To the Editor:
The city's sloppy installation of controversial, and in at least one case unneeded, traffic signals on Telegraph Avenue (Daily Planet, Oct. 17) without consulting neighbors shows why Berkeley residents who really care about pedestrian safety should reject Measure L. While the bond measure contains some worthy features, it threatens to extend the city's unfortunate trend of ignoring our most dangerous intersections, while throwing money at essentially safe locations in response to small pressure groups. Often, those individuals lack even their neighbors' support.
To really save lives, we should withhold our votes and challenge the city to present a better-written “pedestrian safety” bond – one that focuses staff resources on real traffic hazards and real solutions. On Telegraph, the city spent $450,000 installing signals at two adjacent cross-streets with relatively low traffic volumes and low collision histories. Throwing state grant money at these inappropriate locations, without local consultation, wasted rare funding and opportunity. Worse, this was no isolated incident.
To its credit, Measure L anticipates funding “innovative safety devices” such as audible signals for vision-impaired people and lighted pedestrian crosswalks. Unfortunately, it would also fund feel-good planning fads that provide little or no benefit to pedestrian safety, but introduce new problems. It offers taxpayers no expenditure breakdown by device, no prioritization of hazardous locations and no evaluation mechanism.
With state grants available since 1999, you'd think the city would be upgrading signals at University and Shattuck avenues (our most "high-collision" intersection according to a 2000 report) and University and Milvia Street (tied for fifth-worst, and located just two blocks from Berkeley High's 3,000 students).
Such intersections cry out for phased signals to separate pedestrians from turning vehicles. Unfortunately, the city's grant applications haven't overlapped with its list of known hazardous intersections.