – not because we thought it was an important bike route.

    The same is true of most road diets.  The goal is a safer street with slower traffic.  The bike lanes are incidental.

  • Gimpytroll

    “I ride my bicycle based on what I believe to be safe, which often
    includes running stop signs and red lights when there is no traffic; 
    and I also commonly bike on sidewalks.”

  • Prinzrob

    That comment was from a different thread, not the one that the guest commenter replied to. Also, it was quickly countered by myself and several other commenters (including yourself) with concerns about following the law selectively.

    Out of 63 comments (so far) it doesn’t seem reasonable for one to make a case that “the common theme throughout this comment thread is that cyclists feel they are above the law” unless one was trying really hard to support a pre-conceived narrative about “scofflaw” cyclists.

  • Prinzrob

    Bicycling on the sidewalk is legal in Berkeley outside of the business districts. Not a good idea in many cases, but legal. Until very recently talking on a cell phone while biking was also legal, and is still legal as long as one is using a hands-free device which doesn’t cover both ears.

  • Prinzrob

    As I noted above: both Wildcat Canyon and the Berkeley section of Grizzly Peak made it onto the city’s five year paving plan. Paving Wildcat alone will cost around $800k, so even though it has been needed for some time I am glad at least that an improvement is on the horizon and that the city is making a commitment to fixing it.

  • Prinzrob

    The term “buffered bike lane” is a general one that refers to any bike lane with some sort of separation between it and the other travel lines beyond just a 6-inch painted stripe. In the case of this plan for Hearst Ave the details have not been finalized, but the initial concept I heard included both a painted, 3-foot buffer on the pavement as well as vertical plastic bollards to discourage motorists from drifting over into the bike lane. I also suggested that the city look into installing 4-inch, mountable rubber curbs between the bike and the other travel lanes like San Jose is currently installing for a few of their bikeways.

    The reason why some folks don’t like using traditional concrete curbs or medians for a buffer is because they prevent a cyclist from leaving the bike lane if necessary, either to avoid some debris, a pothole, pass another cyclist, merge back into traffic to make a left turn, etc. Concerte curbs/medians are also significantly more expensive.

  • TN

    I think that you are wrong about the Berkeley Municipal Code. Adults (except law enforcement)  are not allowed to ride on sidewalks anywhere in Berkeley.

    14.68.130 Riding bicycles on sidewalk permitted when.No person shall ride or operate a bicycle on any sidewalk in the city except:A.    Juveniles, exercising the due care and giving the pedestrian the right-of-way, may ride and operate their bicycles upon the sidewalk, except such sidewalks as are in front of schools, stores or buildings used for business purposes;B.    Juveniles riding or operating a bicycle on the sidewalk shall do so in single file;C.    Peace officers who determine in good faith that riding or operating a bicycle on the sidewalk is necessary to perform official duties. (Ord. 6113-NS § 1, 1992: Ord. 4957-NS § 15, 1976)

  • Prinzrob

    Interesting, and thanks for the quote from the municipal code. I’ve been told by Berkeley PD and city officials that it was only banned in the business districts, so I will have to do some more research to get to the bottom of it.

  • Judyhalftoes

    That’s great news about Albany working on a bike connector to the Bay! In combination with Berkeley’s elegant bike/ped bridge, this route makes a wonderful loop along our waterfront and a good link to the path to Richmond. Currently, cyclists must either share the road with dangerous traffic on Buchanan, or ride on the sidewalk for a few blocks (which I do there, but very reluctantly and just to reduce risk of getting run over. I also always yield to pedestrians…).

  • TN

    I’m not a fan of bicyclists riding on the sidewalks anywhere in Berkeley. Aside from the danger to cyclists from cars at driveways and street corners, sidewalk cyclists do endanger pedestrians. Older pedestrians and children are particularly vulnerable.

    While I’m all in favor of increasing the modal share of bicycles in transportation, if it is done in a way that discourages the pedestrian share, there will not be a net gain.

    Berkeley has traditionally had an unusually high modal share of both bicycle and pedestrian commuters. I assume that it would be the same for other types of trips. Since I started to follow the issue about 35 years ago, the share of both pedestrians and bicyclists have each ranged between 15 to 20% in every survey that I’ve come across. These have been very stable numbers.

  • Gimpytroll

     … and you teach bicycle classes .. ?

  • Prinzrob

    Yes, I teach free bike safety classes in 33 different cities all over the East Bay, and in each of those communities the laws are often revised and amended, both via a local and state level. As such it is next to impossible to know the specific municipal code by heart for each of these different communities, especially regarding sidewalk cycling restrictions which are different everywhere you go.

    Bicycle laws can be so obtuse and confusing in some cases that I have found police officers, judges, city planners and lawyers all quoting me conflicting information.

    Since cyclists regularly travel over city lines, often without even knowing it, I tell my students they can be sure to always be in compliance with the law if they just stay off the sidewalk altogether. Or, if they feel unsafe riding on a particular stretch of roadway they can dismount and walk their bike on the sidewalk until they reach a spot where they are comfortable getting back onto the street.

    I am constantly learning, which is why discussions like this one are very useful to me. Insults and snide remarks, however, do not contribute much.

  • The Sharkey

    Perhaps things need to be changed now, then. Having stretches of the main bike boulevards in Berkeley share the same roads as sacrifice streets with high volumes of traffic (that frequently violate residential speed limits) seems absurd.

  • EBGuy

     I share Judy’s enthusiasm — thanks for the update Rob.  For those who are interested (PDF alert!):
    BTW, they Bay Trail is a great way to avoid the traffic and make your way over to the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond for the symphony and fireworks show in Richmond on July 3.

  • Charles_Siegel

     Sharkey, I don’t understand this comment.  Which bike boulevard are you referring to?

    For a list of the seven bike boulevards, see 

    Milvia downtown is the worst in my opinion, and it definitely should be improved, but I wouldn’t call it a “sacrifice street.”

  • Gimpytroll

     I’m sorry you that you feel offended, but if I took a course on “driving safety” or whatever safety, I would hope that the instructor is up to date on all the laws (i.e. knows what they’re talking about). And since you are posting on BERKELEYside, being called out on not knowing Berkeley laws is fair game.

  • Captainentropy

    “halving” the speed limits in Berkeley? Are you serious? For its density, Berkeley is already one of the most difficult, tedious, and time-consuming places to drive anywhere that I’ve ever been. It’s 25 MPH everywhere! It’s one giant residential area. Halving the speed limit isn’t going to magically reduce the number of cars. Berkeley is *openly* anti-car. The cyclists (and pedestrians) are the most aggressive, flippant, and aloof groups of any place I’ve ever been. They openly flaunt the laws, ignoring stop signs, traffic lights, right-of-ways, etc. This is because due to the anti-car attitude of city leaders. How about addressing how cyclists (and pedestrians) make it dangerous for themselves by not following the rules and/or just common sense? Or

    The state “prioritize[s] cars at the expense of human lives.”? That’s a nonsensical statement. If you follow the logical conclusion of your view then the city/state should just ban cars altogether. No cars = no car-caused deaths. Right?

  • Captainentropy

    To paraphrase Grover Norquist, you propose to shrink auto-mobility down to the size where it can be drowned it in the bathtub. I do, to an extent, like the idea of the bike box but it will just increase congestion because it will prohibit right-turns on red. And I agree we need more, and wider, bike lanes but 10-15 MPH limits everywhere is as ridiculous as it is unrealistic. What we need is smarter cyclists. Just yesterday I saw some jackhole cyclist illegally cross traffic *forcing* cars to slam on their brakes as he flashed us all a peace sign as if that made him less of a jerk. I see this behavior All The Time. How about the cyclist community address their bad habits first before suggesting the city spend tons of money on implausible enforcement and signage?

    (and yes, I do ride a bike. I live in Oakland and work in Berkeley).

  • Captainentropy

    “bringing Hearst down from 4 lanes in each direction to 2 lanes with bike lanes and a center median.”

    Can someone tell me where the hell Hearst is 4 lanes in each direction?

    I think he means “four lanes, two in each direction…” (editors, where are you?). Reducing a road by 50% will likely double traffic. Adding bike boxes to a two-lane road (one in each direction) will slow down traffic even more. More idling traffic means most exhaust fumes at intersections and more pollution. Nice.

  • Prinzrob

    That is fair, I suppose, but not relevant to the classes I teach because we inform students to always refrain from riding on sidewalks, regardless of the law for that individual jurisdiction, as I stated above.

    Much of what we teach in our classes goes well beyond what is the legal minimum requirement, as one can follow the law to the letter and still be unsafe on a bicycle in traffic. The sections we do teach on the vehicle code refer to state laws which apply everywhere, and we do not concentrate on local laws which are often confusing and unenforced or unenforceable.

    Again, the information I quoted was based on my conversations with Berkeley PD and city officials, so apparently I am not the only one with bad information. But I am glad I had this chance to learn, as it is how one becomes a better teacher.

  • EBGuy

     AD, I would like to see the section open almost as much as you, but the Berkeley School does have their reasons for maintaining control of this strip of land.  They’ve experienced theft/property damage to their physical plant and don’t want the shenanigans they see occurring in Strawberry Creek Park happening next to their school.  See page 11 (PDF) for a primer:

  • Choyingpalmo

    I’m all for making Berkeley more bike-friendly; I’m all for people eschewing their cars for their bikes. As someone who is mostly a pedestrian, I’d really also love for the scofflaw adult bicyclists (and I’m NOT talking about the law-abiding bicyclists, who I’m guessing far outnumber the other)–who choose to ride on sidewalks, choose to ignore traffic signals and other rules of the road–to make bicycling safer for everyone by following the freakin’ rules!

  • Charles_Siegel

     “Halving the speed limit isn’t going to magically reduce the number of cars. Berkeley is *openly* anti-car.”

    There is evidence, beginning with Zahavy’s studies during the 1970s, that people have a certain time budget that they will devote to transportation. 

    If people can drive faster, they will travel longer distances, increasing the number of cars on the roads.  This is what happens when a freeway is built and allows people to drive faster.  It is called induced traffic.

    Likewise, if people drive slower, they will travel shorter distances, decreasing the number of cars on the roads. For example, they will tend to shop locally rather than driving long distances to regional shopping centers.