Rebuttal to Arguments in Favor of Hopkins Corridor Class IV Two-way Cycle Track

Proponents claim: Protected bike lanes are better than bike infrastructure without a physical barrier. Protected bike lanes:

  • Reduce car speeds, preventing crashes and injuries to cyclists and pedestrians
  • Keep bikes and scooters off the sidewalk
  • Provide a safe way for kids to get to and from school, reducing the amount of cars on the road and shortening the school pick up line

FACT: Protected bike lanes are better than bike infrastructure without a physical barrier in some, but not all applications. Crossing multiple, low visibility driveways creates significant danger for bicyclists especially in two-way cycle tracks when drivers must cross two lanes of bicycle traffic (and two lanes of auto traffic to exit their driveways).

Proponents claim: Protected bike lanes are safer than painted bike lanes or cyclists mixing with cars on the street. Protected bike lanes save lives. See link.

FACT: The link above shows an application for Class IV Protected bike lanes that makes sense. A wide, commercial boulevard with few to no driveways, and wide sidewalks with high visibility. The California Department of Transportation Guidelines for the design of cycle facilities warns about the use of Class IV Protected Cycle tracks in applications with multiple driveways and intersections. 

Proponents claim: Studies show protected bike lanes encourage people to cycle more and drive less. See link.

FACT: The study linked above was entirely about bicycle commuting (for work) and states, “New facilities were associated with increased commute- related bicycling only for regular cyclists.” The Hopkins Corridor is not a commuter corridor for local workers and the entire rationale for the lane is based on access to amenities and schools, not commuting. 

Proponents claim: Protected bike lanes help close by businesses! Making it possible for more people to get to your shop can boost sales. See link.

FACT: The study cited is for seven-block long Skillman Avenue in New York. Berkeley is NOT New York City and Hopkins Street is NOT Skillman Avenue. And this plan is not about getting more people to shops. It is about replacing shoppers who drive with shoppers who bike.

This very narrow and limited study is directly contradicted by the real-life experience of the Koreatown KONO District in Oakland, where business revenues dropped after the removal of significant amounts of parking to accommodate cycling tracks. Further, there are studies that show the businesses that benefit most from bicycle tracks are bars and restaurants, not grocery and food stores (let alone plant nurseries).

Proponents claim: Both verbally and in presentations, city staff have been transparent about the trade-off between parking and bike lanes. Preserving parking spots is NOT more important than preventing traffic violence.

FACT: The city transportation department has obfuscated at every opportunity the reality of the parking loss to the neighborhood. The Transportation manager has stated that only “18 to 48” percent of the parking will be lost between Sutter and Kains”, and conveniently failing to mention that almost 100% of the parking will be retained in the eastern end of the corridor, while almost 100% of the parking will be lost in the western end where most residences have smaller lots, and insufficient off-street parking already.

Additionally, analysis of the accident data from the Hopkins Corridor over the last 35 years does NOT support the contention that this is a high “traffic violence” area. Using the rhetoric of “violence” does not advance the cause of safety, good street design, and fairness. It is simply inflammatory and designed to evoke emotion, rather than reason.

Proponents claim: This process started in 2020. We will never make progress on street safety or climate action if we delay further. There’s been a robust community input process for the past 3 years on this topic, please respect that process and move forward with the plan.

FACT: The “process” started in October of 2020, twenty-seven months ago with a set of false choices – i.e. two-way cycle tracks or one-way ON HOPKINS; separated by cars or by barriers ON HOPKINS. Never was there any effort to engage in a serious study of the NEIGHBORHOOD and how to bring bicycle facilities that accomplished the goals utilizing creative, site appropriate solutions.

Proponents claim: Parking management strategies will ensure more availability, so customers who drive can come and go and not be frustrated by spots occupied for long stretches of time (some of them are perpetually occupied by business owners themselves!). See link.

FACT: This is a link to a tweet showing two parked cars. Huh? At any rate, cars are NOT parked for long periods of time in the area adjacent to the stores. We have seen no evidence that this is the case, and anecdotal observation by merchants and those of us who live here and have been shopping those stores for years is that turnover of vehicles is constant. Most of the commercial area is already controlled by 2-hr sign limitations. Go ahead and extend those limitations, if you must, but as we’ve stated, turnover is not a problem in the area.

Proponents claim: Repaving without safety improvements like bulbouts, bus loading islands, raised crosswalks, and protected bike lanes will lead to more speeding, more crashes, more injuries in the future.

FACT: Simply paving the road will dramatically increase safety for pedestrians and those who choose to ride bikes on Hopkins rather than utilizing the many quieter optional side and parallel streets. However, we welcome proven, thoughtful applications of traffic engineering that work with the scale of the street. 

Please note, however, that bulbouts and bus loading islands in the commercial area are unnecessary, if speed control is the issue. It is not an area where cars are able to move very quickly as it is.

Proponents claim: Narrow streets are slow streets. Safety improvements like bulb-outs and protected bike lanes make the street look more narrow, which slows cars down. See link.

FACT: Hopkins below California/Monterey is ALREADY a narrow street under thirty-five feet in width. Speeding is not an issue, except perhaps on the section of Hopkins below Gilman. However, the Class IV Cycle Track proposed will not narrow the lanes of traffic to less than they already are.

Proponents claim: It is not equitable to give historically wealthy neighborhoods safe infrastructure while leaving yellow- and redlined neighborhoods behind. Stopping the bike lanes at Acton or Peralta reinforces the historic yellow line in this area. West Berkeley residents deserve safety too.

FACT: There has not been a single severe pedestrian or bicycle injury or death on Hopkins Street below Acton to Kains.* Paving the streets, posting additional signage, the use of painted sharrows, and the installation of speed bumps all could be employed.

*Update: a severe injury accident occurred in June 2021 and was reported on TIMS in late 2022.

Proponents claim: The plan for upper Hopkins was a compromise that tried to balance different priorities as much as possible. It was approved by council 8-1 — let’s stick with it for lower Hopkins as well. See link.

FACT: A conceptual plan was approved for upper Hopkins (above the intersection with Gilman) by a council that was misinformed by its transportation department. The entire extent of the compromise was to retain six parking spots in front of the shops between McGee and California; all parking spots between California and Gilman (at least 35) were still eliminated. Ask the people who live in that stretch, or the businesses that front it, if they thought that was a fair compromise.

Proponents claim: CM Hahn said it best herself: it’s for the children. Read some of her words from May 10, 2022 in an op-ed here.

FACT: Hopkins Street doesn’t even serve the three adjacent schools directly. Ruth Acty, Crowden, and MLK Middle School are served by Ada and Rose. Those are quieter, less heavily trafficked streets and are the safer and better alternative for bike riding. Those of us who actually live here know that and use those streets.

Developing a plan in conjunction with King Middle School to teach kids bicycle (and skateboard) safety pertinent to that specific location would go a long way towards keeping kids safe and empowering them to take appropriate precautions when riding.

Proponents claim: Protected bike lanes are bike lanes that get used (source). Give us safe bike lanes and we will use them.

FACT: This is the same article cited above and is about COMMUTING, not use of bike lanes to access schools, shopping, or other amenities. 

Proponents claim: Why Hopkins Street? It’s the heart of a thriving commercial district (which people want to get to), it’s a gentle incline, close to multiple schools, connects to multiple bike routes, and it’s in the city’s Bike Plan.

FACT: The question is why NOT Hopkins Street. The “thriving commercial district” is a one and a half block long section of close to two miles of otherwise entirely residential street. And the answer is that this is already a heavily impacted corridor and adding more vehicles (including higher speed electric bikes) crossing seventy intersections (sixty-one driveways and nine cross streets) between McGee and Kains will CREATE more dangerous conditions than it solves. And it is in the Bike Plan because these same bike advocates put it there, not as a result of studying it to determine if its inclusion was appropriate, but because having another east-west route on the map looked good.

Proponents claim: Backing out of a driveway? Removing street parking will improve visibility and a more narrow-looking street will slow down traffic. This will make it less nerve-wracking for residents to back in and out of off-street parking spots.

FACT: This is simply magical thinking. Walk the corridor and LOOK at the driveways in question. MOST are low visibility with fences and shrubs obscuring the immediate area adjacent to the curb. Drivers must pull partway out of their driveways and into the street (which is currently protected by a parking lane) to see oncoming traffic. An accident occurred on Monterey near the intersection with Beverly last spring in which a driver backing out of a driveway broadsided another car traveling in the roadway. Fortunately, this accident involved two cars and no one was hurt. However, this occurred on Monterey, a wide boulevard-type street, with considerably more clearance between driveways and the lanes of travel AND consistently higher visibility driveways.

Implementing a Class IV Two-Way Cycle Track on Hopkins will create a more dangerous environment for cycling than currently exists! There are better solutions and the city needs to rethink this plan!