Calls for support and traffic safety after crash leaves Berkeley official and wife in critical condition

Berkeley School Board President Judy Appel (right) and wife Alison Bernstein remain in critical condition after getting hit by a car just around midnight Friday. Photo: Judy Appel/Facebook

Update, Jan. 8, 6:44 p.m. A close friend of Judy Appel and Alison Bernstein, Solange Gould, shared a statement from the family with Berkeleyside.

“Both Judy and Alison showed amazing signs of improvement today,” the prepared statement said. “The family continues to be blown away by the compassion, skills and professionalism of the nursing and medical staff in the Highland ICU.”

In the days since the School Board president and her wife were struck by a car, many readers have asked how they can help the couple and their family.

“For those looking for a way to contribute, for now please consider donating blood or getting involved in a cause that you feel passionate about. These are the things Alison and Judy would want people to do,” the statement said.


Update, Jan. 7, 12:10 p.m. Berkeley School Board president Judy Appel and wife Alison Bernstein are “stable and they’re healing,” said a family member Monday.

Although the women’s conditions are still classified as critical, “they’re both doing well,” said the family member, who asked not to be named.

The family member requested that anyone who is concerned give Appel, Bernstein and their relatives space: “They really want their privacy respected.”

“Prayers are what they need right now,” the family member said.

Original story, Jan. 6, 12:14 p.m. Berkeley officials and community members have shared messages of support and concern after School Board President Judy Appel and her wife Alison Bernstein were struck by a car while walking in South Berkeley after midnight Friday.

Both women are still in critical condition, said a spokesman with Alameda Health System on Sunday morning. Appel and Bernstein are in the intensive care unit at Highland Hospital. The hospital does not release details about injuries, said spokesman Terry Lightfoot.

Appel has served on the School Board since 2012, and has been an advocate for mental health awareness and LGBTQ rights in the district. She just began a year-long term as board president, and works as director of special projects at the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. She also ran for State Assembly in 2018, coming in fourth in the primary.


Bernstein is a lawyer with the Habeas Corpus Resource Center and formerly worked at the state public defender’s office, where she represented clients sentenced to death. She is a former member of the Berkeley Police Review Commission.

The couple has two children, one in college in New York state and one at Berkeley City College.

News of the crash triggered an outpouring of support for the family — and calls for safer streets. The women, 53 and 54, were crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Way at Stuart Street, just a block from their home, when they were hit. There are no traffic lights, and two crosswalks across MLK, at that intersection.

Police have not determined the cause of the crash, said Lt. Peter Hong on Sunday. The driver, an 81-year-old Berkeley man, has been cooperating with authorities.

Many Berkeley officials, including Appel’s board colleagues and the mayor, have posted public wishes for the couple’s swift recovery.

“Our hearts are with @JudyAppel and Alison and their whole family. Our community is wrapping our arms and souls around them and sending the strongest healing and loving thoughts,” said board member Julie Sinai on Twitter.


“Please hold our friends Judy and Alison in your thoughts and prayers. We all know they are fighters. Our community stands behind them,” wrote City Councilwoman Lori Droste.

After Berkeleyside broke the news of the crash Saturday, there was a swell of support for the family from readers.

“Sending all good thoughts to this wonderful couple. Our community is on standby as to how we can support,” said Karen Kiyo Lowhurst, one of dozens of people who posted similar comments on Berkeleyside’s Facebook post.

Congregation Beth El, the synagogue to which the couple belongs, sent all its members a message about the crash Saturday, rallying that community to help Appel and Bernstein.

Saturday afternoon, the couple’s son, Kobi Appel-Bernstein, wrote on social media that his mothers’ conditions had improved somewhat.

“Thank God,” he wrote, “but there are still a lot of questions and waiting.”

Neighbor: ‘Day and night people speed on this street’

Liz Halimah, a neighbor who lives a couple doors down from the site of the crash on MLK, heard the incident Friday.

“I heard the car skid, then a thump, then nothing,” Halimah told Berkeleyside in a Twitter message. “I went outside when I saw police cars arrive. Victims were on ground being treated by BFD paramedics. Police were talking to driver. From what I could see, the windshield of the driver’s car was shattered.”

Halimah has lived on MLK for over two decades and said, “Day and night people speed on this street.”

According to UC Berkeley’s  (TIMS), there were no reported collisions at the MLK and Stuart intersection in 2017, the most recent year available in the database. There was one in 2016. In 2017, about 15 collisions occurred along MLK between University and Ashby avenues, consistent with data from the previous several years. The system tracks reports of collisions involving two vehicles or a vehicle and a pedestrian.

There were 688 collisions across Berkeley in 2017, with the greatest density downtown. This image depicts the total number of collisions between 2006 and 2017. Photo: Transportation Injury Mapping System

Reacting to the news of the late Friday night crash, many Berkeley residents said they’ve found the stretch of MLK problematic.

“I was just driving on MLK last night. Super dark in spots and lots of speeding going on. Even at the flashing crosswalks, drivers failed to stop for pedestrians,” said one Twitter user Saturday.

Appel was not the only Bay Area official to be hit by a vehicle this week. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo was hit by an SUV while riding his bike on New Year’s Day. Liccardo was not seriously injured.

Berkeleyside will provide updates on this story when available.