Posts Tagged ‘Oakland’

Sacramento St in Berkeley is currently under construction for what is described as a “complete streets” project. Here is the existing conditions:

As you can see, this is an extremely wide 4-lane arterial running through a residential neighborhood. The roadway has very low traffic volumes, leading to speeding and dangerous passing. The obvious solution would be a road diet to reduce speeds and space for buffered bike lanes (or perhaps even cycletracks). Instead, the city is only proposing to put in some new intersection treatments without doing any lane reductions or other measures to reduce speeding.

Let’s compare to a very similar project going on along Oakland’s 14th Ave. Here is the existing road configuration, which as you can see is also a 4-lane residential arterial:

Given the similarity of the two streets, one might expect these neighboring cities to implement similar solutions. But aside from the intersection treatments, the approaches are quite different. Berkeley is not adding bike lanes and will maintain its street as a dangerous high-speed thoroughfare. Oakland is doing a full road diet to calm traffic. Thus, the Oakland project is complete, the Berkeley one is not. The sad thing is that the Berkeley project sits directly outside a BART station and connects to a popular bike trail. The top community concern in meetings was slowing traffic, so how did Berkeley end up doing the bare minimum?

Oakland 14th Ave road diet
Berkeley “Complete” Streets project

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Oakland screws up a simple road-diet

On the list of “low-hanging fruit” for bike projects in Oakland, it is hard to top Joaquin Miller Rd. It is a popular cycling route for accessing parks in the Oakland hills. But the road is grossly overbuilt for the minuscule car traffic it carries — 4 travel lanes, plus parking, and a wide median. As a result, there is a huge amount of speeding. A speed survey found 90% of drivers exceeding the 35 mph speed limit (with 50 mph not uncommon).

A road diet was the obvious solution for reducing speeds and providing improved bike/ped facilities. And so here is the re-striping plan that Oakland’s professional planners came up with:


As you can see, the uphill side (shown on the left) retains the two travel lanes. This of course does nothing to slow the speeding. And then there is the mess on the right: they removed one of the travel lanes, but did not use the extra space to create a bike lane. Instead there is a weird median buffer, for what purpose I have no idea.

It is hard to overstate the incompetence shown here. The road is sufficiently wide for buffered bike lanes, or perhaps even parking-protected cycle-track on both sides of the street. Instead we got a useless median buffer. Uphill cyclists are especially vulnerable due to the huge speed differential. And pedestrians will still have to contend with crossing a multi-lane arterial with speeding traffic.


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Substandard cycletracks

The good news is that planners are finally embracing cycle-tracks. The bad news is that they are still designing substandard cycle-tracks.

A previous posting discussed a substandard cycle-track in Alameda. On the other side of the channel in Oakland, we find yet another example of half-assed bike infrastructure. Oakland bike planners are proposing to build cycle-tracks on Fruitvale Ave. The cycle-tracks would run from the BART station, under I880, and out towards the Bay. For the most part, the project is satisfactory — except for the segment running past I880. It is that segment which is by far the most dangerous for cyclists. And it is in that segment where the cycle-tracks would disappear entirely. Bicyclists would have no physical protection from the heavy traffic coming on and off the freeway.

Even worse, the plan would sandwich an unprotected bike lane between a right-turn lane and through traffic. This is a proven failure, as demonstrated most spectacularly last week in San Francisco.





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Friday Night Videos

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So the Bay Area Council just posted this on their Twitter feed:


This is a great idea, and a long overdue.


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This morning, I needed to make a bike trip to the MacArthur BART Station Transit Village. This provided another opportunity to test out the 40th St. Green Stripe.

It will certainly be my last time riding this road.

One thing I hadn’t realized is that the Green Stripe has a big gap. It inexplicably does not reach Broadway. Perhaps Oakland ran out of green paint? The gap makes this project even dumber than I had imagined.

So as I rode the Green Stripe, a pimped-out Mercedes sedan pulled up behind me. Having the Green Stripe of protection, I established myself in the center of the lane. This resulted in considerable amount of honking, and I looked back to see the Mercedes riding mere inches from my back tire. As soon as a gap opened in the passing lane, the Mercedes zoomed close enough to force me off the road. I caught up at the light, and the usual road-raging ensued.

Of course, asshole drivers can show up anywhere, but they are attracted to wide arterials. Laying down a green stipe won’t work on a wide arterial with fast trafffic. It is time for Oakland to end this ridiculous experiment.

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It has gotten to the point that a dude can’t get laid without having his bike stolen.

In all seriousness, Oakland Measure DD has certainly made the Lake a nice place to walk and bike.

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Oakland’s 40th St is a classic road-diet candidate. A wide 4-lane arterial with left-turn pockets, it has minimal car traffic. But instead of implementing the road-diet (as called for in the Bike Plan), a “Green-Stripe” sharrow was painted instead. This morning, I made a site visit to see the results of their experiment.

The first observation is that cars were using both lanes. This was not good, as it meant higher travel speeds. Some had been hoping that the green-stripe would serve as a de-facto bike lane, but that was clearly not happening. Bikes should not have to share a lane with fast moving traffic.

I then spent some time observing how bikes were using the green-stripe sharrow. I observed 2 bikes riding to the right of the green-stripe (i.e. in the door zone). I saw another bicyclist riding on the sidewalk. 4 bicyclists did use the green-stripe as intended. I also saw another cyclist start down the street, but then cut over to the left lane to turn off onto a side street (can’t really blame him). I only had 30 minutes to observe the street operation, so this is not enough data to draw any firm conclusions. But the relatively small number of cyclists suggests the facility is not encouraging any new trips.

I will re-iterate points made in an earlier posting. The traffic volumes on 40th are sufficiently small enough that a road-diet could be easily built. That is what is called for in the Bike Plan. If Oakland city officials cannot accomplish even this trivial project, then they should just tear up the Bike Plan and terminate the bike staff.



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Bumper Tap Leads to Murder

Oakland police have released a chilling surveillance video of a road-rage homicide.

Last December, Charles Butler was parallel parking in front of a convenience store, and accidentally tapped the back bumper of a Lexus. Bumper taps are not an uncommon occurrence in urban neighborhoods, but in this case it may have led to a deadly argument. Butler and a passenger in the Lexus LS-400 can be seen in the convenience store. Butler then leaves the store, and departs in his car. The passenger gives chase on foot.

Moments later, out of range of cameras, Butler is shot dead in his car. The perpetrators are still at large.

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40th Street in Oakland is your classic road-diet candidate. It is a wide 4-lane arterial with minimal traffic — and it serves as an important connector between the Macarthur BART station and the big shopping center in Emeryville.

So why is Oakland planning Green-Stripe sharrows instead? Instead of standard bike lanes, Oakland Public Works wants to submit an application for non-standard green stripe sharrows. Here is what the application states:

The experiment is proposed for 40th Street between Adeline Street and Webster Street in proximity of the MacArthur BART Transit Station and Transit Village development. In California, the use of non-standard traffic control devices must be reviewed and approved by the California Traffic Control Devices Committee and by the Federal Highway Administration. The City will request
permission to experiment in 2012. If approved, the experiment would be conducted in 2012 and 2013.

Problem Statement
The California Vehicle Code requires bicyclists to “ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway” (CVC 21202(a)). Exceptions to this requirement include roadways with “a substandard width lane” defined as “a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane” (CVC 21202(a)(3)). In the City of Oakland, the majority of urban arterials and collectors have lane widths that are too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to operate side by side in a safe manner.

Hopefully the application will be rejected because the “Problem Statement” is erroneous. The real “problem statement” is the lack of political will to implement a simple road-diet. 40th Street traffic volumes are relatively low, thus a road-diet is the correct engineering solution for bike accommodation (and the dangerous speeding).

Even more distressing is the rationale used by Oakland planners to oppose bike lanes. The problem, they say, isn’t traffic volumes today, but future traffic volumes — partly due to a “transit-oriented” development in the works at the Macarthur BART station.

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