Bringing Two-Way Streets to Berkeley Southside
San Francisco’s Vision Zero Initiative to end road deaths in San Francisco by 2024 highlights the need for action in Berkeley to think similarly about ways in which fatalities, injuries, and collisions should be reduced. Two thousand collisions have occurred since 2001 in Berkeley, according to California Highway Patrol (CHP) data. A January 2015 Daily Cal article cited the statistic that UC Berkeley comprises only 6% of the city’s area, yet accounts for 25% of injuries and collisions in the city. The same CHP data says that along Bancroft, 80 accidents involving cyclists occurred between 2001–2014: nearly six injuries a year. In a separate editorial, the Daily Cal urged Berkeley to “prioritize transportation safety and strategically rethink street planning” after the hit-and-run death of a cyclist.
Currently, Hearst Avenue is under renovation as a Complete Streets Project, while Oxford Avenue has recently received bike lanes. However, we continue to see reluctance on any action on UC Berkeley’s southside. Relative to north and west sides, southside has gotten little attention or infrastructural development for these streets and the businesses and residents that occupy them.
One proposal being considered by the City of Berkeley to aid in road safety on the southside is a conversion of Bancroft, Durant, and Dana Streets into Two-Way Streets. A two-way conversion will clearly benefit cyclists who must merge across several lanes of traffic to turn and who compete with speeding cars. Yet those that are against this measure say that safety will decrease for pedestrians as a result of two way conversion, because pedestrians will now have to look two ways before crossing. Detractors may also be swayed by the cost of the project, of which the highest expenditure will be traffic signals to expedite vehicle passage. Others are merely concerned about parking.
There have been numerous studies conducted to evaluate pedestrian safety impacts of two-way conversion and many of their findings refute claims that pedestrian safety will be negatively impacted by the two way conversion. A study by UC Berkeley PhD graduate Vikash Gayah stated that pedestrians prefer crossing two-way streets since drivers tend to travel more slowly on them, and vehicular conflicts are more predictable. Speeds will often be demonstrably lower on two way streets compared to one way streets: some studies suggest that drivers pay less attention on one way streets because there is no conflicting traffic flow. Vehicles also tend to stop less on one-way streets, increasing danger for pedestrians and cyclists. Many of these studies point to reducing vehicle and pedestrian conflicts as a means of increasing safety. For instance, the Traffic Engineers Handbook published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers indicates that “vehicles turning left out of one-way streets appear to hit pedestrians significantly more frequently than do all other turning vehicles.”
Beyond pedestrian and bicycle safety there are countless more benefits to pursuing conversion. Along with aiding pedestrians, one-way streets may also have benefits for drivers. One-way streets have been designed to prioritize cars, as transportation engineers believe that one way streets eliminate tough left turns through oncoming traffic. However, one-way street networks are confusing for drivers, leading to increased trip times, miles traveled, and frustration. Two-way street networks allow drivers to take the most direct routes from origin to destination. Increased vehicle miles traveled on one way streets means increased fuel consumption, emissions, and exposure to accidents.
Conversion to a two-way street can have numerous other positive externalities including aiding economic development and community development. Two-way streets increase visibility for local businesses. A study conducted by the city of Colorado Springs found that retail sales along a hypothetical converted street would increase by more than 53%. Visitors in cars or on transit prefer two-way street networks to one-way street networks because they are less confusing, notes Gayah. Two way streets make it easier for shoppers to find and access stores. In a study presented on Planetizen, property values increased dramatically after conversion. Public Transit Benefits. Furthermore, shifting vehicular traffic onto Durant will reduce congestion along Bancroft, allowing buses (the F and 51B) to move through the corridor more quickly. One way streets also make it more difficult for bus riders to locate stops for a return trip; two way conversion will help solve this problem.
Within the Berkeley Bicycle Subcommittee and Transportation Committee of Berkeley, there is tentative support for the conversion, yet members have often been hesitant without more data and concerned about the potential cost. More research will have to be done into investigating these legitimate concerns, especially regarding economic costs. The ASUC Transportation department has been beginning to initiate this research with the help of Gayah. They will be meeting and organizing with community members to support these measures on behalf of the ASUC and UC Berkeley students, as it will provide for a safer campus for pedestrians, bikers, and drivers alike.
|“Berkeley Must Prioritize Bicyclist, Pedestrian Safety||The Daily Californian.” The Daily Californian. The Daily Californian, 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.|
|Chinoy, Sahil. “Data Underscores Berkeley Bike Safety Debate; 2,000 Collisions since 2001||The Daily Californian.” The Daily Californian. The Daily Californian, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.|
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