Debunking the Myths They Fabricate Themselves

It is always interesting to see the ways in which advocates of the Class IV Two-Way Cycle Track on Hopkins Street in Berkeley are able to not quite lie, but still skirt the truth. The latest has come in the form of an open letter to the mayor and city council, in which they claim to debunk three myths about Hopkins Street.

Myth 1: Complete streets benefit younger people at the expense of older people

In the first place, no one ever said that. People concerned about the treatment of Hopkins aren’t taking a position on Complete Streets at all. They just wonder about the true motives for totally upending the lives and livelihoods of people and businesses on Hopkins, supposedly in the name of protecting children who want to ride their bikes to Ruth Acty Elementary and King Middle Schools, when the bike plan itself, which they helped write, designates Rose Street as the low-stress route to accomplish that task.

It isn’t unreasonable to ask why choose Hopkins, and then question the propriety of the answer (that Hopkins just happens to be scheduled for repaving and Rose isn’t). The bike plan itself says a street like Hopkins is not suited for a Class IV cycle track, which is an expensive and disruptive type of bike infrastructure. 

Maybe a better idea would have been to switch the order of repaving and complete the bike route designated in the bike plan to accomplish the goal of safe passage from west Berkeley to east Berkeley and getting kids safely to their schools.

Myth 2: There has not been a single pedestrian or bicycle injury or death on Hopkins Street below Acton to Kains

The word ‘severe’ was inadvertently left out of the sentence quoted above. Vision Zero and the bike plan refer only to Severe Injury and Fatal Accidents, and before the severe injury accident at Hopkins and Peralta in June of 2021, no severe injury accident had occurred below Gilman for at least 10 years, the time span reviewed in the Hopkins Plan. (Data for this particular accident wasn’t available until late 2022, so it was not included in the city’s analysis either.) The other accidents shown in the chart fall below the severe threshold. But no one wants anyone to die, which is why there are questions about installing an infrastructure designated as dangerous for a street like Hopkins instead of completing the Rose Street Bike Boulevard, already designated as low stress in the 2017 bike plan.

Myth 3: We can just move bikes to a side street

They got this one right: this is what and others maintain. And if you take a look at the diagram the proponents of the Hopkins plan provided, you can see exactly why. All of the accidents they show on Hopkins could have been avoided if the bypass had been in place. And the so-called more pernicious myth, that this bypass assumes that cyclists and pedestrians are outsiders to the area simply just “going through,” is ridiculous. On the east end of Hopkins, the Ada bypass begins at McGee, which is precisely the point of entry into the commercial area. All any cyclist has to do is get off the bike, walk to a bike rack, and then go to any of the shops desired — which, by the way, is exactly what a pedestrian or driver would do once in the area: walk to the shops. For anyone approaching from the west, Ada conveniently intersects with California, which is in the heart of the shopping area. Again, it’s hardly an imposition for cyclists to have to park their bikes and do what all pedestrians and drivers have to do, which is walk the final few feet to their destinations!

Fact: There is a good way to fix Hopkins Street

This is also absolutely correct, but it is not in the way the plan proponents suggest. The best way to fix Hopkins is to repave it (along with so many other streets in Berkeley) and improve the pedestrian amenities. People understand that it is not sensible to stick with a bad plan just because you didn’t know it was bad when you endorsed it. Council could have voted on this plan 20 times and it still would be a bad plan. Proponents of the plan already know this. It would not have been their first choice (or even second or third), if they had been in charge of scheduling. It became the plan to back simply because the street was scheduled to be repaved. And people are also capable of determining that that is a pretty flimsy reason to continue throwing good money after bad.