Chapter 1


The City of Berkeley has long supported bicycling as an environmentally friendly, healthy, low-cost method of transportation and recreation.  The purpose of this Bicycle Plan is to make Berkeley a model bicycle-friendly city where bicycling is a safe, attractive, easy, and convenient form of transportation and recreation for people of all ages and bicycling abilities.  The Plan provides the City with a set of tools to begin this grand endeavor.  The Plan includes goals, policies, and recommendations for bikeways, bicycle parking, promotion programs, and safety education programs.  The bikeway costs, prioritization criteria, and list of funding sources in the Plan will help City staff, the City Council, and the community to determine where to focus our energy within the tremendous range of recommended bicycle projects and programs.  Berkeley will not become a model bicycling city overnight, but this Plan is a key step toward getting us there.


Bicycling is one mode among the many that share the roadways of Berkeley.  Frequently, roadway facility and funding decisions are made with little consideration for bicycling as a serious transportation mode.  A goal of this Plan is to provide bicyclists with an equal chance to travel safely and conveniently around the City.  At the same time, the needs of bicyclists must be integrated with the needs of the many other roadway users, including pedestrians, the disabled community, emergency service providers, transit and automobiles.  There is already a circulation map for automobiles, and AC Transit has bus route planning documents that include Berkeley.  The Bicycle Plan, as a statement of bicycling needs, will allow more comprehensive transportation planning in the city, complementing these other planning efforts.


On a more practical level, the Bicycle Plan will allow the City to access a significant grant funding source.  The Bicycle Lane Account (BLA) funded $360,000 of projects throughout the state in 1996, but by 2004 that amount will have grown to $5 million per year.  BLA funds are only available to jurisdictions with an adopted Bicycle Plan which contains the required elements.  A list of these required elements and where they are contained in this Plan is presented in Appendix A.  Additionally, any bicycle-related grant application will be strengthened if the project is contained in an adopted Bicycle Plan.



Berkeley is a bicycling community.  Almost 4,000 people bike to work in Berkeley every day, in addition to those who use bikes for pleasure or errands, or children who ride bikes.  Many of the more than 40,000 students at the University of California and other schools in Berkeley also use bicycles as their primary means of transportation.  In addition, Berkeley is a center for urban recreational cyclists and home to one of the nation’s few bicycle cargo delivery companies.


Despite the high level of cycling that currently exists in the City, conditions can and should be improved.  As an older community that was largely built up before World War II, Berkeley’s street system is composed mainly of 36-foot-wide streets.  There is barely room on these streets for two lanes of traffic and parking on each side, let alone bike lanes.  The City has only a few bicycle paths completely separated from the street system.  While there are some opportunities for adding paths, the built-out nature of the City, like that of most urban areas, precludes easy development of a complete path system.


For these reasons, and because most bicyclists have the same origins and destinations as motorists, most bicycle traffic shares the roadway system with auto traffic.  Consequently, the greatest opportunity for near-term improvements lies in repaving, restriping, and modifying traffic control on the city’s many mixed-traffic streets to better accommodate bicyclists.  There are already some trends in this direction.  Beginning in the 1970s, residential traffic control has removed much auto traffic from residential streets, concentrating it on the City’s major thoroughfares and commercial streets.  Although this shift has improved many streets for cycling, it has made riding on and crossing major streets more difficult, and, for new or potential cyclists, more intimidating.


Existing bicycle use

According to the 1990 census, 4.9 percent of Berkeley residents commute to work by bicycle.[1]  (Relevant pages from the census are presented in Appendix B.)  This is almost four times the Alameda County average of 1.3 percent and the Bay Area average of 1.1 percent, and is the highest rate in Alameda County.  (See Table 1.)  Conversely, 5.0 percent of Berkeley workers bike to work, also the highest in Alameda County.  When broken down by Berkeley residents, fully ten percent of those who both live and work in Berkeley bike to work.  Only one percent of those who live in Berkeley and work elsewhere bike to work, possibly due to the high number of jobs in more distant and/or less bike accessible locations such as San Francisco.[2]  Three percent of those who work in Berkeley and live elsewhere bike to work.  This could be the target of promotion efforts to increase bicycling in Berkeley.  At UC Berkeley it is estimated that one in six students bikes to campus.


What the census does not measure is how many people use their bicycle for a non-commute trip such as shopping, errands, or visiting friends.  The 1990 MTC Travel Survey[3] revealed that in Alameda County, 1.3 percent of home-based shopping trips are made by bicycle, as are 2.5 percent of social/recreation trips and 3.8 percent of school trips.  It seems reasonable to assume that these percentages are higher in Berkeley.  Overall, only 22 percent of bike trips are work trips.  Twelve percent of bike trips are shopping trips, 22 percent are social/recreation trips, 28 percent are school trips and 16 percent are non-home based trips (e.g., trips between the work place and shopping).  In addition, recreation bicycle trips have been increasing over the past twenty years.  The National Bicycle Dealers Association estimates that nationwide there are 31 million adults who ride for recreation regularly (at least once a week).  Many persons who begin bicycling by riding recreationally become regular bicycle commuters.


The pertinent factors in predicting how many persons will bicycle in the future include safe and convenient facilities but also the number of residents who live within a reasonable bicycling distance of their workplace.  Regionally, 40 percent of commuters in the Bay Area live within five miles of their workplace.[4]  These data are not available at the city or superdistrict level.  What is avail­able from census data by city is the number of minutes workers spend commuting.  A reasonable commute time regardless of mode is about 30 minutes.  This translates into about two miles for walking and about six miles for a bike trip.  The census data indicate that about 16 percent of Berkeley residents live within nine minutes of their workplace.  A nine-minute car trip is approximately equivalent to a 30 minute bike ride.  Therefore, it appears that in Berkeley, bicycling is already capturing 30 percent of those that live within easy bike riding distance.  If 50 percent of those living within easy bike riding distance would bike to work, then bicycling’s total mode share would increase to almost eight percent. Considering the many hardy souls who commute more than thirty minutes one-way, the total number of bike commuters could easily exceed ten percent. This would be double the existing bike commute rate. If one also considers people who bike to the bus, ferry or BART stations as bike commuters, (who are currently classified as transit commuters in census data), the bike mode share would be even higher, perhaps fifteen to twenty percent.




Table 1





Place of Residence

Percent Bike to Work

Percent Live Within 9 Minutes*

Percent Live Within 19 Minutes*

Potential Percent of Bicycle Commuters


4.9 (1)

15.7 (2)



Alameda County

1.3 (3)

10.7 (4)



*  These commute times are regardless of mode, however, they are an indicator of how close a resident lives to his/her workplace.  If we assume, as a worst case, that the commute is by car, then a nine minute car commute is approximately equal to a 30 minute maximum bike commute, while living within 19 minutes by car would be equivalent to a bike commute of between 30 and 60 minutes.

**  50 percent of those living within 9 minutes is 7.85 percent.

***  25 percent of those living within 9 minutes is 2.7 percent.



  • Table C-2, Working Paper #2, 1990 Census, MTC 1992
  • Table C-3, Working Paper #2, 1990 Census, MTC 1992
  • Table C.1.3, Working Paper #5, 1990 Census, April 1993
  • Table A.15, Working Paper #2, 1990 Census, MTC 1992



why promote bicycling?

Bicycling is the most efficient form of transportation in terms of energy expended per mile traveled.  However, few bicyclists consciously ride for this reason.  Bicyclists ride, in fact, for many reasons and the benefits are accrued by both the individual as well as society.  Bicyclists have door-to-door mobility at the exact time they need it without having to rely on transit schedules.  As shown in Table 2, almost 19 percent of households in Berkeley have no cars and 45 percent have only one car, resulting in a significant percentage of the adult population - not to mention children - who do or could use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation.


Table 2









Berkeley (1)

19.0 %

45.1 %

Total Alameda County (2)

12.2 %

34.4 %

Source:  (1) Table C-1, Working Paper #2, 1990 Census, MTC 1992

              (2) Table A.4, Working Paper #2, 1990 Census, MTC 1992


Other bicyclists have or could afford a car but for environmental reasons choose to use their bikes for transportation.  The environmental reasons range from the obvious one of air pollution to the more subtle, but just as real, problems of noise pollution, water pollution from roadway run-off, excessive paving resulting in reduced area for water drainage and loss of habitat, dependence on foreign oil, et cetera.  Bicycling also produces benefits for society in general, many of which are the environmental benefits just described.  Additionally, those bicyclists who do own, or could afford to own a car, are reducing traffic congestion and freeing-up auto parking spaces every time they choose to use their bike.


In addition to societal benefits, bicycling also has direct benefits for the individual.  Bicycling is the second least costly transportation mode (after walking).  When there is a fee for car parking, bicycling is even more cost-effective.  At seven cents a mile (the calculated cost of bicycle purchase and maintenance), a five mile bicycle trip is only 35 cents compared to an auto trip at $1.50 per trip (30 cents per mile) or an AC transit one-way fare of $1.25.  Thus bicycling is chosen by people both with and without cars as the most cost-effec­tive way to travel.  Bicycling is particularly convenient when parking is scarce.  Auto parking in Berkeley is in short supply at numerous locations including downtown, near BART stations, and all around campus.  Finally, bicycling is popular among those who are concerned with health and fitness.  Bicycling provides excellent cardio-vascular conditioning and studies have shown that employees who regularly bike to work are sick less than the average employee.  Many bicycle commuters recognize that the time spent commuting to work is time that does not have to be spent at the gym or on a home treadmill.



From a public policy point of view, it is a worthy goal to provide safe and convenient personal mobility to those without cars.  People without cars need access to employment, shopping and rec­reation just as those who can afford cars.  In sum, investing in bicycling facilities is a fiscally and environmentally sound expenditure of public moneys.  It is similar to recycling in that a win-win situation is achieved that improves the environment while saving public dollars in the long run.  Just as recycling programs have become mainstream in the last ten years, both in homes and at institutions, it is hoped that in the next ten years, bicycling in Berkeley will be a daily or weekly event in the lives of an even larger number of residents.


Community Participation and project history

The process of developing a city-wide Bicycle Plan began in 1992 and was envisioned as a two phase process.  Phase 1 of the project was led by a consultant team headed by TJKM Transportation Consultants.  This phase focused on an overall evaluation of existing bikeways and bicycling opportunities in Berkeley, including the identification of specific problems and preliminary suggestions for solutions and/or alternative routes.


Phase 1 was guided by suggestions and comments from interested members of the community, through an open-to-the-public advisory group, and the general public.  Information on commonly used routes and ideas on existing problems and potential solutions were solicited during and after a February 1993 public workshop attended by nearly one hundred people.  These findings are summarized in Chapter 3.  The resulting strategies pointed toward correcting deficiencies in the existing system, rather than developing an entirely new network.


After a Draft Bicycle Plan was released on April 7, 1994, four public meetings were held to gather public input.  Additionally over 40 individuals and groups submitted written comments on the Draft Plan.  All of these comments were reviewed and taken into consideration during the next phase of the Bicycle Plan process.


Phase 2 of the project began in 1997, after the City received grant funds to hire a consultant to finalize the Draft Bike Plan.  This phase, conducted by a consultant team led by Wilbur Smith Associates, focused on developing bicycle goals and policies, refining bikeway alignments, developing cost estimates for route and infrastructure improvements, developing prioritization criteria to be used to rank bike improvement projects, and developing bicycle safety education and promotion programs.


Throughout Phase 2 of this project, the consultant and the City project manager met regularly with mem­bers of the community in the form of a Bicycle Plan Advisory Committee (BPAC).  This committee was composed of the three member Transportation Commission Bicycle Subcommittee and two representatives of the Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition.  A public meeting was held on April 30, 1998 to receive direct input on the draft bicycle network.  A summary of the comments received at this meeting is presented in Appendix C.  Over 50 individuals and groups submitted written comments on the draft bicycle network.  The “Draft for Citizen Review” of the Berkeley Bicycle Plan was presented to the public at an October 22, 1998 public workshop.  The meeting comments (summarized in Appendix C) and over 40 written comments were taken into consideration in the development of the final draft of the Bicycle Plan.



The Bicycle Plan is being adopted by the City Council as a policy document to be incorporated into the updated General Plan.  The bicycle policies and the bikeway network map will be included in the Transportation Element of the General Plan.  Other sections will most likely be included as an appendix to the General Plan.  The update of the General Plan is now taking place, and should be completed by late 1999. 


Once the Bicycle Plan is adopted, implementation of the Plan can begin.  Many of the specific actions described in this Plan will require further public review and input, detailed evaluation, identification of funding sources, and further approvals by the City Council and/or Transportation Commission.  These implementation steps are outlined in Chapter 7.


The immediate next steps following adoption of the Bicycle Plan will be:


One of the City’s major challenges in implementing the Bicycle Plan will be finding the funding for staff and capital projects.  The prioritization criteria presented in Chapter 7 will be a great aid in determining which projects are most important for improving bicycling conditions in Berkeley.  The top-ranking projects and programs will then be the focus of funding requests and grant applications.

[1]  Working Paper #2, Bay Area Travel and Mobility Characteristics, 1990 Census, MTC August 1992.

[2]  However, this does not measure how many residents bike to a transit station in order to take BART or the bus to work.

[3]  Working Paper #4, San Francisco Bay Area 1990 Regional Travel Characteristics, 1990 MTC Travel Survey, MTC, December 1994.

[4]  Working Paper #7, Detailed Commute Characteristics in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1990 Census, MTC, March 1994.