Bukowski Assault Underscores Need for More, Safer Bike/Ped access
Former Mayor and 6-term Council member Ken Bukowski survived an attempted armed-mugging last Saturday evening first reported by the Tattler while walking to the Watergate Condominiums (This story was not picked up on by the mainstream press). Shaken up and bloodied, Ken recounted his harrowing story at last weeks city council meeting and on the EPOA.us blog that he maintains. Per his description of the ordeal:
“On the West side of the bridge he was confronted by four black teenagers. One of them had a gun. At gun point the gunman demanded he empty his pockets. Instead of complying with the request he took off running toward Shellmound St. They gave chase, about 50 ft. away he tripped him, and he fell down. At which point he was accosted, hit over the head with the gun, kicked and punched. He managed to get up and started running again. They gave chase a second time, but he was able to get away.”
Ken refused an ambulance because he didn’t want to absorb the exuberant cost and was driven to Highland County hospital in Oakland where he was treated for cuts and bruises. “I don’t know if I’ll be over it for a long time” he says near the end of the video. I can relate to this as my own experience with being mugged right on Park Avenue was the motivation for creating this blog.
Per an email from crime EPD Crime Analyst Adrienne Robinson: “The incident occurred as stated in the Tattler. However, the gun was a CO2 Replica of a semi auto pistol. It was a BB gun, not a .45 Caliber. The juveniles were spotted and apprehended at 59th and Doyle Streets, and are currently in custody. In regards to the area, this is not a problem area. Because juveniles are involved in this case, there are confidentiality restrictions and we are bound by the juvenile court to keep their information confidential.”
Whether the gun was real or not is immaterial to me (Although Ken opting to run when a gun is pointing his direction seems ill-advised … give them your wallet!). The sad thing is it’s not the first time there’s been an assault here and those that have stalled access across our city and forced us into risky situations can consider themselves complicit. This alleyway is a trouble-spot and one that should be “flagged” by the EPD. No excuses. In fact this 2012 “Needs Analysis” document identifies this pathway as “Can be difficult to find; personal safety concerns due to the poor lighting and sight-lines”.
When I challenged Ms. Robinson to go by there at night and assess her own comfort level with the area, she agreed that “the lighting is poor”. “Our department is in the process of addressing the lighting in that area with the Public Market and the Hyatt House”. An Ad-Hoc Committee was actually formed last year to explore renovating this bridge but no timetable has been established for this to happen.
To me this spotlights the better need for more visible access ways across our divided city … like say a bike/ped bridge (hmm)?
The history of the South Bayfront Pedestrian-Bicycle Bridge & Horton Landing Park (or “Bay St. Bridge”) is a complicated one but has been in the works for well over a decade. The bridge was well on its way to being built when then council member John Fricke (an avid bicyclist himself) well-intentionally challenged its design as being non-bike friendly because of its narrow switchbacks and stairs (I’m recounting this from memory so correct me if I’m wrong). In fact, early designs discouraged bike use and didn’t have a dedicated bike lane. This “back to the drawing board” delay in design and the subsequent series of community meetings to correct this stalled the construction of the bridge by at least a year and the unanticipated and untimely dissolution of the redevelopment funds that were slated to build it put the project in limbo. Pending litigation against the state is the latest recourse to recoup the funds and preserve the bridge. The resolution of the lawsuit is a complicated one and one that a law degree is needed to decipher. The next judge ruling on this should occur before June 6 according to Economic Development and Housing Department Director Helen Bean. Meanwhile, over 3 million of the slated 15.5 million budgeted has already been spent (consequently the same amount already spent on the Center for the Arts that will also probably never be built). It’s not the first time we’ve seen plans get far enough down the pipeline before they are presented to the public for feedback. In fact the much ballyhooed Center for Community Life is just realizing that it’s “fortress-like” approach that excludes pedestrians and bicyclists forcing them onto the car-congested San Pablo Ave may need to be remedied as two bike and pedestrian access points are threatened to be cut from the General Plan.
The proposed bridge would be a sorely needed addition to what currently is only two ways of traversing a 1.3 mile vertical strip of the city between 40th and 65th. The Amtrak Station bridge at 59th … or “take your chances” crossing underneath Powell. Taking the 40th/Powell bridge is not exactly ideal either. It was just recently in response to criticism over safety from the EBBC that the bridge was converted to one car lane in each direction to provide a greater buffer for bicyclists (apparently former city manager John Flores was NOT a bicycle proponent?).
Whenever I chat with Park Avenue District and Christie Core neighbors about what’s happening in Emeryville, the subject matter ultimately turns to “The Bridge” which indicates that this is a high-priority for us. Adding to the pressure to “Build the bridge” is the pending Sherwin Williams Site Development. When I spoke with Joe Ernst, principal at SRM Ernst, he reiterated the strong desire and importance of the bridge to the success and occupancy of this development. While the city focuses on digital “Connectivity” (after all, we are the “The Best Connected City in the US” ;), the physical connectivity of our city seems to be a very low-priority and as much chatter there is about making our city walkable and bike-able, following through seems to be a bit more elusive. I moved to Emeryville because it seemed to be a town that “got things done”. Now they seem to just talk about things getting done and spend money on beautiful pictures and Powerpoint presentations of what it could look like … without ever actually “getting it done”. Meanwhile, private developments seemingly go up overnight.
Further Reading & Resources: