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Archive for the ‘bicycling’ Category

Sacramento St in Berkeley is currently under construction for what is described as a “complete streets” project. Here is the existing conditions:

As you can see, this is an extremely wide 4-lane arterial running through a residential neighborhood. The roadway has very low traffic volumes, leading to speeding and dangerous passing. The obvious solution would be a road diet to reduce speeds and space for buffered bike lanes (or perhaps even cycletracks). Instead, the city is only proposing to put in some new intersection treatments without doing any lane reductions or other measures to reduce speeding.

Let’s compare to a very similar project going on along Oakland’s 14th Ave. Here is the existing road configuration, which as you can see is also a 4-lane residential arterial:

Given the similarity of the two streets, one might expect these neighboring cities to implement similar solutions. But aside from the intersection treatments, the approaches are quite different. Berkeley is not adding bike lanes and will maintain its street as a dangerous high-speed thoroughfare. Oakland is doing a full road diet to calm traffic. Thus, the Oakland project is complete, the Berkeley one is not. The sad thing is that the Berkeley project sits directly outside a BART station and connects to a popular bike trail. The top community concern in meetings was slowing traffic, so how did Berkeley end up doing the bare minimum?

Oakland 14th Ave road diet
Berkeley “Complete” Streets project

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A critical section of Bay Trail running past Golden Gate Fields was opened this past June linking Berkeley and Richmond. This wildly popular segment is useful for both recreational and commuter cyclists.

But not everyone was happy about this path. Back in 2013, Norman Laforce filed a lawsuit against the EB Regional Park District over the EIR for the project.

This was hardly the first time Laforce had battled the park district. I first heard about Laforce in 1995, when he tried blocking construction of another Bay Trail segment. He has a long history of filing frivolous lawsuits and trying to prevent the public from accessing their public parks. His world view is that parks are to be fenced off from the public. He has tried to remove kiteboarders and dogs from Albany Beach, prohibit cyclists from riding on fire roads, and even opposed the Berkeley High girls crew team from rowing in the Aquatic Park lagoon.

Laforce is now running for a seat on the EBRPD Board of Directors. Hilariously, his website features a picture of him with his dog on a trail, and talks about the importance of improving park access to “urban youth”. If you live in EBRPD Ward 1 (Berkeley/Richmond area), it is critical that you vote for his opponent, Elizabeth Echols.

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Merchants in the Northgate section of Telegraph Avenue are complaining about the new cycletrack installed by the City of Oakland, and want it removed. But ironically they admitted it improves safety:

Businesses have said that they have lost customers who like to pull up for just a moment.

The double-parking along Telegraph by UberEats drivers has been one of the main hazards for cyclists. Restaurants should figure out a new business model that does not depend on dangerous double-parking.

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Just a reminder: 99% of bicycle fatalities involve a collision with a motor vehicle — and bike helmets do not protect against that type of impact. If you don’t want to take my word for it, then here is Eric Richer, Giro’s Brand Development Manager, explaining it:

“There are many misconceptions about helmets, unfortunately,” says Giro’s Richter. “We do not design helmets specifically to reduce chances or severity of injury when impacts involve a car. As mentioned earlier, the number of variables is too great to calculate – the speed of the car, the mass, the angle of impact, the rider, the surface, the speed of the rider, did the driver or rider swerve a little or hit the brakes before impact. All of these variables and more are unique in every instance, and there is no way to accurately predict what is going to happen or the forces involved.

“What we do is work to make riders more visible, create helmets that provide relevant coverage so that riders wear them whenever they ride, and advocate for better infrastructure to help reduce the chances that you’d encounter an impact with a car.”

 

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Common sense prevails in Tacoma:

Tacoma will no longer require people to wear helmets when bicycling, skateboarding, roller-skating or riding a scooter in the city limits. Tacoma City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance on Tuesday that in part repeals a section of city code requiring helmets for certain modes of transportation.

The changes come after the city completed its micro-mobility pilot program, which began in 2018 when the city entered into an agreement to allow companies Bird and Lime to deploy scooters and bikes on Tacoma streets with the intent of evaluating new and environmentally friendly transportation options.

“This code review was spurred by our team’s work on micro-mobility; however, as we dug into the Tacoma Municipal Code as it relates to active transportation, it quickly became apparent that there’s some outdated, inconsistent code language that doesn’t align with best practices or city and state policy.

 

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Work crews are putting the finishing touches on a short cycletrack along Adeline, just north of the Ashby BART station. It runs for a few blocks before dumping bikes out into this mess of an intersection:

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Berkeley has now built three cycletracks, all of which have this problem. They run for a few blocks, then abruptly stop — right at the most dangerous location. If you notice, there is a cyclist riding out in the parking lane, because who in their right mind would use the roadway.  The entrance to the BART station is just beyond the traffic light, so this is a critical gap in the bike network.

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Fulton cycletrack is another half-assed job. It inexplicably comes to an abrupt halt 2 blocks from the traffic diverter at Dwight Way

 

 

 

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Closed Again

This is really getting annoying.

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Both the Richmond Bridge and Bay Bridge bike/ped paths routinely get closed — for no apparent reason and with absolutely no notification. I passed dozens of cyclists and joggers on the way to this closed gate.

State Law requires maximum feasible public access to the Bay. The BCDC needs to step in and begin enforcement action on Caltrans/MTC.

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Hurrah! Oakland and San Francisco Slow Streets are now on Google Maps (but no Alameda?).

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Do Pastafarians count?

The fashion police in Canberra (Australia) will no longer require that Sikhs wear bike helmets:

Australians will no longer be fined for wearing religious headwear instead of a helmet while bike riding in Canberra, under new rules aimed at making cycling more inclusive. The exemption, which came into effect quietly in December, was introduced after a Canberra man wrote to ACT Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury with a problem.

“I am a big fan of riding bicycles and I used to have a bicycle when I was in Melbourne because as a Sikh boy I had exemption not to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle,” he said.

The decision brings Canberra in line with Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia, which all have similar regulations in place. In NSW, the only state currently without a bike helmet exemption, members of the Sikh community have unsuccessfully lobbied state government representatives to have the law amended.

US Federal Law (and the courts) have increasingly taken a dim view on rules and regulations that infringe on religious freedom. I wonder if/when we see a court case on the constitutionality of bike helmet requirements.

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After months of construction, the new 2-block $10 million Shattuck “reconfiguration” project is now operating in downtown Berkeley. Whereas Shattuck used to split into a northbound and southbound leg, the road now makes the old southbound section two-way. The northbound leg is turned into a giant turn pocket:

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If you find the above diagram confusing, the red arrow indicates the old travel path for northbound traffic (Shattuck West used to be one-way). So $10 million was spent just to streamline northbound car traffic at the Shattuck/University intersection.

The reconfigured Shattuck is now more of a traffic sewer (even the left-turns were eliminated). For drivers, this is really great because they can blast through downtown. For bicyclists though, the new road is stressful. To fit 4 lanes in this section, the traffic lanes were narrowed. While narrow lanes can sometimes serve to calm traffic, in this case the result is impatient motorists passing bicyclists with mere inches to spare.

The Shattuck reconfiguration project is one piece of a package of projects to increase automobile access to the downtown, including a new $40 million parking garage (LEED Certified of course), and additional “back-in” parking spaces along Shattuck East. While other cities are creating cycletracks and even eliminating car traffic in their downtowns, Berkeley is moving in the opposite direction.

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Mayor Arreguin at the ribbon cutting for the new Center St. parking garage

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Shattuck construction

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Four car lanes, wider sidewalks — but no bike lanes or cycletracks

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