BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — Berkeley police say unsafe behavior by bicyclists is causing a lot of accidents on city streets but bike advocates are upset that police are addressing the problem by writing traffic tickets.
Designated as a “Bicycle Boulevard,” Milvia Street is intended to be bike friendly and those who use it don’t seem to feel much obligation to stop along the way.READ MORE: UPDATE: Atmospheric River Crashes Onshore; Flood Warning Issued For Napa, Sonoma Counties
“It requires a lot of energy as a biker to put on the brakes, come to a complete stop and then regain your whole momentum again,” said cyclist Aubrey Ferreira, who works near Milvia Street. “So, I think that’s why a lot of people just cruise through.”
At the four-way stop at Milvia and Virginia, it is hard to find anyone who will even slow down at the intersection. But police say the data shows this isn’t a behavior without consequences.
“Between January 1st of this year to July 31st of this year, there were 64 bicycle accidents and in 32 of those collisions the bicyclist was at fault,” said Berkeley Police Officer Byron White.
When the department got a $250,000 state grant to improve traffic safety, they spent some of it on employing officers on overtime to write tickets on the bike boulevard. That angers bike advocates who say police are focusing not on dangerous, busy intersections, but on the quiet streets where cyclists feel comfortable cruising straight through. In fact, Berkeley has put a lot of effort in discouraging cars along bicycle boulevards to accommodate bikes and pedestrians.READ MORE: UPDATE: Streets Flood in San Rafael, Mill Valley as Wild Storm Lashes Bay Area
“This is why Bike East Bay is not very happy with ticketing happening on Milvia Bike Boulevard, on the Ohlone Greenway,” said Ginger Jui, Executive Director of Bike East Bay, “because the Berkeley Bike Plan says that we should be addressing where dangerous behaviors are happening.”
But Officer White says they can’t ignore bike-friendly streets like Milvia. “It’s not somewhere we wouldn’t want to do enforcement, because we’ve had accidents here.”
Stand on the corner for a few minutes and it’s clear there is no end to the number of tickets police could write if they wanted to. But bike advocates say they feel the grant money should be spent in areas of real danger, rather than focusing on the people who are riding where the city wants them to ride.
But while people are upset, police say since July they have given only 36 citations to cyclists. In that same time, they wrote 106 tickets for automobile drivers who ran stop signs.MORE NEWS: Stephen Curry Reaches 5,000 Assists, Warriors Beat Kings 119-107
The grant money came from the California Office of Traffic Safety with specific goals of reducing bicycle and pedestrian deaths and injuries. It is up to individual police departments to decide how to meet those goals.