Public Comment

West Bowl Would Cause Traffic Woes

Daniel Knapp
Friday June 16, 2006

On behalf of Urban Ore, its customers and employees, I’ll accept Steven Donaldson’s “special thanks” in the June 13 Daily Planet for opposing the regional grocery store that Berkeley Bowl wants to build. Building such a Big Bowl in that location really is a bad idea despite its owners having left it “a wonderful derelict, trash-strewn lot,” according to Mr. Donaldson’s eyewitness review.  

A big price will be paid. People using Ashby Avenue and Seventh Street in all four directions will pay for it in time and money as their cars and brains idle uselessly in the sludgy traffic that the Big Bowl will cause.  

My business, Urban Ore, is open every day on property about 30 feet from this intersection. I and my employees hear the honking horns, the cries of road rage, the occasional crash and crumple of car metal and plastic getting bent.  

When I drive in to work from Richmond via Ashby Avenue I see that the eastbound queue lane for turning left onto Seventh Street is frequently filled with its quota of eight to 10 vehicles. From our parking lot on Murray Street I see how these vehicles trying to turn left onto Seventh get stuck in the path of westbound Ashby traffic trying to get out to the freeway. The myriad traffic lights on Seventh northbound team up to stop the turning queue because the drivers at the back of the queue can’t see around the corner to the lights that will stop them in mid-turn. No amount of retiming will fix the volume problem. 

This clanky left turn is a major track that out-of-area shoppers will use to get to the Big Bowl at 920 Heinz from I-80 four blocks away.  

When the Ashby queue line fills up as it will, the next step is for left-turn vehicles to spill out into the left eastbound lane of the two-lane Ashby Avenue exit, slowing and reducing to one lane all the vehicles coming off the freeway who are heading for all the rest of Berkeley. It’s easy to imagine eastbound traffic backups on Ashby going back, maybe, all the way to 880 northbound.  

Seventh southbound is already impossible. I have long since abandoned it as a way to get to my business during the afternoons. Seventh clanks up because there are so many traffic lights needed to let people and trucks out of the side streets, and the Ashby intersection half a mile from where the queueing starts is so overloaded in all directions.  

The queue line on Seventh going north routinely backs up onto Folger eastbound and occasionally all the way around the corner to northbound Hollis, adversely affecting drivers coming to Berkeley from all those hyperbusy commercial districts down south in Emeryville.  

Oddly given these design considerations, Mr. Donaldson spends the rest of his rant supporting the Big Bowl. He’s the president of a company with the words “Design Intelligence” in it, so perhaps he can explain why willfully creating traffic gridlock at Seventh and Ashby is intelligent design.  


Daniel Knapp is president of Urban Ore, Inc.