Biking in Berkeley
I’ve been a Berkeley resident for nine years now. First arriving in this town as a Cal student, I stuck around after graduating to work as a music substitute teacher. Schlepping from school to school, I quickly discovered that I could do away with hassle of driving and frantically looking for a parking spot by biking to my assignments. Having made the choice to switch, I soon realized what many a Berkeley resident is well aware of – this city is a joy to bike around.
Flash forward several years to my current work here at Civinomics. We’ve been hired as part of the consulting team to help the city create a new bicycle master plan.
Our role in the project is to conduct a community-wide poll about people’s interest in and habits around bicycling. The iPad-based questionnaire includes pictures of different streets with various types of bike lanes and markings, and asks people how comfortable they would feel biking there.
(Photos: Alta Planning + Design)
To be sure, Berkeley already has a high ridership rate. According to the 2010 Census, 8% of employed Berkeley adults bike to work. This marks a significant increase over the last several years – in 2000 the figure was 5.6% – and is surpassed only by the cities of Davis, California; Boulder, Colorado; and Eugene, Oregon.
What explains Berkeley’s high cycling rate? A significant factor has to do with decisions that were made in the 1970s to divert most auto traffic out of residential areas and onto specific arteries in Berkeley.
Then in 2000, the city adopted a bike master plan. It is this plan that created the bike infrastructure that residents enjoy today, including the backbone of the city’s system – its seven bicycle boulevards. The bicycle boulevards system, as well as promotional programs the city pursued, have helped increase the amount of biking in Berkeley. According to the Berkeley Office of Energy and Sustainable Development, between 2000 and 2012 the total amount of bicycle riding increased 34% while vehicle driving decreased by 4%.
And all this plays a big role in helping Berkeley achieve its ambitious climate action goals. The city’s Climate Action Plan has set a goal of reducing emissions 33% below 2000 levels by 2020. Currently, about half of the city’s total emissions come from cars, so further boosting bike riding is a major priority right now.
Beyond making the city greener, some bike advocates see increased bicycling as a way to create a more idyllic community. Rob Allen of Berkeley’s Blue Heron Bikes likes to talk about how people go on vacation to places like Mackinac Island, where there are no cars and people get around primarily by bike. Why not right here, too?
This is the type of project we love to work on – providing cities with the data they need to make decisions on programs that have major community impact. But don’t feel left out if you’re not a Berkeley resident, we’ve been posting a couple state-wide bike issues on Civinomics lately. Now that you’re in the mindset, what are your thoughts on these proposals?
Should Bicyclists Be Required to Wear A Helmet?
California State Senator Carol Liu recently introduced SB 192, a law that would require that all bicyclists wear helmets in the state or pay a $25 fine.
Allow CA Bicyclists to Treat Stop Signs as Yield Signs
Bicyclists tend to want to roll through stop signs and stop lights when there is no approaching traffic because it requires considerable energy to stop and start again.