Another Model: Berkeley’s Bicycle Boulevard Network

Yesterday I showed some photos of the "Share the Road" Bike Route signs that were recently installed on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn and that sparked an interesting discussion on different possible ways to design and build on-street bike paths. This summer I was in Berkeley, California for a friend’s wedding. NYCSR filmmaker Clarence Eckerson was also in Berkeley recently and we both snapped a bunch of photos of that city’s extensive "Bicycle Boulevard" network. For some more ideas of what might be possible in New York City, take a look:

You see these purple Bicycle Boulevard signs all over town. Driving, you are constantly reminded that bicycles are present. Cycling, you really get the sense that the city has a well-connected network of bike routes. In addition to the numerous purple street signs, the stencils are absolutely huge.

Berkeley also has extensive traffic-calming measures in place. Motor vehicular through-traffic is discouraged from using quiet, residential streets and Bicycle Boulevards as short-cuts with these heavy planters like these. Cars and trucks are forced to stay on the major thoroughfares. This often made driving in Berkeley slow and painful. But it’s great if your priority is high quality of life, safe bicycling and the ability to play touch football on a neighborhood street.

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On the main shopping strips there is tons of bicycle parking.

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The BART stations also have excellent indoor bicycle parking. I took this photo in San Francicso, however, not Berkeley:

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Keep in mind we’re talking about a city with an on-street recycling program and a well-developed, 35-year-old environmental consciousness. This ain’t New York. Though, I see no reason why we couldn’t be doing these things as well.

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Check out this un-signalized midblock crosswalk. I was actually a little bit scared to use it. "You mean, cars are going to stop for me without a traffic signal to tell them to do so?!? I think I’ll let these guys cross first…" I could see something like this being useful on, 17th Street in Manhattan to connect the northern side of Union Square to the entrance of the Barnes & Noble store. Maybe we’d need a traffic signal in New York, though.

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While Berkeley has all of this great bike infrastructure my main observation was this: New York City is still a far superior bicycling town. Parts of Berkeley are extremely hilly and, in general, it still felt like a car-dominated town. It’s California, afterall. I see far more cyclists on the streets of New York than I saw in Berkeley. You’ve got to think that if New York City built bike infrastructure as good as Berkeley’s, cycling might really explode here. I think that New York City is naturally, inherently a much more bikeable city. A little bit of encouragement  and good design would go a long way.

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