As city contractors stenciled new bike lanes last Friday at Oakland’s 25th and Webster Streets, a group of advocates, city staff, and elected officials celebrated the final project in Oakland’s busiest bicycling year to date.
“This year we put in 18.1 miles of new bike lanes and 292 new bike parking spots,” Council Member Libby Schaaf told the group.
Oakland was recently recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a Bronze Bicycle-Friendly City and “named one of the 20 most bike-friendly cities in the country,” noted Mayor Jean Quan, and “we’re working to get into the top ten.”
On top of a major expansion of bikeways this year, Uptown Oakland will get its own bike station as soon as 2013 near the 19th Street BART station, announced Jason Overman of Council Member Rebecca Kaplan’s office, which recently won a $500,000 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Safe Routes to Transit program to create a space similar to the Downtown Berkeley bike station and host valet bike parking and repairs.
Over the next two weeks, crews will complete the bike lane along the one-way Webster Street south to 14th Street, and a complementary bike lane will be installed on the parallel Franklin Street in January. Combined, the pair will create a north-south corridor to Downtown Oakland.
Many of Oakland’s 2011 bike projects focused on completing the network of bike lanes and sharrows, including segments of major crosstown routes like Fruitvale, Lakeshore, Telegraph, and West Grand Avenues, as well as Foothill Boulevard and East 12th Street.
The Webster-Franklin route, an alternative to the high-speed Broadway, is a key victory for EBBC and WOBO’s joint Oakland Bikeways Campaign, which calls for the city to implement its entire Bicycle Master Plan by 2020 and prioritize key routes like Webster and Franklin.
Mayor Quan challenged the bicycle community to focus on advocating for underserved and disadvantaged communities, evoking the 100 Block Crime Plan from her mayoral campaign. East Bay Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Renee Rivera heartily agreed, commending city staff and leadership for putting bikeways where they’re needed, not just where they’re easy.
“It’s not just putting down more miles, but miles that connect, and create a safe, continuous network that really gets you where you need to go and doesn’t drop you along the way,” said Rivera. “We need to make Oakland a safe place to bike for everyone. We need to pay more attention to the eastern side of town, working with great partners like Cycles of Change and their earn-a-bike program, and bringing more infrastructure to the east side where it’s so badly needed.”
Gloria Bruce, Chair of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, struck a similar chord. “It’s a relatively small public investment that pays huge dividends for the thousands of Oaklanders who want to, or need to, walk and bike around the city,” she said. “They’re very hip and cool, but in addition to hip and cool folks, they also serve folks that want to be empowered, that want to access work and play in safe and green ways.”
While 2011 was a big year for bike improvements in Oakland, the 18 miles completed fall far below the city’s goal of 32 miles.
“We expected so much more to get done this year,” explained Jason Patton, manager of the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Program. “We’ve got about 20 additional miles of striping alone. We’re just waiting for [the contractors] to stripe, we’ve got another 20 miles of sign projects, and we’re just waiting to do those. All of the major striping contractors have active work in Oakland right now.”
“We’re probably still going to hit” 32 miles, he said, “but it will be fiscal year [ending June 2012] or even August 2012. It looks like 2012 will be the year where more happens than ever.”
In 2012, Oakland expects to implement bicycle improvements on:
- Fourteenth Street from Mandela to Brush, connecting the edge of downtown to the center of West Oakland
- Broadway from 22nd Street to I-580, or approximately 35th Street
- MacArthur Boulevard between Telegraph and Broadway, where six vehicle lanes will be reduced to four
The Webster-Shafter corridor, between Rockridge and Downtown Oakland, will be painted with sharrows, of which Patton remarked, “We’ve never seen such a positive response in public comment before.”
After that? “We’re running out of easy projects,” said Patton. “At some point it’s going to start slowing down.”
“You’ve got to realize that we didn’t start putting in bike lanes until 1976 and today it’s 110 miles, plus or minus,” said Public Works Director Vitaly Troyan. “We’ve got 800 miles of streets, we’ve got 100 miles of bike lanes, so what does that mean? We’ve got 700 more to go.”
Bike advocates in Alameda County will face a challenge next year when Measure B, the county’s transportation sales tax, comes up for renewal on the November ballot. Measure B funds, pointed out Quan, made the Webster bike lane project possible, and advocates will have the chance to increase the proportion devoted to bike infrastructure in next year’s vote.
“Oakland has always fought for larger share of that not just to be for cars,” she said, “but to be for buses and public transportation and bike lanes. Those hearings will be coming up and we need you to all to come out and speak for bikes.”
Quan dedicated the Webster Street project to the memory of Ron Bishop, a long-time cycling advocate who passed away earlier this week. Bishop, Rivera said, would have been proud of the Webster/Franklin bike lanes, but friends privately noted later that he would probably call it a good start.