Streets Just Got Safer for Berkeley Cyclists

Cycling to class or work just north of the University of California campus has just become “quicker, safer, and more sustainable,” reports the Berkely News. With acceptable weather year around in San Francisco, students cycling to classes and work along Hearst Ave. and Bancroft Way received an incredible way to start the new year.

On January 29, the City of Berkely CA and the University of California celebrated their combined efforts marking the beginning of a safer era for cyclists, and this may easily be an example and encouragement for other cities in the United States. On Monday, the city of Berkely held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honor of the completion of the innovative Hearst Ave. and Bancroft Way projects for bicycle and pedestrian safety.

These two streets are two of the most congested streets in the city, and by implementing much-needed bicycle safety on these two busy streets, the pedestrians and bike riders will have a smoother ride and a safer commute. This was the first cooperative effort ever between the city and the university and two other agencies to improve the infrastructure with cyclists in mind, and the improvements were extremely successful. Both parties are happy with the outcome and anticipate future improvements both in Berekely and in other bike-friendly cities across America.

Bike-friendly Cities in the United States in 2018

Cycling as a leisure sport or as transportation has grown over 60 percent nationwide in the past decade. The 2016 Census Bureau reports that 12.4 percent or over three million Americans commute to work on their bicycles, which is a tremendous increase from 788,000 in 2008.

In 2016, the western states including California, Oregon, and Washington, had the highest percentage of cyclists who commuted regularly. A shift has occurred in the age of the cyclists across the country: youth aged 10-17 have decreased while the young adults aged 18-24 has doubled.

Young millennials are cycling to work and school in record numbers for reasons that include saving money on gas, getting more exercise and reducing the pollution levels. Bike-friendly cities are springing up in every state, and these cites encourage cyclists by increasing the general awareness of safety.

Bike-friendly cities are adding innovative improvements such as new bike racks, a bike share system, adding protected bike lanes, bike-related activities, two-lane bike paths and reducing dangerous driving with speeding and tickets for failure to yield. The top 50 bike-friendly cities in the U.S. are chosen annually for their numbers, safety improvements and their attention to innovation, such as the Hearst Ave. and Bancroft Way projects.

The City of Berkeley, UC Berkeley, AC Transit and Bike East Bay joined together in this premier joint effort, and they were dedicated to going beyond a simple re-surfacing of the streets. From the start, they designed substantial safety improvements for the benefit of their cycling citizens with the investment from Long Range Development Plan to make the project happen.

Creating Safer Streets for Bicycles is Imperative

Safety is a tremendous concern for cyclists. They have no metal structure for protection like a car and their rear- view vision is greatly impaired. In 2015, over 800 deaths involving cyclists occurred in the U.S. and approximately 45,000 people were injured. This is a 12 percent increase from 2014, and statisticians attribute the majority of these crashes to insufficient roadways.

Research has shown that protected, designated bike paths provide the ultimate in cycling safety. A protected bike lane runs between parked vehicles, so a barrier is formed from the traffic for cyclists. Innovative bus islands that do not bock the bike path is another advanced feature that Hearst Ave. added. New sidewalks for pedestrians and new signals for traffic were also included in the renovations.

Everyone involved, including commuters, are sharing in the excitement, and the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the first “complete” street in Berkeley. There are plans to continue progressive projects like these to prioritize cycling throughout the city. David Sorrell, UC Berkeley transportation manager, ecstatically announced that the project allows our staff, faculty, and students to access the campus with fewer occurrences.

In order to prevent more bike crashes, any vehicle traveling city streets should be well-informed of preventative measures that make cycling less hazardous. The safety features, created and implemented in these two innovative projects in Berkeley, will be used as patterns of progress in the transition of cities that desire to encourage cycling.

Bancroft Way completed the first phase of restructuring, which included the new two-way protected bikeway and a buses-only lane, which is critical for cyclers safety. Next year, future phases will include two-way bike lanes, modification of the Dana Street transit stop and a bike lane east of Telegraph Avenue.

Mayor Arreguin has been watching the transformation of these two safety projects, and he told Berkeley News that this is an exciting moment for their city! He sees this unifying of the agencies for the specific purpose of safety as a foundation of partnership between the city, the University, Transit, and Bike East Bay, and he is looking forward to forming more “completed streets” in this positive cooperation.

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