Victories on Hopkins and Grand
But the Protected-Versus-Striped Bike Lane Discussions Must End
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Advocates in both Alameda and Berkeley celebrated victories for protected bike lanes on Grand and Hopkins. First, Berkeley: at Tuesday’s city council meeting, an attempt by Councilmember Sophie Hahn to remove a protected bike lane from a section of the Hopkins Street safety project was rejected.
Update: Council unanimously approved the City Manager’s supplemental item.
Hopkins Street safety improvements Council approved in May will proceed! https://t.co/DrraOJP1N8
— Walk Bike Berkeley (@WalkBikeBerk) October 12, 2022
Meanwhile, to the south and across the estuary, Bike Walk Alameda managed to get the mayor to reconsider a decision to remove protected bike lanes from a safety project on Grand. “Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft announced that given information she had received about chicanes that satisfied her concerns about safety, she’d be prepared to revisit staff’s recommendation,” wrote BWA’s Denyse Trepanier, in an email to Streetsblog. “At the next council meeting on October 18, she will request that Council review this new information at its November 1 meeting, where she fully expects to support the protected bike lanes the length of the project. Needless to say, this is a huge relief.”
Streetsblog shares that relief, but can’t help highlighting a bigger issue: why are protected bike lanes still being debated?
As North Berkeley Now wrote in a Tweet, “Berkeley will never be a climate leader if every block of bike lanes is a battle.” One could say that about any city. Bike East Bay’s Dave Campbell has said it many times: “We don’t legislate crosswalks. We don’t legislate traffic lights. Why are we legislating protected bike lanes? They need to be the default.”
From Streetsblog’s view, debating protected bike lanes and intersections is akin to discussing whether or not a surgeon should wash their hands and wear gloves and a mask while performing an operation. Yes, the patient might survive if they don’t or the patient might still die if they do, but a mountain of data and experience tells us outcomes are simply much better if the surgeon takes these long-accepted precautions.
That’s why there’s a picture of a top-notch, Dutch protected bike lane in the lead image. Protected bike lanes shouldn’t be up for debate, as indeed they aren’t in Vision Zero countries. It doesn’t matter if there are driveway cuts. And merchant loading has nothing to do with it. Protected bike lanes are, and always were, the way to get safer outcomes when one is dealing with fragile human bodies on foot or on bikes on streets with cars and trucks.
And yet, SFMTA is still pitching a ridiculous center-running solution for Valencia. OakDOT is still paving streets with useless stripes sandwiching cyclists between parked cars and moving traffic. And cyclists–and pedestrians–keep dying as a result.
I know it's a bad idea, I just wanna make sure we don't have this in NL.
— Lennart Nout (@lennartnout) September 29, 2022
The U.S. isn’t the only place with bad infrastructure–even the Netherlands has stuff that needs work (see above Tweet from Dutch safety expert Lennart Nout). Poor exceptions can be found even in Vision Zero countries. But some at Bay Area DOTs go so far as to cite bad infrastructure from other cities as justification for continuing to install dangerous, unprotected bike lanes.
The only alternatives to protected bike lanes are:
- Reducing travel lanes to the bare minimum for cars and building enough chicanes and other obstacles that traffic has to go at pedestrian speeds. In other words, a slow, access-only street.
- Fully pedestrianizing a street, banning cars outright.
Whether or not bike lanes on a busy street should be physically protected or in the door zone; that discussion should have ended decades ago. Continuing to debate it is exhausting and demoralizing. And it’s eating up insane amounts of time from city staff and advocates.
Politicians who think protected bike lanes and intersections are an open debate should be voted out of office. And officials at departments of transportation who still debate protected bike lanes and intersections just shouldn’t be at a DOT.