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Big Win for Bikes and Peds in Berkeley

9:10 AM PDT on October 31, 2019

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

Berkeley should get a lot more protected bike lanes over the next few years thanks to new legislation that mandates "quick build" lanes and pedestrian safety improvements when the city repaves streets. Last night, the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved this quick-build requirement of the "Berkeley Initiative to Build Improvements for Mobility, Bicycles, & Pedestrians" (BIBIMBAP). A second part of the legislation, which dedicates 50 percent of repaving funds to bikeways and ped high-injury streets as a pilot program from 2022-2025, was also passed.

"We know a vast majority of residents, from a survey conducted for the 2017 bicycle plan, say they would bike more to work or school if they felt conditions on our streets were safer," said Berkeley District 7's Rigel Robinson, who authored the legislation. "It's on us as a city to build that environment."

But getting the vote passed wasn't easy; the council deliberated until 11: 30 p.m. Some 15 advocates from Walk Bike Berkeley, Bike East Bay, and the Cal Berkeley Democrats, came to speak in favor (nobody spoke against it). "We had a great group of people who stuck it out; these things are epic," said Ben Gerhardstein, coordinating committing member and co-founder of Walk Bike Berkeley, who was there for the duration. "Berkeley professes to be working under a climate emergency... and transportation emissions are our top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. So this is fully, squarely on point for addressing those issues."

The legislation (PDF) "...put in stronger language, formalizing something that the Berkeley staff is already doing to a decent extent--implementing the bike and ped plan on streets when they repave," Gerhardstein told Streetsblog. The bill was also sponsored by Councilmembers Lori Droste, Kate Harrison and Mayor Jesse Arreguin, and mandates the Berkeley City Manager to:

Require simultaneous implementation of recommendations in the City’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plans when City streets are repaved, if one or more of the following conditions are met:

  • Bicycle Plan recommendations can be implemented using quick-build strategies that accommodate transit operations.
  • Pedestrian Plan recommendations can be implemented using quick-build strategies that accommodate transit operations.
  • The Bicycle Plan recommends studying protected bike lanes as part of a Complete Street Corridor Study in the Tier 1 Priority list.
  • Improvements are necessary to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
berkeleybikeplan
The Berkeley Bike Plan network. Image: City of Berkeley
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That first part passed unanimously. But "there were two pillars to this legislation... when we repave streets we must build in the bike and ped improvements that the plans said we should," said Robinson, adding that this is a policy they essentially lifted from Cambridge and Seattle. The second part authorized a pilot program to dedicate 50 percent of pavement funding to improve bikeways and pedestrian high-injury streets. "As far as I know that may be a novel approach, and we'll see how that pilot goes," added the lawmaker.

He added that most cities are happy to talk about safe street infrastructure, but rarely do they follow through with substantial enough funds to make change really happen. "It's that prioritization that cities are going to have to make in implementing a bike plan... plans are introduced in lots of cities, but rarely do they have any teeth."

Gerhardstein agreed, adding that he was disappointed to hear some members of the council argue and vote against making such a firm commitment. "They gave lip service to the idea of safer streets, but weren't willing to put the money where their mouth was and that's what BIBIMBAP is all about--and to put our resources into the streets that have the potential to lower our carbon footprint by supporting safe biking and walking."

Walk Bike Berkeley tweeted the exact vote breakdown on the City Council:

And here's a tweet from Robinson (who also came up with the idea of naming it after a yummy Korean lunch, in honor of his Korean heritage) shortly before the vote. Note his awesome t-shirt.

Unfortunately, the "Idaho Stop" portion, which would require the Berkeley police to concentrate time and resources to stopping dangerous motorist behaviors, rather than busting cyclists who roll slowly and carefully past stop signs, was continued to a later meeting. "Idaho stop was item 35, and because the council managed to spend 159 minutes talking about BIBIMBAP, we continued that to Nov. 12," said Robinson. "I'm feeling good about it, but we'll see when we get there."

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