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Berkeley’s Milvia Street Safety Features Removed Over Bogus Truck Dimensions

11:18 AM PST on February 9, 2022

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.

Crews with the city of Berkeley removed part of a protected bike lane and a protective island from a block of Milvia last Wednesday. The stated justification for ripping out the safety features: oxygen delivery trucks were unable to access the O2 tank at Alta Bates hospital, on the corner of Haste and Milvia, because the new bike safety treatments prevented them from making the turn out of the hospital's driveway.

Farid Javandel, Berkeley's transportation manager, told Streetsblog the city was concerned when the hospital told them they couldn't get oxygen deliveries. "That does sound kind of critical," he said.

But, as Streetsblog has confirmed, and as the lead photo shows, the truck dimensions provided by the hospital--the ones which were used to justify the removal--were for a much larger type of truck that isn't actually used for bulk oxygen deliveries.

This discrepancy should have been obvious to the city of Berkeley, said advocates.

"The curbs have been in place since September," said Walk Bike Berkeley's Jacqueline Erbe, adding that the hospital must have had several deliveries of O2 since they were installed. "Obviously, they had a workaround." Erbe, by the way, is familiar with the repercussions of unsafe, compromised street designs. In March of 2021, a driver hit her on Ninth Street just south of Channing Way. She sustained serious injuries, including a broken femur and fractured vertebrae.

She is also familiar with oxygen deliveries from years of working as a project manager at hospitals. She's convinced the truck could maneuver in the parking lot without issue. "It is the smallest liquid oxygen truck I have ever seen. And I have seen a number of bulk oxygen deliveries," she added.

After the initial reporting on the removal of the safety features, an anonymous tipster who goes by the appropriate handle "pleasecheckagain" posted photos of the truck, as seen in the lead image. Contrast that with information provided by Javandel: "The truck is a 60’ long tractor trailer," he emailed to Streetsblog on Thursday. "It turned out that trucks delivering oxygen to the large tank in the Alta Bates parking lot were unable to clear the barriers and parked cars," he wrote, sending diagrams depicting a five-axle, 18-wheeler:

The city of Berkeley's Farid Javandel sent the above diagram.
The city of Berkeley's Farid Javandel sent the above diagram.

As seen in the lead image, the actual truck is much shorter, has three axles, and is not a tractor-trailer. Streetsblog contacted Airgas, the owner of the truck, and was told they don't even use tractor-trailers for bulk oxygen delivery.

Javandel said the dimensions of the truck were provided by Alta Bates. Streetsblog left a message on the media affairs line at the hospital and emailed and left a voicemail for Larry Perucca, chief engineer for the hospital and the city's contact.

Meanwhile, the video of the delivery below, also from pleasecheckagain, makes it look as if even the smaller truck might have had some difficulty exiting on Milvia, although it should not have been necessary to remove the protective island.

It's not depicted in the video, but the truck presumably entered using the driveway on Haste. Streetsblog paced out the parking lot and found that the truck could also reverse and go back out via Haste, if the Milvia exit was still too challenging. At worst, it would require some shuffling of parked cars on delivery days.

The view of all the space in front of the O2 tank. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
The view of all the space in front of the O2 tank. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
The O2 tank is to the photographer's back here. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
The O2 tank is to the photographer's back here. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Javandel said they will be meeting with the hospital again later this week. He stressed that the city intends to replace the treatments with mountable curbs where necessary, but this time he wants to actually see the truck making the turns. "Our patience is pretty much gone," he told Streetsblog via phone, adding that if the hospital has more complaints they will "put the burden back on them to solve it."

Advocates took city officials to task for not doing that in the first place. "All of this over that little truck!" said Erbe.

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