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» Is Berkeley falling behind in the race for safe streets?

milvia bike blvd. flickr/paytonc

Now, in 2014, San Francisco and Oakland have leapt ahead of Berkeley in designing safe streets, taking on major national leadership roles within NACTO in the process. San Francisco has aggressively implemented its bicycle plan and prioritized pedestrian safety through its WalkFirst program. Oakland can’t build bike lanes fast enough [sfgate, 27.04.14.] and is completely rethinking Telegraph Ave [gjel, 24.04.14.] to improve safety and comfort for people who walk, bike, and take transit. Even El Cerrito has joined the complete streets party as it plans to reshape San Pablo Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare.

Meanwhile, Berkeley has seemingly stalled… Berkeley has not aggressively targeted unsafe street designs to improve pedestrian safety. It has seen a number of terrible incidents, most often related to the number of poorly marked and unprotected crosswalks on busy streets. Most recently, Joseph Luft, a 98-year-old psychology professor at San Francisco State, was killed crossing Sacramento Street at Bancroft Way [berkeleyside, 05.04.14], a busy intersection that features a crosswalk but no traffic signal. 

Safe designs for bicyclists have also lagged behind. Between 2005 and 2010, Berkeley had 819 bike crashes. Issues of bicycle safety were brought to the forefront when Schlomo Bentin, a neuropsychologist, was killed while riding on Bancroft Way by UC Berkeley [baycitizen]. Approximately 25% of pedestrian collisions and 20% of bicycle collisions occur adjacent to UC Berkeley [safeTREC], an area in which most of the streets are again designed to move large volumes of automobiles quickly despite the fact that only 25% of the university’s commuters drive to work.

Why has Berkeley fallen behind Oakland, San Francisco, El Cerrito, and other Bay Area cities? Part of the explanation probably relates to what makes Berkeley, well, Berkeley. There is a subculture of misplaced environmentalism [ebx, 01.04.09] in Berkeley that strives to preserve the good old days and save the city from changes by newcomers or outsiders. What this amounts to is a strong sense of NIMBYism from a vocal segment of the population—a minority of perhaps 15-25 percent that has a disproportionate effect on city policies. This culture seems to trickle down to the city’s traffic engineering decisions: maintaining the status quo is welcomed until somebody (like the Malcolm X Elementary parents) sufficiently lobby for change.

Berkeley hasn’t seemed to acknowledge that it had real, serious problems when it comes to street safety—problems that run contrary to the very principals of environmentalism, social justice, and public health for which the city has traditionally been a leader. Embracing a status quo in which seniors, children, students, transit riders, low income residents, and other groups are exposed to greater risk of injury or death and are forced to deal with subpar facilities is not what Berkeley stands for.

read more: gjel attorneys, 05.05.14.

ride bike down stairs, hit brick wall, right into the best parking space!
in front of the jane on memorial drive, atlanta, ga.
Rachel Flynn, Oakland’s Planning Director, is hella un-Oakland.

I’m totally late on this news: Oakland Planning Director Cuts Off Latham Square Pilot, Lets Cars Back In. sf.streetsblog, 01.11.13.

The Latham Square pilot was supposed to last for six months, but after just six weeks, the widely-lauded, one-block plaza at the foot of Telegraph Avenue is no longer car-free. “The pilot program of having the pedestrian-only area was cut short and one southbound lane was reopened to cars without any warning to pedestrians,” said Jonathan Bair, board president of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland. 

not the headline news—i was up-to-date on that.. but about the new planning director:

Flynn came to Oakland in March, having previously worked at a planning firm based in Abu Dhabi, following a stint as planning director of Richmond, Virginia, in 2011.

ummm??? i don’t see how previous work in those kinds of cities would translate well to oakland, a much more different place. i don’t know how the heck she got selected to be director..

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When asked for data on Latham Square’s use, she said, “We don’t know how to measure pedestrian and bicycle activity.”

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I know there are lots of great planners out there with experience and who are more in tune with Oakland/East Bay communities—how did they not get the job instead of this lady??!!

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