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Posts Tagged ‘Berkeley’

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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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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This past week, Berkeley police were out in force writing $250 tickets to cyclists for rolling stop signs on Milvia and the Ohlone trail. For those who don’t know Berkeley, these are the two of the safest places to walk or ride a bike in the city.

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In a Tweet, Berkeley Mayor Arreguin denied responsibility for the crackdown. As he pointed out, it is actually city policy to use limited police resources on dangerous driver behavior.

But the Mayor and Council are not exactly blameless here. This crackdown is the result of a state grant City Council applied for. Each year the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) gives money to local law enforcement to conduct these kinds of stings. As one of California’s most dangerous cities for bikes/peds, Berkeley routinely receives OTS grant money. Apparently, one condition of the OTS grant is that recipients conduct targeted enforcement against bikes/peds. Berkeley and other cities have regularly used OTS funds for this purpose.

So in accepting the OTS grant, it was inevitable cyclists and pedestrians would get caught up in a dragnet, and many on the Berkeley City Council surely knew this because they’ve heard complaints about it before. One year in particular stands out, when an OTS-funded jaywalking sting was conducted near UC campus. Quite a number of UC students attended a City Council meeting that evening to vent frustration at the exorbitant fines.

The OTS is one of those highway agencies few have heard of, but which desperately needs reform. The OTS promotes outdated safety advice bordering on victim-blaming. OTS admonishes pedestrians to wear bright colors and carry flashlights. Bike helmets are heavily promoted, and the OTS warns against distracted walking. So it is not surprising that OTS traffic safety grants would fund some dubious enforcement strategies. Cities that want to promote bike/ped travel should avoid OTS grant programs.

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Now that Senator Wiener has re-introduced a watered-down housing bill, what are the chances the Nimbys get on-board? Not likely, to judge from these insane comments from Berkeley Mayor Arreguin:

In Berkeley the low-density residential neighborhood immediately around North Berkeley BART would automatically be up-zoned resulting in heights of up to 55 feet. This will create pressure on existing neighborhoods and will result in land speculation. There are historically low-income communities which do not meet the definition of “Sensitive Communities” who will face increased gentrification and displacement.

Ah yes, the millionaire slums of N. Berkeley…

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The City of Berkeley Zoning Board has turned down an infill housing project near the Ashby BART station, in order to preserve a gas station:

It had no residential car parking, but 48 bicycle parking spots and six commercial spaces for a planned ground-floor café. The site is less than a half-mile from the Ashby BART station.The application statement said in part: “3000 Shattuck will provide an essential combination of pricing affordability, an amenity-rich neighborhood, and easy access to public transit — key considerations for the modern workforce renter.”

“This is a way to actually get it built and provide the city with close to a million dollars into the affordable trust [affordable housing fund]. That’s the choice. Or the city can continue to have a gas station.”

It is worth noting that the South Shattuck Plan specifically calls for pedestrian-scale mixed infill development on underdeveloped lots. So once again the city doesn’t follow its adopted plans.

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The parking lot surrounding North Berkeley BART is the poster child for bad station-area planning. For decades city officials have made vague promises to put infill housing there, but nothing actually happens. The wealthy homeowners who live in the neighborhood vehemently oppose infill housing.

Sponsored by Assembly members David Chiu and Tim Grayson, AB-2923 would correct the problem by transferring planning authority to the BART Board. The bill requires the BART Board to put new transit-oriented-development on all its properties (including in Berkeley). Of course, the Berkeley City Council is siding with wealthy homeowners and opposing the measure:

The Council majority routinely opposes new apartments in the city’s many single family neighborhoods filled with homes selling for over $1 million. The area around North Berkeley BART is one such neighborhood.

Home prices in the area have skyrocketed over the past decade, and some longtime owners who have profited mightily from restricting supply do not want apartments built on the BART station. One way to accomplish this is to keep all decision making authority over the site under the Berkeley City Council rather than the region-wide BART Board.

This insistence on “local control” over a regional asset—BART stations—is why Berkeley will soon oppose AB 2923. Exclusionary zoning that produces class segregation is a way of life in Berkeley, and the Council majority aims to keep it that way.

At a March 15 community meeting to discuss building housing on the North Berkeley BART parking lot, most speakers favored housing. But as noted with Mayor Arreguin’s “support,” opponents routinely say they support the idea of housing while working against getting units built. Putting Berkeley on record against AB 2923 is part of this effort.

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Limebike, the dockless bikeshare service, is sprouting up in the East Bay. But one exception is Berkeley:

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This image above is what users saw a month ago.  The dire warnings have since been removed from the app, but there is still a gaping hole in service within Berkeley city borders. Limebike has been trying to reach out to Berkeley to start service, but to no avail:

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The irony is that Limebike was begun in Berkeley, at the Skydeck incubator center. Just goes to show how anti-environmental and anti-business Berkeley has become.

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Berkeley could become North America’s first major city to build a comprehensive Dutch-style cycle-track network. For the past two years, city staff has been developing a new Bike Plan, which is set to go before City Council in December. The plan would revolutionize cycling in a town with an already respectable bike mode-share. If approved, the plan would prioritize the construction of new cycle-tracks in the south campus area, and convert a downtown segment of Milvia into a cycle-track.

The plan also calls for cycle-tracks on the major arterials , including Claremont, Telegraph, Shattuck, University, and Adeline. Each those projects would have to go through a “multi-modal” corridor study. Berkeley staff says these studies are needed to accommodate other road users (buses, pedestrians, and automobiles). Hopefully, the studies will not used to sandbag the bike plan…

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Parking is one of those things everyone in Berkeley complains about (ironic for a city that is supposedly environmental). Merchants especially have complained about parking “deficits” in downtown and southside areas. And yet whenever city planners measured parking occupancy, they found empty spaces even during peak hours.

What was going on here — was there or was there not a parking crunch? As it turns out, both sides were right. Due to inefficient pricing, the prime on-street spaces were monopolized while garages and other areas went under-utilized. Drivers would typically drive in circles hunting for the cheap on-street parking, avoiding more expensive garages.

Could market-pricing strategies correct the parking imbalance, and result in more efficient utilization? The city received a 3-year Federal grant to test that hypothesis. The transportation department analyzed parking occupancy rates in three neighborhoods, continually adjusting parking hours and pricing based on demand. Price and time limits were set with a goal of always having 65-85% occupancy on each block. Where parking exceeded the 85% threshold, prices went up and time limits went down. Where parking occupancy dropped below the 65%, prices were reduced and time limits increased. Clear signage was installed to inform drivers their pricing options.

The results of the program are quite impressive:

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Here is another survey result:

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But the most surprising result is the large number of blocks where price and time limits were relaxed due to minimal parking demand (remember: price and time limits can go up or down depending on parking demand). On the map shown below, these are are indicated in green; i.e. the Max Parking Zones. It is interesting that areas that were thought to have very high demand, such as 2 blocks from campus, actually don’t have very high demand at all.

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The program is on-going. One of the next challenges will be automating the collection of real-time data. It is currently done manually, which doesn’t scale well. The city is exploring technological solutions to automate the process, such as the use of parking sensors or license plate readers.

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