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February 08, 2005

Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley explains itself to neighbors

Before getting to the news let me begin with a Thank You:

In the "They are beginning to notice" category I'd like to thank Joe's Space for taking note of my post about Ca. Tourism Bureau's.

Although, how my humble blog ended up sharing a "Hey, look what I found!" entry with a bunch of computer tech sites is gonna take some explaining to his readers, I'm sure. :-D

Now, where was I?

Berkeley, that bastion of the California Left, and hallowed ground for those who worship 60's student radicalism, is coming to grips with being a city where everyone drives a car, and the few cyclists loitering about are looked at with suspicion.

Emma Gilbride and Phil Morton are co-chairs of the Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition, and recent events up there have apparently led them to explain their groups advocacy efforts, and why they all bicycle.

The recent dust-up about reconfiguring Marin Avenue to make it safer for pedestrians has all the elements of a classic Berkeley political tempest in a teapot. A couple of op-ed articles in this paper asserted that the Marin Avenue reconfiguration is a scheme by bicyclists to disrupt motor traffic.

Until recently the Marin Avenue project was only barely on the radar for cycling advocates. We are much more concerned, for example, with the state of Milvia Street in the downtown area. But it is instructive to see how quickly opponents of the Marin project identified bicyclists as the villains of the reconfiguration by stealth.

Bicyclists make good targets when motorists feel frustrated and disempowered. Even in Berkeley many citizens assume that an automobile is the usual mode of transportation...

The congestion in Berkeley concerns motorists and cyclists alike. In practice, bicycling activists are not interested in preventing people from driving. So, what is it that bicyclists and bicycling activists want? What are our goals?

Well, like many cyclists who also drive they try to ride their bike as often as they can, for one thing.

They talk to their neighbors about the benefits of bicycling, for another.

The Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition believes that many people can use a bicycle for some trips and will experience some of the benefits. Our organization was founded almost 10 years ago and has over 400 paying members. Our goal is to create conditions that will make riding a bicycle as a means of everyday transportation more attractive to growing numbers of people. Among many other activities, BFBC has offered regular classes in safe bicycling skills that highlight the rules of the road and respect for the law. We teach people to stop at stop signs and traffic lights. We are aware that bicyclists must be ambassadors for good behavior.

We’re interested in making Berkeley’s transportation infrastructure work well for everyone. This is not an easy task.

I guess not. Especially in dealing with the local Transportation commission where only three of the nine commissioners are regular cyclists, and only two transportation commissioners are members of the Commission’s bicycle subcommittee.

The writers mention that, in Berkeley, "cars and motorcycles account for more than 60 percent of the traffic. Transit users account for 18 percent of all commute traffic. Pedestrians make up another 15 percent and bicyclists are about 6 percent of the traffic."

Like me, they bemoan the tendency of some in the media, and car culture, to focus too much attention on the likes of Critical Mass.

The full piece-- Berkeley Daily Planet: Lessons From Marin Avenue: Why Bicycle Advocates are Good for Everyone.

February 8, 2005 in Pedaling Advocacy | Permalink

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