Berkeley Creates A New, Safer Kind of Intersection for Cyclists
The Bay Area has long been a leader when it comes to creating bicycle laws that implement safer systems and infrastructure for cyclists and other modes of non-car transportation.
Where other cities often take years to institute basic measures that we sometimes take for granted (like bike lanes on major thoroughfares), the Bay Area’s cities regularly make attempts to improve the safety and efficiency of movement throughout the area for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers alike.
Berkeley is the latest city in the Bay Area to take a serious stand on bicycle safety by introducing a whole new kind of intersection at the corner of Hopkins and The Alameda.
How this new bike-friendly intersection came to be
Although this new intersection is an exciting development functioning well today, it almost didn’t happen. And it wasn’t even planned to include cyclists, until a last minute problem made engineers re-imagine their solution.
“The original project was to add pedestrian bulb-outs at the corner of Hopkins and The Alameda, a wide intersection next to a library and near several schools. The idea was to narrow the crossing distance and in the process get cars navigating the turns to slow down.
The project got state funding in 2010, but was delayed because drainage at that intersection is complicated.
Engineers had not yet come up with a solution, and the grant had to be spent or it would be rescinded. City staff, who had been thinking about ways to let water drain through the intersection along its existing route—between the curb and the new bulb-outs—realized that if they widened the waterway it could become a protected bike lane.”
How the new intersection makes cyclists safer
The newly widened bulbs on the street now not only allow for more space for pedestrians to stand on, but they also create a new wide, bike lane through the intersection. At the same time, the bulbs also change the angle and pace of traffic turning right, making the intersection far less treacherous for pedestrians and cyclists alike.
Streetsblog SF reports:
“[Bike East Bay’s Dave] Campbell said some bike riders have commented that the islands are right in the middle of the path they used to take across the intersection, so that they have to veer outside it, or slightly to the right into the bike lane, and slow down. ‘The answer is that, yes, you do need to slow down,’ said Campbell.”
By forcing drivers and cyclists both to approach the intersection with more caution and care, the new road structures are helping everyone to stay safer.
Intersections are some of the most dangerous sites of bike crashes because they are places where bikes and cars come into contact, and where many people are making unexpected changes to the flow of traffic. People merge, turn, slow down, speed up: all of the kinds of things that cause the confusion that causes crashes.
When everyone has space and are reminded to pay close attention to their surroundings, everyone stays safer on the road — especially vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians.
What does this intersection mean for the future of bicycle laws in the Bay Area?
The city’s engineers are evaluating how the new traffic bulb-outs are affecting safety and traffic flow in Berkeley. Dave Campbell from Bike East Bay says, “Ultimately we want to match the intersection with protected bike lanes” like the ones installed earlier this year on Fulton Street.
Cars and cyclists will continue to need to get used to the new traffic flow, as well. Some cars are still trying to cut through the turn between the bike lane and the crosswalk; whether that’s to save time or just because they don’t quite get the new system yet, time will tell. If needed, adding some safety posts might help to define the spaces and keep cars out of cyclist and pedestrian zones.
We love seeing developments towards safety and efficiency for traffic all over the Bay Area. The more time and money that is dedicated to making our streets safe for everyone who uses them, the better life will be for everyone.