THE CYCLIST AGENDA
Editors, Daily Planet:
I attended the Berkeley City Council’s public hearing on the reconfiguration of Marin Avenue in order to voice my opposition. Because this project came out of a bicycle hearing of several years ago I am convinced that this is the product of a vocal and obnoxious group of bicyclists who have an agenda that contravenes the interests of the vast majority. As Councilmember Worthington said, there are about 70,000 automobiles in Berkeley. The chair of the Transportation Commission showed his colors at the hearing. His characterization of all in the city who do not agree with his grand vision as losers shows that he, and I suspect the entire Transportation Commission, have an agenda that they wish to impose upon those of us who own automobiles. There must be reform of this commission and it should better represent the interests of the citizens of Berkeley. I suspect that the consultants may also share this agenda.
The report from the traffic consultants, “City’s Notice of Intent to file a Negative Declaration for the Marin Avenue Reconfiguration Project,” is suspect. It is based upon a number of assumptions regarding the sources of traffic and potential bottle necks that are not realistic. The consultants refer to existing times of travel on Marin. They are referring to computer generated numbers based upon their model. They tell us that the field data is comparable. What does this mean? I would be more comfortable with the display of this data. We do not really know what existing times are.
Project proponents claim that Marin will become safer with implementation. The report notes that the accident rates in the project area are below state averages. The members of the Transportation Commission, or Bike Reich, make a great deal of a pedestrian death on Marin last year. This is unfortunate, but it appears to be an anomaly. The proponents use this as manipulation and fear mongering of which they accuse others who oppose their utopian vision. Data do not support Marin as unsafe.
There are other solutions to solving the perceived safety problem. One, would be more and timed traffic lights. This may be expensive, but Marin is an important artery and is worthy of some investment. Enforcement is another option. Apparently the Albany Police Chief says he can not reduce speed and that re engineering is required. Every time I hear a Highway Patrol officer in the media describing their efforts at enforcement they say their efforts do slow traffic. I do not know why this is not the case on Marin, other than to say the enforcement efforts are less than competent. In the old days I remember seeing three Albany Police cars in a row ready to make a U-turn at Curtis to head west on Marin and then pull someone over. I have not seen this level of enforcement lately. Just one officer lurking a couple of blocks from the freeway with a radar gun. Most police view themselves as great crime fighters and feel traffic enforcement is beneath them. I think the leaders of Albany need to light a fire under the rear end of their chief.
I urge my fellow Berkeley residents to contact the city council and ask them to disapprove the Marin reconfiguration and negotiate with Albany to change its decision. If Albany proceeds, I would urge the Council to lobby the state to intervene as this street is too important a regional asset.
Frederick O. Hebert
GO FIND A REAL ISSUE
Editors, Daily Planet:
After reading the commentary by Barbara Gilbert regarding the proposed Marin Avenue reconfiguration, this north Berkeley resident is confused what her main objection is. It appears the possible loss of her speedy trip down Marin is underlying her tirade about (1) the process, (2) the Berkeley “bike lobby” (3) the City of Albany, and (4) the residents of Albany. Albany has had a very long and public debate on this subject over the past few years, and all concerned parties in Berkeley and Albany should have been aware of this. The Berkeley and Albany bike communities have focused very little time and effort on promoting this project.
This is not a reduction from four lanes to two, but rather a reduction from four to three. Anyone who drives on this street has experienced the constant to need to change lanes from left to right and back again while traveling east or west. The presence of a center turn lane for left turns, and a broken line turn lane at intersections for right turns will eliminate this dangerous lane jockeying. That is correct—this solution will not just reduce a major safety problem (thousands of daily unsafe lane changes); it will eliminate it.
Now that Albany is moving forward with a one year trial period, there is no logic to Berkeley not joining the experiment as well. We are only talking about five blocks of Marin Avenue in Berkeley that are not already one lane.
Please go find a real issue to question, such as the UC expansion plans.
SAVE THE DEBATE
Editors, Daily Planet:
Articles and letters in the last few issues of the Planet have called to mind a number of similar issues which may be instructive. Many years back the Christmas bonus at the company where my wife worked was the same for everyone, regardless of salary. When the company grew and new management came in, the bonus was made a fraction of one’s salary, so that management received a larger bonus. This was explained as being more fair, because higher paid employees need more money because they have higher expenses, with their kids going to private schools and so on.
I was reminded of this by Barbara Gilbert’s article on the Marin avenue reconfiguration, where she rants against the ingratitude of Albany residents, and then states that “We are tired of Berkeley always being asked, in the name of some greater good, to make sacrifices that effectively enable others to avoid their fair share of the burden.” The “greater good” being in this case the safety of those who have the temerity to venture out upon Marin by foot or bicycle, while the “sacrifices” are the possible increases in time and fuel needed to commute on Marin with your car.
Wait! Wait! There is more. Although other articles indicate that the Marin Avenue neighbors have been working on their traffic problem for seven years, Ms. Gilbert is concerned about the lack of timely notice, and blames the existence of a fifth column of traffic planners and bike enthusiasts for forcing this policy on Berkeley.
I guess I really shouldn’t blame Ms. Gilbert for her paranoia. I myself have become extremely paranoid about George Bush and the Republican mandate. And of course there is the question whether anyone would pay attention if she had written that she knew that people had been working in good faith for seven years on the project, but she had missed the notices, and she felt that she should be given a chance to re-evaluate alternate solutions.
Unfortunately, I think this is the point. There is more going on in this city, let alone the rest of the world, than any one individual can keep track of, let alone participate in. Not everybody is going to get their say, especially in a timely fashion. Re-striping Marin is a safety issue. Debates over best plan should not have taken the seven years that it already has taken, and they certainly should not be allowed to continue to put a safety plan on hold. The current plan includes a provision for the evaluation of its effectiveness. I respectfully submit that the debate should be saved for this second phase, and not the current phase.
Editors, Daily Planet:
Ultimately, the Marin Avenue reconfiguration is all about improving safety for all users. I am in favor of improving safety, so I am, therefore, in favor of the Marin Avenue reconfiguration.
The speed limit on Marin is 25, most cars travel faster, and a lot travel at least 10 miles an hour faster than this limit. Marin Avenue contains multiple pedestrian generators since it is residential, with two schools and a library.
Narrowing the roadway will serve several purposes:
1) Distance pedestrians need to travel across traffic will be reduced.
2) With only one lane of traffic, overall speed will slow to a safer rate.
3) With an added center left-turn lane, left-turn vehicles will be able to remove themselves from traffic.
4) With left-turn vehicles removed from traffic, traffic will flow more smoothly.
5) With left-turn vehicles removed from traffic, sudden stops and unexpected movements of other cars will be significantly reduced.
6) With bicycle lanes added, bicyclists will have a safer place to travel.
7) Creation of the perception of increased activity along both sides of the traffic lane will also have the effect of slowing traffic.
The City of Albany Police Chief reports that traffic enforcement to slow speeds was virtually ineffective, and expensive. Traffic engineering solutions are cost-finite, while enforcement solutions are infinite.
The Berkeley portion of the Marin re-configuration is minimal, as is the cost. Compare this cost to the cost of a life. If it were my decision, I’d be voting on the side of protecting and preserving human life.
It has been shown in studies that stop signs and signals are not effective on a street with Marin’s volume, where motorists tend to speed up after stopping. This stopping and starting would also increase pollution along the route. The best solution, for pedestrian, residents and motorists, is what is recommended in this Marin reconfiguration.
Having read and heard of many similar road treatments I agree with the reports generated by engineers in this case. The Road Diet will slow traffic. Slowing traffic will not cost motorists much time overall, minimizing any potential overflow into neighborhoods.
I would recommend that pedestrian refuges, in the form of middle islands be added, as well as sidewalk extensions or bulb-outs, when funds allow. This would serve to increase pedestrian safety especially for the oldest and youngest pedestrians, who take more time to cross the street. A recommendation to consider these additions could be added to the final council resolution.
There are plenty of streets in Berkeley where motorists travel faster than the speed limit, creating hazardous conditions for pedestrians whether they are in a crosswalk, at a signalized intersection or crossing with the green light. When we have an opportunity to improve those conditions for the vulnerable pedestrian, at minimal expense to the city, and to motorists in terms of time and inconvenience, we should take it.