Berkeley sticks to Hopkins bike path plan
Berkeley is continuing plans to build new protected bike lanes along Hopkins Street.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether the unanimous vote early Wednesday morning for continue the development of the tracks while further exploring how to address the parking reductions they will need – a compromise that has met with fierce resistance from some residents and businesses – will be the final word on the long-debated project.
Berkeley transportation staff will prepare the study, which will cover among other things how the city can manage the Hopkins area’s remaining on-street parking supply with meters or permit requirements, by at the end of January. This is when council must approve contracts to repave the street and build new cycling infrastructure.
Councilor Sophie Hahn, who represents the area and had asked transportation staff to halt work on the most controversial segment of the bike paths, said she would push for the city to reassess plans for the project once this study in hand.
“It’s my intention and it is my understanding that we will have the option to affirm, modify or say no to the project” early next year, Hahn said in an interview.
Proponents of bike lanes argue that it would be too late in the process, however, for council to order changes.
Transportation staff and city spokesman Matthai Chakko on Wednesday did not respond to multiple inquiries asking if the council could still change the bike lane plan next year. City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley told Hahn during the council meeting that the article later adopted by members “does not include a decision point” on the project going forward, adding, “We provide a report”.
If plans for the project find themselves before council again, it would likely create another contentious debate over space on the streets of Berkeley that has marked the years-long planning process for changes along Hopkins Street.
The current corridor plan, which City Council approved by an 8-1 vote last May, provides for new protected bike lanes to stretch from Hopkins’ intersection with Gilman Street to its eastern end at Sutter. Street.
Building the lanes would require removing all on-street parking from two narrow blocks of Hopkins between Gilman Street and Monterey Avenue – 35 spaces in total – plus four out of 10 spaces on the block that includes stores such as Hopkins Street Bakery and Raxakoul Coffee and Cheese. Another 21 spaces would be eliminated between McGee Avenue and Sutter Street, almost all in less traveled blocks of Hopkins east of The Alameda.
Bike and street safety advocates argue there is no need to continue debating the project; its costs and benefits have always been understood, they say, and protected lanes are a vital step in ensuring user safety that is worth sacrificing parking.
“If we want to improve safety and we want to stop seeing 40,000 people die from car-related accidents [per year], it’s basic infrastructure,” said Darrell Owens, a North Berkeley resident and housing and transportation activist, during public comments on the proposal. “Please don’t delay this any longer.”
Opponents of the plan argue that the 60 parking spaces that would be removed to make way for the lanes will create too many problems for residents and shoppers visiting local businesses in Hopkins. They say transportation staff weren’t clear enough about how the project will affect parking in the neighborhood and whether the city’s mitigation measures will be enough.
“We’ve been looking for this kind of analysis over the past two years of public process,” fellow North Berkeley resident Jim Offel said of the report due in January. “I am skeptical, to say the least, that the city can now complete in 90 days what it could not do in two years.”