September 20, 2018

As you know, pedestrian safety and traffic calming is a top priority of mine. Many of you have made requests to see traffic calming and improvements in our district. I want to give you an update on many of your requests, and also provide additional guidance on how to use the new light at Hillegass Ave. @ Ashby Ave.

HAWK Light at Hillegass Ave @ Ashby Ave.

A number of factors went into this site being chosen for this type of light. Ashby Avenue is a major state route, there are a high number of pedestrians and bicyclists, and Hillegass is a bike boulevard. In addition, the light was paid for by Caltrans, which funded the project as part of a settlement with a neighborhood group over the creation of the fourth bore at the Caldecott Tunnel, (The Fourth Bore Coalition - Below, I’ve included an infographic explaining the light. I am also providing answers to questions that my office has received since the light was installed.


Question: Why isn’t this just a normal traffic light that activates when someone bikes/walks on Hillegass Ave.?
Answer: CalTrans proposed to install a regular traffic signal years ago, but the neighbors were concerned that a traffic light would encourage additional traffic on Hillegass, which is a bicycle boulevard. A Pedestrian-Hybrid Beacon light, which is what is installed, gives priority to bicyclists and pedestrians but retains stop sign control for cars on Hillegass, and was permissible by CalTrans.

Question: Why are there blinking red lights (in addition to blinking yellow, yellow, and red lights)?
Answer: The blinking yellow lights indicate the beginning of the progression of lights: Blinking yellow = ‘The light is going to turn on’ -> Yellow = ‘Get ready to stop’ -> Red = ‘Stop’ -> Blinking red = ‘Stop, then proceed if clear’

Question: As you bike on Hillegass Ave., why don’t you see a bicycle signal in addition to a pedestrian walk signal?
Answer: Though a bicycle signal would be ideal, CalTrans would not permit it. The pedestrian signal serves both bicyclists and pedestrians.

Question: As you drive on Ashby and have a red light at the signal, if you see that a pedestrian is crossing Ashby on the crosswalk furthest away from you, is it okay to make a left turn during the red?
Answer: No, It should be treated exactly as a red light at a standard traffic signal. Turning left on red from a two-way street is illegal and will be cited if observed. By turning left on red, you run the risk of hitting a second pedestrian or jogger in the near crosswalk, or a bike arriving after the pedestrian.

Question: If a car is driving on Hillegass and has no cross traffic on Ashby, can they cross even if there is a red pedestrian hand up (facing them)?
Answer: If a car driving on Hillegass stops at the stop sign, they may then proceed when it is clear, even if the pedestrian signal shows a “don’t walk” indication. The only traffic control for cars on Hillegass is the stop sign, which must be obeyed whether the pedestrian indication is red or green. Cars driving through without stopping during a green walk signal may be cited for running the stop sign.

While I’m relieved to have the light finally up and running after over a decade of advocacy by neighbors, I understand that it will take some time to adjust to it. The City welcomes feedback on this crossing and we will gladly communicate any input to our Transportation Department and Commission. In the meantime, my office has heard from many people that they now feel safe bicycling and walking across that intersection, especially children travelling to Willard Middle School.

Other Completed projects:

  • High visibility crosswalk and flashing beacon lights at College @ Garber as part of Emerson Safe Routes to School
  • High visibility crosswalk and flashing beacon lights at Brookside @ Claremont Ave.
  • Bulbouts and cross-hatches at Forest @ Claremont Blvd.,Piedmont @ Forest, Piedmont @ Garber to calm traffic around Emerson Elementary
  • Leading pedestrian intervals to improve safe crossing at Ashby @ Claremont

Future Projects :

  • Design/Construction for Woolsey/Eton Traffic Circle
  • Claremont/Eton Ave RRFB  
  • John Muir Elementary School pedestrian crossing with lights
  • Claremont/Russell HAWK (pending additional funding)
  • Tunnel/Oak Ridge Light Improvements
  • Lewiston/Alcatraz Crosswalk Repainting
  • Additional stop bar at Derby @ College

Clearly there are exciting projects planned for our neighborhood. The big challenge for implementation is ensuring that we have appropriate staff levels. I am regularly meeting with our City Manager to emphasize the importance of ensuring that we can complete these projects sooner rather than later. I am fully supportive of hiring more staff so we can accomplish our goals to make our city safer. If you have any questions about the status of these projects, please reach out to our office and Farid Javandel

Additional transportation policies:

  • Vision Zero Update: As you know, City Council rated my legislation to make Berkeley a Vision Zero City its top priority for this year, with the goal of eliminating pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and major injuries. Since then, staff has begun incorporating goals of Vision Zero into the City’s long term plans, and working on those details with the Transportation Commission.
  • Traffic Calming Criteria: I wrote legislation to make it easier for neighborhood streets to qualify for traffic calming. Additionally, I co-authored legislation to consideration of additional or supplemental stop sign criteria to address the needs the vulnerable populations, the presence of bicycle boulevards, and the difficulty of crossing particular intersections. 
  • Protecting Pedestrians During Construction: To make sure that our pedestrians can walk safely past construction sites in Berkeley, I passed legislation to ensure more accessible sidewalks. All too often, sidewalks are suddenly blocked during construction and pedestrians are forced to walk in the street. We need to ensure that there are protected avenues for pedestrians and people in wheelchairs.
  • Addressing Beg Buttons: Pedestrians should automatically be given walk signals at every traffic intersection. All too often, pedestrians have to use “beg buttons” in order to cross the street. I wrote legislation to make our intersections more hospitable to pedestrians.

Coming to Council: On 9/25 Mayor Arreguin, Councilmembers Davila, Bartlett and I are asking our Parks and Waterfront and Transportation Commission to set up a community-led process to address vegetation in our traffic circles. You can find that item and the whole agenda here.

Office Hours: My monthly office hours will be October 4, from 9:30-11am, at Espresso Roma on College at Ashby. As always, if you can’t make this time, please feel free to reach out and schedule an individual appointment!

Lori Droste
Berkeley City Councilmember, District 8 

Need a sidewalk repair? Want to request a City service? Use Berkeley's online 311 form (either through the General Request form or a specific topic) or call 311 from a landline, or 510-981-2489. Please note that my office routes all the service requests we receive through this customer service center, so your request will be handled most efficiently by directly contacting 311.

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City/UC Student Relations Committee (4x6 Committee)

September 24, 9am -11am, Senate Chambers in Eshleman Hall, UC Berkeley, 2465 Bancroft Way more info here. Agenda includes:

  • Discussion of Berkeley City Council on Proposed Amendments to the Group Living Accommodation (GLA) Ordinance (Arreguin)
  • Update on Campus Area National Night Out Against Crime (Worthington)
  • Informational Report on UC/City Housing Efforts (Lizardo / Worthington)


Elmwood Wine Walk

Enjoy a leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll in The Elmwood and sample over 70 wines!

Sunday 1-5 pm, Sept. 23, 2018

For more information on wines, participating retailers and restaurants, transportation, parking suggestions and more, go to 50% of the event’s net proceeds will be donated to Berkeley United in Literacy Development (BUILD). BUILD is one of the largest reading programs in the East Bay.


City of Berkeley Harvest Festival

Saturday, October 13, 10:00am - 4:00pm: Harvest Festival
Cedar Rose Park, 1300 Rose Street (at Hopkins)

Our annual Harvest Festival features a Food Expo, Garden Expo, Community Resources, food contests and demos, and a Kids' Zone with face painting, bounce house, balloon art, pumpkin and scarecrow making and much more! Stage performances by Spazmatics, Motor Dude Zydeco, and Tortilla Soup.


Outdoor Movie At Willard Park: Kubo And The Two Strings

Our summer of Friday night movies in Berkeley parks ends this week with a showing of Kubo and the Two Strings, which will be showing at Willard Park.

September 21, 7:30pm: Kubo and the Two Strings, Willard Park,  2730 Hillegass Avenue

Please arrive at least 30 minutes before the movie begins. Bring blankets, sleeping bags and/or low-back beach chairs with a maximum height of 9 inches off the ground, so the view of other patrons is not blocked. A flashlight or headlamp makes walking out at the end of the night easier. Limited street parking is available. This is an alcohol free event.


Forming Utility Undergrounding Districts (UUDs)
Please attend a meeting at 7:00pm on September 27 at Northbrae Community Church, 914 The Alameda, Berkeley, CA 94707 to hear:

-An introduction to
-An overview of Berkeley’s undergrounding study and anticipated actions in the next year.
-The status of CPUC Electric Rule Review including the difference between 20A and 20B.
-How to successfully form an utility undergrounding district

Q and A will follow.