I wrote a letter to Jon Carrol of the Chronicle and he ran it. The topic is bike routes and traffic in the East Bay. I tried to make it really short, but I worry that I sounded like an asshole.
I run stop signs all the time on the Berkeley Bike Boulevards. These are bike routes that run parallel to main streets in Berkeley. The roads are very residential and have stop signs on them quite frequently. There is not much cross traffic at these signs , nor much car traffic on the streets. In some places, they are blocked so that bikes can get through but cars can't. The system is imperfect because the frequent stop signs technically apply to bikes, but the routes would be unusable to anyone who actually obeyed them.
What I didn't say is that I don't cut people off or aggravate car drivers or risk my own safety. I slow down for stop signs, which, honestly, is all the many car drivers do as well. Also what I didn't say is that the problem could be mitigated by better signage. They need to put in one set of "yield" signs for bikes only and leave the stop signs for cars. Most issues with bike routes in suburban cities like this could be alleviated with better signage, but the ideas for how to post them are foreign and would not occur to somebody who hadn't biked overseas.
Also what's not obvious is that taking out stop signs would greatly increase safety. People are more cautious in uncontrolled intersections and this increases safety. Accidents aren't avoided by just carefully following the law. Accidents are avoided by people seeing each other and being careful. So either better signs or no signs would help a lot. And roundabouts. How to design to increase safety isn't some deep dark secret. The information is easily accessible and sometimes discussed in the newspaper and whatnot, so the city planners are aware that they've created a situation that's dangerous to bikers and annoying to car drivers, but they make no major changes, even when the cost would be low. Why?
Well, I've dealt with the city of Berkeley planning commission and I suspect that
they want to share the pain of their bitter twisted lives with others and also are frequently drunk at work plus they are resistant to any kind of change at all, even when it's entirely sensible.
Carroll cut the part of my letter where I talked about the end of the California/ King bike boulevard. The bike route just dead ends at a major street with a median strip. The Oakland bike route picks up on the other side. There is no legal way to get across the major street without getting off your bike and walking it across a zebra crossing. Cops don't give you tickets for biking across it, but they could. Also, it's dangerous and scary. I hate that intersection so much and yet it still seems safer than biking along a more major street.
My hope and expectation is that since we've passed peak oil, there will be more and more and more bikers and numbers will increase safety.
Isn't it amazing that I can live on another continent and still be opinionated about biking in the East Bay. Don't worry, I have suggestions for London as well, starting with replacing the congestion charge with an outright ban on private cars for non-disabled people.