The northeast boundary of Berkeley and of the area I am walking is Tilden Park. I originally thought that my walk of every street and pathway of Berkeley might include Tilden, but the park is actually located in unincorporated Contra Costa County. Although I like Tilden and its hiking trails, I am grateful that I do not need to walk the roads in the 2000-acre park, many of which are pretty hazardous for the pedestrian. Tilden offers hiking opportunities on a variety of levels — everything from a pleasant flat stroll to a strenuous trek up to Wildcat Peak or Vollmer Peak, plus a swimming lake, picnic areas, trails open to mountain bikes, steam trains, a botanic garden, a farm and environmental education center, and more. I have been pleased to learn from walking near the Tilden border that the park and its amenities are more accessible without a car than many other Bay Area hiking areas. For one, the 67 AC Transit bus runs every half hour or so from downtown Berkeley BART up through the park on weekends, and near the entrance on weekdays (line 65 also comes within a few blocks of the park). I also found that there a number of other ways to pop onto to trails in Tilden from the surrounding neighborhoods. This has been one of my favorite parts of walking near Tilden; to be strolling down the street and suddenly see a trail entrance.
A few days ago I was reading an article in the Chronicle about the Berkeley State of the City address, one of the focuses of which was a vision for a more environmentally sustainable Berkeley. In the article, one Berkeley councilmember was quoted as saying that the environmental goals were “very optimistic”; “It’s going to be very hard to change people,” she said. “In my district alone, we’ve got to stop people driving up and down the hill four or five times a day.” This statement reminded me of the observation that I have found that the most unpleasant streets for walking are not just near the freeway entrances. Cedar, Hopkins, and Marin are particularly car-choked, especially on weekdays from about 2:30 on, as people pick up children from school, run errands, and come home from work. These streets seems to have a constant stream of traffic as the main thoroughfares from the Highway 80 and the flatland areas of Berkeley up into the almost entirely residential Berkeley hills.
I am not the best person to come up with ideas for getting people to drive less and reducing the amount of traffic in the hills. My idea of what is doable in terms of walking is unreasonable for most people, and it is not my place to make judgments about how people use their time or the decisions they make about how they go about their lives. I have often thought that one area where traffic could be reduced is trips to parks and hiking areas. What if, for instance, shuttles (run on alternative fuel) ran every 15-20 minutes or so from transit hubs (such as BART or Caltrain stations) or downtown areas of Bay Area cities to the various city/county/regional/state parks? If you made it easy and pleasant, some people might be willing to leave the car at home rather than drive up winding roads and worry about finding a parking spot at the park. Realistically and logistically, this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, so we have to make do with what is available. I hope eventually to research the best car-free ways to get to parks and recreation areas in the Bay Area, as it is often confusing to figure out and sometimes involves two or three different transit agencies. Tilden, luckily, is fairly straightforward and not too much of a hassle if you live in Berkeley or near BART. I also want to know what the shortest route on foot is from a the North Berkeley and downtown BART stations to Tilden. One of the nice things about Berkeley’s stairways is that a pleasant walk could be had up the various stairways from the flatlands to the park, avoiding some of the steep and winding streets.