Protected lanes in Berkeley!
I noticed a lot of new construction activity on Milvia Street in Berkeley a few months ago, after visiting Sports Basement and Missing Link in search of a new bike rack. I was pretty excited to see that it looked like protected lanes were going to be installed. Recently, coming back from University, it was nice to see the construction taking place around Addison, Center, Center, and along Berkeley High.
Why protected lanes?
I've asked a lot of friends what would make it easier for them to ride their bike more. Most have answered that they're scared of automobile traffic. While painted bike lanes can be helpful, there's not much preventing a distracted driver from drifting or veering into a bike lane and harming a person on a bike. Protected bike lanes are great, because they create a physical barrier, such as a planter, parked car, or concrete structure, between automotive traffic and bicycle traffic. It's common for confused or irresponsible drivers to parallel park in bike lanes also, and a barrier helps stop an illegally-parked car from forcing bike riders onto the road with other moving automobiles.
The protected lanes not only offer more protection to commuters on bikes, they make it easier for families to ride. Facilities like this reduce the risk of injury for all road users. I'd imagine that someone driving on the road would also feel better knowing that riders on bikes are physically separated from the normal flow of automotive traffic.
There are entire websites and apps (Bike Lane Uprising, Safe Lanes) dedicated to showing how parked cars in bike lanes can make it very difficult to ride.
A high priority street for Berkeley
The City of Berkeley has been planning improvements for Milvia Street, in some form, since at least 2012, according to their project background. Construction started in mid 2021 and is slated to end around early 2022.
Their stated goals are to:
• Improve safety for everyone traveling along Milvia Street
• Provide a more comfortable bicycling and walking experience for people of all ages and abilities
• Encourage trips made by bicycling and walking by improving connectivity and accessibility
• Maintain and support and the economic vitality of the corridor
Riding with Kids
The protected bike lane will make riding with a child better. Though our kid has a lot of practice, sometimes I still worry about whether they will ride in a straight line, or make safe decisions if there is an unexpected event. We've ridden on Milvia a number of times before the construction started. The bike lanes are wide, which is nice, but the road also invites speeding because it is so wide and straight. Having only a layer of paint separate automotive traffic and bike traffic still makes me feel uncomfortable. The protected bike lanes will be a nice improvement.