Excessive Travel Prohibitions on Grade Separations in Berkeley
In 1952 the City of Berkeley prohibited bicycling, and in certain
circumstances, walking and having animals (even if "tethered") on "grade
separations" in Berkeley.  Grade separations are defined quite broadly to
include "every structure by means of which any street passes over or under
any stationary rails or tracks or another street". (Ord. 3262-NS 1.7,
As a result, it appears that in truth a large portion of everyday
activities in Berkeley are illegal.  Under the B.M.C. sections 14.28.010,
14.28.020, 14.28.030 covering bicycles, pedestrians, and animals, it is
considered illegal ride a bicycle, and possibly to walk or to walk a dog
on a leash, on the following "grade separations":
a) The new bicycle/pedestrian bridge to the marina
b) The Ohlone Greenway
c) The Solano Tunnel
d) The tunnel under I-80 on the Gilman Street bike route (if there is no
designated or constructed place to walk there, then pedestrians are
prohibited as well)
e) Everyplace where there is an underground or overground BART track,
including Shattuck Avenue
f) The Ashby underpass
g) The Marin Circle
h) The University overpass
The new bicycle/pedestrian bridge to the Berkeley Marina is considered a
"highway" or "street" under a recent position from the City Attorney, as
it will be a place "publicly maintained and open to the use of the public
for purposes of vehicular travel" under CVC 590.  The City Attorney has
taken the position that use of the term "vehicle" under the Vehicle Code
refers to all traffic and includes bicycles and indeed, pedestrians.
Rescind the sections of the B.M.C. chapter on grade separations 14.28.010,
14.28.020, 14.28.030 covering bicycles, pedestrians, and animals.
These laws prohibiting walking, bicycling, and animals on grade
separations are antiquated and serve little purpose. They were enacted in
1952 before the creation of the BART system, the I-80 freeway, and the new
bicycle and pedestrian bridge to the Marina, and could not have
anticipated how widespread grade separations would be in Berkeley.
Furthermore, these laws are not necessary for the regulation of traffic,
as the Vehicle Code provides ample provision to prohibit or regulate
traffic in tunnels and overpasses, such as in CVC 21109(a):
21109.  (a) Local authorities may adopt rules and regulations by ordinance
or resolution regulating vehicular and pedestrian traffic in subways,
tubes, and tunnels or upon bridges or viaducts.
The City Council may therefore selectively regulate traffic on the
University overpass or Solano tunnel under State Law, with no need to
reinvent these three sections of the B.M.C. chapter on grade separations.
Rescinding these antiquated sections presents an excellent opportunity to
improve the function and access to our grade separations.
1) Solano Tunnel:
The Solano Tunnel prohibition presents an unnecessary and unreasonable
obstacle for bicyclists, and degrades already poor pedestrian and
wheelchair access.
At present, bicyclists and pedestrians (including people who use
wheelchairs) share an inadequately narrow walkway.  In fact that walkway
may be too narrow to fit a wheelchair.  Additionally, it is both unclear
and unsafe for northbound bicyclists to comply with the direction to walk
on the narrow, raised sidewalk.  The sidewalk cannot be used by most
bicycles with trailers, and alternate routes are maze-like, unmarked, and
involve climbing significant grades (which can be especially difficult for
those pulling trailer loads).  Furthermore, alternate routes place
bicyclists on bicycle-unfriendly streets such as Marin Avenue and The
Alameda.  Finally, the tunnel is very short and is a direct connection
between the bicycle lanes of Sutter and the primary destination of the
Solano Avenue retail district.  It would greatly benefit Berkeley's
bicyclists to have the ability to choose use of the Solano Tunnel safely
and legally.
The prohibition of bicycling in the Solano Tunnel should be rescinded and
the City should consider whether to place a flashing sign warning of
"bicycle in tunnel".  Such signs are in use in this country, such as along
the Pacific Coast bicycle route in Oregon.  Bicyclists pedal up to the
sign which is adjacent to the roadway, and press a button before entering
the tunnel.  The sign flashes for an adequate length of time for a
bicyclist to complete the journey through the tunnel.
In this case, the City would not need to re-prohibit the Solano Tunnel.
2) University Avenue overpass:
Because the City is providing the excellent new access which will open up
the Berkeley Marina to people who use wheelchairs, people who cannot climb
stairs, people who cannot carry bicycles or strollers, bicycling or
car-free families with small children, and bicyclists who use trailers,
the need for bicyclists and pedestrians to use the University Avenue
overpass is significantly diminished.  The only bicyclists who will use
the University Avenue overpass are those who prefer a direct and speedy
route over I-80, and those who do not know of the availability of the new
The City could choose at this time to open the University Avenue overpass
to bicyclists so that the small minority of strong cyclists who continue
to use the University Overpass will not be criminalized.  In any event,
the directions to the bike route and to the new bike bridge should be very
clear at all points leading to the University overpass, to reduce
unintentional bicyclist use of the overpass.  Signage should also be
placed warning to "Watch for Bicycles" whether or not the prohibition is
In this case, the City would not need to re-prohibit the University
overpass, and would simply need to place signage that should be placed
The antiquated local Berkeley ordinance regarding grade separations must
be changed as soon as possible so as to reflect a Berkeley which cares
about bicycle, pedestrian and animal traffic. It would be particularly
embarrasing for the City to hold a grand opening of the new bridge to the
marina yet be unable to legally use the bridge.  Furthermore, these
unreasonable laws may leave open the possibilty of misuse for harassment
purposes, which would harm our fragile democracy and could open the City
to liability.