Hopkins Street in Berkeley faces a tough choice

Hopkins Street in North Berkeley is at the center of a controversial debate over how the city allocates space on its roads. Credit: Tracey Taylor

The Hopkins Street redevelopment effort has sparked a controversial debate among residents, traders and bike safety advocates over the future of North Berkeley’s busy corridor. And two recently unveiled proposals for what the streets might look like for a decade or more are unlikely to do much to calm this conflict.

A plan calls for the creation of new protected cycle lanes along some of Hopkins’ busiest blocks by eliminating much of the street’s parking space, including spaces in front of its popular shopping street.

See the plans in detail: Click here to see the maps of the proposed changes to Hopkins Street and provide feedback on the ideas.

The competing proposal would preserve the Hopkins parking lot, but leave most of the street without dedicated bike lanes.

City Councilor Sophie Hahn, who represents the neighborhood, is not happy with any of the options, which were presented to the public at a forum last week. Hahn argues that the plans offer a “false dichotomy” in the drastically different ways they call for allocating space on the street.

“I hope the staff are working on a third option that will be more of a hybrid,” Hahn said. “I am not satisfied with the two options presented to us.

But a compromise could be difficult to achieve, said Farid Javandel, chief of the city’s transportation division, because parts of Hopkins are so narrow that they cannot accommodate both a bike path and parking in the city. Street. Javandel, a cyclist who was struck by a driver last week, said his office would choose a plan early next year after he heard public comments on the proposals. Work is expected to begin in 2023, when Hopkins will be repaved.

“All options have some sort of trade-off,” Javandel said.

Whichever design transport officials choose, it will be in place while the city works on a Hopkins Street’s more spectacular long-term makeover which is still in the early stages of planning. This project includes a major new safety infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians, requested by Hahn in 2017 after two fatal accidents in the region, as well as new ‘creation of places’ features such as public art installations or public art installations. seats.

The redesigned Hopkins segment – about a mile long stretch between Sutter and Gilman streets – now offers limited protection to cyclists. There are painted bike lanes on some blocks, but not others, like the busy stretch between Sacramento and Gilman streets, where cyclists should move to find space with cars heading towards. Interstate 80.

The two proposals for a more immediate future of the street call for improvements in pedestrian safety, such as “bulb-outs” and medians to provide greater protection at crosswalks.

One option proposed for the redevelopment of Hopkins Street would be to install protected cycle lanes along the corridor, either with gates or with a row of parked cars. To make room for the bike path, this plan calls for the elimination of on-street parking west of McGee Avenue – although some of that parking will be replaced on Monterey Avenue and California Street. Credit: Parisi Transportation Consulting

Cycling advocates applauded the first option for a short-term overhaul which was presented at last week’s public forum. Under this plan, the entire segment would have cycle lanes protected from vehicular traffic, either by barriers or by a row of parked cars, much like a recent redevelopment of Adeline Street.

“We need continuous and protected cycle paths all along the corridor,” said Ben Gerhardstein of Walk Bike Berkeley. The option “provides a safer street for more road users,” he said, and would help Berkeley move towards its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“My kids have often described driving on an unprotected cycle lane like a car on a track with an airplane,” said Liza Lutzker, another Walk Bike Berkeley member who spoke at the redesign forum. rue, which had about 200 participants. “I’m really in favor of having a lot of protection. “

However, others backed off at the cost of that protection: the plan would see the elimination of all street parking along Hopkins from McGee Avenue to Gilman Street, while McGee’s blocks at The Alameda would lose about half. of their spaces.

New corner parking lots along Monterey Avenue and California Street, which would become a one-way street to the south, would replace some of the spaces eliminated from the Hopkins commercial strip, leaving a net loss of five spaces in this area. Other blocks would not see their parking lot replaced.

“It would be devastating for traders,” said Paul Johnson, co-founder of Monterey Fish Market whose daughter, Kelley, started an online petition earlier this year, opposing changes that would reduce on-street parking.

While advocates argue that many customers could cycle to Hopkins Street stores instead of driving, Johnson was not convinced.

“They will drive to Whole Foods, they will drive to Safeway, they will drive to Berkeley Bowl,” he said. “If they can’t park (on Hopkins), they’ll drive somewhere else.”

The second proposal provides for the maintenance of parking spaces on Hopkins Street while eliminating bicycle lanes. Cyclists should ride with vehicular traffic west of the Alameda. Credit: Parisi Transportation Consulting

Several speakers who attended the virtual redesign forum last week said they preferred the second option, which would not eliminate any parking spots.

“For me, denying people parking in front of their houses, for themselves or for friends who come to visit them, makes no sense,” said Michael Fajans, a resident of North Berkeley.

But some cyclists found this option unacceptable, as it does not include a separate cycle path west of the Alameda. Instead, the street would have painted only ‘sharrows’ – markings on the ground meant to indicate that cars and bikes should share the road, which many cyclists say does not protect them from the harsh effects of the road. inattentive or impatient drivers.

“I’m surprised and a little horrified that the Sharrows are being presented as a real option,” said Marc Hedlund, another forum speaker, adding that the markings “don’t help in any way.”

Both options would include cycle paths along the last, less traveled blocks of Hopkins east of the Alameda. Javandel said cost estimates for the near-term project would be determined once the design is chosen.

For now, the consultants who developed the street design ideas are collect public comments via an online tool which displays the options in detail and allows people to comment on them. Two companies based in Berkeley, PlaceWorks and Parisi Transportation Consulting, are working on the project.

Hahn, however, criticized the consultants’ outreach strategies, saying the online feedback tool is “extremely complex” and that the renditions of the proposed changes that have been presented to the public are “too technical” for a lay audience. Hahn said she was concerned this would make it difficult for less tech-savvy people to understand and weigh in on the proposals.

“It’s not appropriate for a public process like this because it’s not accessible enough,” Hahn said. “We need real opportunities to contribute. “

PlaceWorks did not respond to inquiries about Hahn’s comments; a representative from Parisi Transportation Consulting declined to comment and referred a reporter’s investigation to city staff.


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Wiley C. Thompson

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