The city of Berkeley will update Martin Luther King Jr. Way by 2023 to eliminate severe and fatal traffic crashes as a part of Vision Zero.
Vision Zero is a 2018 Berkeley City Council policy aiming to improve traffic safety and promote equitable mobility by redeveloping streets, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko. Other goals include promoting public awareness and traffic enforcement, Chakko added.
“We know that based on studies from the data from 2008 to 2018, 91% of severe and fatal collisions have occurred on just 16% of our streets,” said Stefan Elgstrand, legislative aide to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín. “MLK is one of those streets.”
The project is composed of several improvements, including the installation of rectangular rapid flashing beacons to mark pedestrian crossings, median pedestrian refuge islands, red paint prohibiting parking near intersections, high-visibility crosswalk and roadway striping, pavement markings and delineators, pavement rehabilitation and curb ramp construction, according to Chakko.
Contractors will make improvements on MLK Jr. Way between Dwight Way and Russell Street, a half-mile stretch of roadway, including nine different intersections, according to Elgstrand.
The street is also crossed by many elementary, middle and high school students getting to and from school, according to Liza Lutzker, a member of Walk Bike Berkeley’s coordinating committee. Walk Bike Berkeley advocates for safe walking and biking in the city and was involved in the push for the Vision Zero policy and writing the city’s first Vision Zero action plan, Lutzker noted.
“I actually live on a stretch of MLK, so I know from firsthand experience that it can be dangerous,” Elgstrand said. “We want to make sure that our streets are safe and accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
The project is estimated to cost $1,266,000.
While Lutzker said she feels that these improvements will address many safety issues, she would also like to see the city pursue long-term solutions like a road diet that would remove some lanes dedicated to cars to make more space for pedestrians.
“This is an important street to work on to help Berkeley achieve our transportation mobility equity goals,” Lutzker said.
Other streets that have been or will be improved under the Vision Zero plan include Shattuck Avenue, Bancroft Way and University Avenue — streets regularly used by UC Berkeley students to get to and from class. The city hopes to complete these improvements over the next six years, according to Elgstrand.
The city is also hoping to encourage alternative forms of transportation through the updates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 60% of which are related to transportation in Berkeley, according to Elgstrand.
“We are committed to making these improvements and we want to make sure that we eliminate severe and fatal accidents, which is what Vision Zero is all about,” Elgstrand said.