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Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008
S P E C I A L   E D I T IO N   -   S A F E T Y   U P D A T E


Resolution for 2008: Safe Transit for Autos, Bicycles and Pedestrians

Berkeley Lab Director Steve Chu is starting off the New Year with a resolution for all Berkeley Lab employees, and he wants you to know that he means it. No more polite appeals for responsible behavior to keep Lab roadways and sidewalks safe, he says. It is time to act.

Chu’s sensitivity was raised just prior to the holidays, as he was leaving the Lab at night via the main exit at Blackberry Gate. A bicyclist was heading down the hill, presumably at the speed limit of 25 miles per hour and with all the requisite lights. After he passed the main bus stop near Building 65, he collided with another employee walking across the roadway not using the designated crosswalk. The incident ended with stitches for the pedestrian and a black eye for the bicyclist, but Chu – a bicyclist himself – knew it could have been much worse. (It is important to note that the only accident fatality at the Lab in recent memory occurred a few decades ago when a bicyclist heading down the hill past Blackberry Gate hit and killed a pedestrian).

Add to this a general concern about autos and bicycles exceeding the speed limit regularly on Lab property, especially on downhill grades, and the scattershot adherence to the helmet rule mandated by Lab policy, and you’ve got the ingredients for a disaster just waiting to happen.

Several options to enforce safety are already being implemented or considered, including a regular radar check of vehicle speeds by UC police, the electronic identification of violators, and increased enforcement of traffic laws. Manually triggered crossing lights at vulnerable intersections and curves and a decrease in the speed limits at night in certain areas are also being discussed.

But in the end, Chu notes, it is up to individual employees to ensure that they and their colleagues are safe. Bicyclists need to obey all traffic laws (including riding within speed limits), use hand signals early and often to alert drivers of turns, activate bright headlights and rear lights at dusk and after dark, wear a helmet, and join the Lab Bicycle Coalition to work toward improved facilities and safer riding conditions. Read the Lab’s bicycle safety policy here. The PUB 3000 chapter on Traffic and Transportation can be accessed here.

Pedestrians should always use established crosswalks when entering roadways, and passers-by who observe contrary behavior have the responsibility to remind them of the rules. “It has been my directive since I arrived at the Lab that employees need to look out for each other and ensure the common safety and health of everyone here,” Chu said.  “It should be part of the Laboratory culture, every day of the year, that violations of policy, law or common courtesy will not be tolerated at Berkeley Lab.”

Automobile drivers must, of course, adhere to all state traffic laws, and especially to the speed limits, while driving at the Lab. These will be monitored and enforced, with the potential penalties including a revoked privilege of driving and parking on site.

The Laboratory Safety Review Committee is asking that employees submit their concerns, ideas and suggestions to [email protected].  “We should target all forms of traffic -- vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians -- and all staff -- including security personnel, students, and guests,” Chu added.  “The people who work here already know where there are problems with speeding, lighting, poor visibility, etc., so we should tap that knowledge.”

An incentive reward of $50 will be offered to the winner of periodic drawings involving those who submit suggestions via the e-mail address.

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