An accident involving a young teenager and a car on Ashby Avenue Wednesday (see sidebar) occurred just one night after Berkeley City Council approved a new pedestrian safety measure for the November ballot.
The measure calls for a special property tax to fund the maintenance and installation of pedestrian safety improvements starting July 1, 2003.
Police said the 13-year-old boy is recovering from cuts and abrasions. He was one of at least three serious crashes this year. In May and June, two men were killed by cars on Addison Street and Adeline Street. Last year, a woman was killed by a cement truck at Shattuck and Hearst avenues. Residents have pleaded for the city to find ways to make the streets safer.
“Berkeley receives no annual funds for pedestrian safety, and this proposed tax will provide the city with a way to fund such improvements,” said Wendy Alfsen, Coordinator of Walk and Roll Berkeley, a pedestrian safety group.
For property owners with a 1,900-square-foot home, the new tax would amount to $24.70 a year. Owners of a 3,000-square-foot home would pay $39 a year and owners of a 10,000-square-foot home would pay $130 per year.
Plans for maintenance funded by this tax include accessibility upgrades for the disabled, lighted crosswalks and traffic circles.
Dave Campbell, president of the Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition, sees these improvements, traffic circles particularly, as having positive affects not only for pedestrians, but for cyclists and drivers.
“They [traffic circles] slow traffic down, which makes it safer for everyone” Campbell said.
Also part of the improvements are pedestrian countdown signals and bulbouts – extended curbs which increase pedestrian visibility when crossing busy streets.
“The city has to make it a priority to improve places where people are being injured and killed,” Alfsen said.
In the 2000 Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Report (BAPS), Berkeley had the highest number of pedestrian and bicycle injuries and deaths out of 44 California cities of similar size.
On a statewide level, children younger than 15 make up 26.5 percent of pedestrian injuries, and 28.8 percent of all bicycle injuries and deaths, according to the 2000 Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), a report put out by the California Highway Patrol.
Campbell said he has seen a decline in bike use in the city, even in short commutes.
“Many people drive a mile or mile-and-a-half out of concern for their safety.” Campbell said. “If the streets were safer, more people would ride.”