The goal of the Berkeley Bicycle Plan is to make bicycling safer and more convenient for bicyclists of all ages and skill levels. Since bicycling is non-polluting, and cost- as well as energy-efficient, it is the preferred mode for many individuals, ranging from cash-strapped students to environmentally conscious families. Making the bicycling improvements identified in the Plan should boost the number of people using a bike for both work trips and utilitarian trips. Berkeley already has the highest percentage of bike commuters in Alameda County, but there is great potential to increase it even further. Through the provision of more and safer bikeways and the use of effective education and promotion programs, the percentage could easily double or triple.
The Bicycle Plan is a policy document which will be incorporated into the updated General Plan, currently in progress. The policies and map of the bikeway network will be included in the Transportation Element of the General Plan. The policies cover five main areas of importance to bicycle transportation: Planning, Network and Facilities, Education and Safety, Promotion and Implementation.
Given the dense built-out nature of much of the city, the opportunities for providing new bike-only paths throughout the city are limited. Recently, however, the City has made efforts to expand and improve bike facilities. Examples of such projects include expanded bike parking, the planned I-80 Bicycle/Pedestrian Overcrossing, bike sensitive-detector loops, and the dedicated bike improvement fund.
The bikeway network described in this plan lays out several methods for improving the way bikes are accommodated within the existing roadway infrastructure. The City already has many bike lanes; additional bike lanes are proposed for analysis on a few select streets. Another type of bikeway is the "shared roadway" proposed for some streets with high traffic. On these streets, bike lanes are infeasible, and recommendations are limited to removing obstacles and using signs and pavement stencils to alert motorists to cyclists.
Seven "bicycle boulevards" are recommended that will form a skeletal network for those bicyclists who are intimidated by riding on the heavier trafficked streets. These streets are: Milvia Street, California Street, Ninth Street, Hillegass/Bowditch Streets, Virginia Street, Channing Way, and Russell Street. The exact measures to turn these streets into bicycle boulevards will be determined during the Bicycle Boulevard Design Phase, to begin in 1999. The intent of the bicycle boulevards is to improve the safety, convenience and attractiveness of bicycling by providing a route with low-traffic volumes, as few stops or delays as possible for bikes, traffic control to cross major streets, and a distinctive attractive ambiance.
It is estimated that the total construction cost to implement the bikeway network is $7 million. This does not include the further planning studies which will determine the specific design actions needed to implement the recommendations. There will also be costs and time associated with gathering public and neighborhood input to determine the appropriate actions to take.
Bicycle education and promotion programs are an integral part of a bicycle-friendly city. Some schools, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School have developed pilot bicycle safety programs to teach students safe riding and bicycle maintenance. The Health and Human Services Department has two programs aimed at increasing helmet usage among children. Ideally there would be programs available for all children, with different curricula for elementary school children, middle school children and high-school aged students. Education of adults, both bicyclists and motorists, is key to increasing the safety of bicyclists on the roadway.
Lastly, bicycle promotion programs can help tremendously in increasing the number of bicyclists. Employer-based programs are the easiest way to spread the information, and the City, as a major employer, can be a model for other businesses. Policies and practices that encourage bicycle commuting are: secure parking, fleet bicycles, discounts and raffles, maps and other resource information.
Every new trip that can be made by bicycle improves air quality, congestion and the viability of local businesses. With the commitment of the City, and the cooperation and involvement of interested citizens groups, Berkeley can increase the number of bicyclists while reducing accidents. The passing and implementation of this Plan is a big step toward bicycling achieving its full potential in Berkeley’s transportation system.