How Safe Are You on Berkeley’s South Side Streets?

by Steed Dropout
Feb. 16, 2014


Welcome to the peaks and valley’s of rippled south side sidewalks, where you face the danger of your own feet, as they embed in tortured concrete from our last big quake twenty-five years ago.

According to the president of Telegraph property owners, planners in city government have relegated South Side streets to another state–the State of Neglect.

South side residents are painfully aware of killer side walks, but they will–sooner or later–be fingered by the fickle sidewalks of Berkeley’s most dangerous neighborhood, known for burglaries, smart phone and computer snatchings. Murder is rare, but serious stumbles abound.

Killer hump which upended a Berkeley reporter. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Notable face plants (face-thud to the walk): a Cal professor plants his face on a South side walk and winds up in the emergency room. A nuclear physicist undergoes $30,000 in dental repairs after a face-plant.

Street kids near the Med amuse themselves with tripsters who fall for the same old crack. “They are so busy trying to avoid our eyes, they aren’t watching where they’re going,” one told me. Another, stationed across from a relatively innocuous crack for three years, has witnessed hundreds of stumbles and at least fifty crashing falls.


The blind are more wary and their canes do the watching-out.

According to a recent (sighted) victim, and reporter, he was moving at a race-walk pace, rushing home from a photo-shoot near Cal, when he was thrown to the street by an inch-high asphalt hump.

Tripper-upper outside Caffe Med. Photo by Ted Friedman.

When he sprang up from the rude downing, his knee was spurting blood, one of his cameras was trashed, and his best photos were erased. His index finger is not yet working, he told me–four days later.

“I’ve tripped on such land-mines, before,” he noted. “I was rushing home to submit my photos, re-living the shoot, and could have been more careful.”

“This is not the first time, I’ve been mangled,” he related. “I might have seen this coming,” he added, noting that he’s been working on a piece about side-walk safety.

A block from killer hump. Photo by Ted Friedman.


“I carried a flashlight I was not using,” he admits. “I had a lot on my mind. I broke my concentration; this was not the first time. Three years ago, while covering a wee-hours story in People’s Park, he bloodied his knee near the park. A few years earlier, he had wound up in ER with a dislocated middle finger, which he was crookedly hoisting (“it wouldn’t move”) for five hours in a crammed-to-the-rafters ER.

He was about to object to his situation when the man next to him died. “The nurses complimented me on my patience,” he told me. “I’ll never forget it,” he said.

But forget it he did, Thursday night.

“I guess these falls are the price we pay, for living on Berkeley’s South Sideā€¦like a bridge toll,” he rationalized. “At least I’ve avoided face-plants,” he added.

For now.

Bad fix. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Full disclosure. The fallen Berkeley Reporter was me.

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