Skip to Content
Streetsblog California home
Streetsblog California home
Log In

Early Thursday evening, members of Walk Bike Berkeley stood on Milvia Street outside Berkeley High School to bring attention to the city's slow-moving plan to build protected bike lanes on the busy street.

Passing cars honked in response to their signs reading “Honk if you <3 [bikes] [pedestrians],” and bicyclists got high-fives. Passersby, drawn by the activity, stopped to talk to city officials at the table they'd set up to explain their plans and get people to fill out a survey about what's needed on Milvia.

City planners explained what they're considering for Milvia St
City planners explained the options being considered on Milvia Street
false

Milvia is the busiest of the city's Bike Boulevards, passing through downtown and connecting riders to schools, city hall, the farmers market, the downtown library and YMCA, as well as to BART and other downtown destinations. It also has the highest number of collisions on any Bicycle Boulevard. It has been identified as a high priority for bicycle improvements by the city council, and city planners are studying options for protected bike lanes there.

They are looking at the pros and cons of two options: one-way protected bike lanes on both sides of the street, or a two-way protected lane on the east side, away from the busy Berkeley High School drop-off zone.

The problem is, neither of these options would begin construction until mid-2021. That's not soon enough for Walk Bike Berkeley, who want to see the street made safer as soon as possible. They suggest the city pilot cheaper, temporary protected bike lanes as soon as possible, which would give them a chance to assess them and make adjustments before beginning construction of permanent lanes.

Currently Milvia has a bike lane, but it comes and goes throughout downtown depending on the width of the street. In some of the narrower areas the lane disappears entirely and is replaced with sharrows. This happens on blocks that experience high levels of vehicle traffic.

Bike riders get dumped into busy areas with only sharrows when the lane ends.
Bike riders get dumped into busy areas with only sharrows when the lane ends.
false

Although for the most part these are slow-speed areas—short blocks between stop signs—that is no guarantee that car drivers won't try to pass anyway, and it is small comfort for nervous riders.

Leah Dorner, who lives next to Milvia, came over to talk to the planners. She told them that she won't ride her bike in Berkeley at all because she feels unsafe. She's not an inexperienced rider; she rode on the UC Berkeley campus when she was a student there, and she grew up riding the suburban streets of Irvine, which, she said, was safer than Berkeley's streets for riding because there was plenty of room for bikes.

Dorner is one of the riders that the Berkeley Bike Plan identifies as the people the city's bike network needs to serve—people who would be willing to ride if they felt safer. The fact that she lives a few blocks from downtown Berkeley and from a BART station, and still chooses to drive everywhere, is exactly why Walk Bike Berkeley is pushing the city to move faster to make Milvia safer sooner.

“If the City of Berkeley is going to meet its Vision Zero road safety and climate goals, we have to move quickly to make walking and biking in Berkeley safer and more inviting,” said Liza Lutzker, one of the Walk Bike Berkeley members.

talking
Members of Walk Bike Berkeley explained why they were there to passing car drivers.
false

Other people attracted to the hullabaloo accepted flyers while they waited at the stop sign, or walked or rode over to talk. One man wanted to know “who was in charge” so he could complain about bike rider behavior. When he left, he agreed that protected bike lanes are probably the right solution for everyone in the busy area.

The sooner the better.

It may be Bike Friendly, but Berkeley is not Bikerly enough yet
It may be Bike Friendly, but Berkeley is not Bikerly enough yet
false

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog California

Port Lobbyists Trying to Kill Bike and Pedestrian Safety in Oakland

Trucking/port lobbyists want to destroy a long-established plan to build protected bike lanes connecting Jack London Square, West Oakland, and downtown

July 12, 2024

Friday Video: Take a Spin on Boston’s Electric Cargo Bike Share

Can't afford a $7,000 Urban Arrow cargo e-bike ? In Boston, you can now rent one for just a few bucks.

July 12, 2024

Friday’s Headlines

5 recommendations for high-speed rail; Caltrans, stop building new freeway lanes already; "Data bikes" can collect information about bike path conditions; More

July 12, 2024

Next Week: Active Transportation Program Workshop

The good news is that there will be a Cycle 7. But it will be small, and there will be hard choices about what gets funded.

July 11, 2024

Metro and Caltrans Still Planning 605 Expansion, Plus Four Connecting Freeways

Metro and Caltrans are planning to spend billions of dollars widening the 605, 5, 10, 60 and 105 Freeways. Really.

July 11, 2024
See all posts