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Telegraph Business Owners Fume Over Excess Motorcycle Parking By Suzanne La Barre

Friday February 24, 2006

Lucky for diners at Le Bateau Ivre, there’s ample parking available right out front. For motorcycles, that is. 

Late last year, Le Bateau Ivre owner Thomas Cooper noticed the two parking spaces in front of his restaurant on Telegraph Avenue at Carleton S treet had been re-designated a “Motorcycle Parking Only” zone. 

He also noticed that the lanes running along Telegraph from Dwight Way to the Oakland border were repainted to curve in at intersections. Along those bottlenecks: more motorcycle parking. The number of times Cooper said he has seen motorbikes park in front of his business: twice.  

“It was a bad idea,” he said of the reconfiguration that has replaced about 20 metered car spaces with free parallel parking for motorcycles. “There have been nume rous, numerous, numerous people who have tried to come into the restaurant, but couldn’t find a parking space.” 

Cooper isn’t the only Telegraph merchant reeling. Several shopkeepers have complained the loss of parking spots has hurt business and they wan t car parking reinstated. 

“Let’s get [the spaces] restriped and back with meters that work,” said David Howard, owner of the Caribbean Cove Restaurant on Telegraph at Blake Street. He claims he has yet to see a motorcycle park in front of his establishme nt, and patronage is down as a result. 

“Now I have fewer customers, my business suffers and the city of Berkeley suffers,” because it’s losing revenue from paid meters, he said. 

The Office of Transportation released a statement saying that the motorcycl e parking and wavy striping were installed as part of an effort to broaden Telegraph Avenue’s bike lane and parking space zone from 11 feet to 12 feet from the sidewalk curb. The extra foot aligns Berkeley with state standards aimed at ensuring the safety of bicyclists.  

But because concrete medians at some intersections prevent lanes from widening to 12 feet, city staff said they had to shrink adjacent parking spaces. Instead of red-curbing the areas, they installed motorcycle parking, so that “at least some parking use would be made of them,” the statement said.  

The Office of Transportation does not keep statistics on the number of motorcyclists in Berkeley. 

According to Traffic Commission Chair Sarah Syed, the reconfiguration was the brainchild of Associate Traffic Engineer Peter Eakland, who did not return a call for comment. The restriping was an attempt to fix the mistakes of a private contractor who incorrectly drew Telegraph’s bike lanes three years ago, she said, but the effort was misguided. 

“We now have 500 percent more motorcycle parking than we need,” she quipped. 

Syed said the project failed to achieve its ultimate goal: to make Telegraph’s bike lanes—which are not part of the city’s bike plan—safer. To add new lane stripes, workers ha d to ground out the old ones, leaving grooves in the road that are potentially hazardous to bicyclists, she said. She said she prefers to ride her bike on other streets. 

Opponents said they want the transportation staff to consider changing Telegraph’s current configuration to reinstate old parking spaces or to accommodate compact cars. Some have suggested trimming the concrete medians at intersections where pedestrians stop. 

And they want more involvement in the process. 

“None of us got told this was going to happen,” said Councilman Kriss Worthington, who represents the portion of Telegraph affected, in a phone interview Thursday. “It seems to me like it was not a smart thing to do. Why wasn’t anyone asked?” 

Some merchants echoed his sentiment, lame nting that they weren’t consulted before the parking spaces were removed.  

The Transportation Commission, which advises the City Council on transit issues, was also not consulted. Syed pointed out, “The Transportation Commission doesn’t review every single thing the city does.” 

But it will review this. The City Council unanimously approved a recommendation Tuesday, put forth by Worthington, that implores the commission to look into fixing Telegraph’s striping problems—again..