The City of Berkeley has taken a step toward improving pedestrian safety at a deadly intersection, but continues to mishandle its broader approach to street safety. Last April, Joseph Luft was killed while crossing Sacramento Street at Bancroft Way. Luft,…
On February 2nd, Megan Schwarzman was run over by a car while bicycling along Fulton Street near Bancroft Way. Meghan was hit by Berwick Haynes, who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. A mother and scientist at the Berkeley School of Public Health, Megan was wearing fluorescent green safety gear and a helmet while riding prior to the crash, but was hit from behind and pinned under Haynes’ car. Thankfully, Megan survived and is slowly making progress toward recovery.
The story behind Megan’s crash highlights the frustrating ineptitude of Berkeley’s city government in providing safe streets for bicycling and walking. Megan’s crash occurred along one of Berkeley’s designated bike routes where bike lanes have been approved for implementation since Berkeley’s 2000 Bicycle Plan, and reapproved in 2005 and 2012. Existing bike lanes on Fulton end one block to the north of Bancroft. Despite the approval of a bike lane and the state’s CEQA exemption of bike lanes under AB-2245, Berkeley inexplicably did not include a bike lane when repaving the street last year. Similar inaction has occurred with street repaving along Hearst Avenue, and bike lanes were included along Gilman Street and Oxford Street only after extensive advocacy efforts. The only obstacle toward implementing a bike lane is a brief traffic analysis to determine how to reconfigure traffic lanes and whether the removal of three parking spaces is needed.
Megan’s near-fatal crash is the latest in a very troubling trend: Berkeley experiences the second-highest rate of bicycle commuting in the country (9.7 percent), but is the most dangerous city of its size in California for people walking and bicycling. Whereas cities like San Francisco have adopted a Vision Zero pledge to eliminate traffic fatalities, Berkeley has done little to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety over the past decade and frequently engages in excuses and victim blaming instead of fixing problems. Residents are increasingly fed up by the City’s lack of action.
Bike East Bay has upped the pressure on Berkeley to deliver safety improvements, starting with striping the Fulton Street bike lane by Bike to Work Day on May 12th. The Berkeley City Council will take up the issue in their March 15th meeting.
What you can do:
• Attend the March 15th Berkeley City Council meeting in support of Fulton Street – RSVP here. Location: Berkeley Unified School District Board Room 1231 Addison St at Bonar. Bike East Bay suggests wearing a bright neon bike vest or jacket.
• Send an email to Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley asking Berkeley to complete this bike lane by Bike to Work Day, May 12
• Volunteer to help make this bike lane happen as opportunities arise in the next ten weeks.
• Get involved to help more bike lanes happen—come to Berkeley’s Bicycle Subcommittee Meeting Thursday, March 10, 7:00pm at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst Avenue & MLK Jr Way.