Oakland Proposes Parking-Protected Bike Lanes on Telegraph Avenue

Bikes and buses jockey for position along Telegraph Avenue in Temescal. Planners say protected bike lanes are “likely” options on most of Telegraph in Oakland — except for this stretch. Photo: David Jaeger / Jonah Chiarenza, www.community-design.com

The City of Oakland has released preliminary design options [PDF] for a redesign of Telegraph Avenue, which include parking-protected bike lanes, improvements to speed up AC Transit lines, and pedestrian safety upgrades. Planners will hold open house meetings to collect input on the design options starting next week.

“We’re very excited they’ve released a lot of different options,” said Dave Campbell, advocacy director for Bike East Bay. “It’s a very robust set of choices and allows people to make an informed decision on the best ones.”

This is the first time Telegraph is being revisited for a redesign since it was taken out of the East Bay Bus Rapid Transit route that begins construction this fall. The proposal to extend BRT on Telegraph to Berkeley was dropped after merchants fought to preserve car parking.

The Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets Implementation Plan looks at the stretch from 57th Street to 20th Street, a few blocks short of Telegraph’s end at Broadway in downtown Oakland, where the Latham Square pilot plaza was prematurely removed. Under some of the proposals, much of Telegraph could get parking-protected bike lanes (a.k.a. “cycle tracks”) by re-purposing traffic lanes and preserving parking lanes.

Oakland’s project website notes that “despite the lack of bike facilities, Telegraph Avenue is one of the most heavily traveled routes for cyclists, with over 1,200 daily cyclists.”

Bike East Bay is “super delighted to see proposed cycle tracks for a good segment of the street, and think there are some good options as well through the section with the freeway underpass,” said Campbell.

Telegraph Avenue today. Photo by Jonah Chiarenza, www.community-design.com

“It is becoming more and more challenging to balance all the needs along Telegraph,” said Kristine Shaff, a spokesperson for the City of Oakland. “There are buses, delivery vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, and cars. We have tried to come up with alternatives that can address this balance… we’re looking forward to hearing people’s responses to these concepts.”

Shaff said the proposals incorporate feedback from public outreach already done, including a survey of 1,100 people [PDF] who use Telegraph. Bike East Bay noted in a blog post:

The most requested improvement is continuous bicycle facilities with 60% support, specifically protected lanes and green paint to promote safety and visibility. Even 53% of ‘frequent drivers’ support bike improvements, and the highest priority improvement from business owners responding is also bike lanes—higher than more parking and less congestion.

Planners presented options for Telegraph in three segments, which have different street widths and traffic volumes. The first is from 57th to Claremont Avenue and 52nd Street, the second through the Temescal neighborhood to 48th Street, and the third south of 48th to 20th downtown.

Each segment has several design options. The report doesn’t name a “preferred option,” but it does include a table listing the “most likely” options for each segment of the street, based on existing conditions, engineering judgment, and public input.

“Every option is still open,” said Shaff. “We want to get these ideas out there, and we need everybody’s perspective to improve walking and biking along the corridor, at the same time that we preserve transit and vehicle operations.”

A design option with parking-protected bike lanes on Telegraph between 20th and 48th Streets. Image: City of Oakland

The “most likely” options for the northern and southern segments include protected bike lanes, but the Temescal segment in the middle does not. Because of car traffic headed to and from nearby freeway ramps, the city’s report says that removing traffic lanes there would delay drivers too much during rush hour, as determined by the car-centric transportation planning measurement Level of Service.

“I agree that Temescal is a challenge,” said Campbell. “But we still maintain that lane reduction through Temescal is feasible, and would allow us to preserve parking and loading zones, while creating good bikeways.”

Most of the people coming off the freeway in Temescal are cutting through to drive elsewhere, said Campbell. “They’re not stopping or shopping in the area. I’m cautious about street design that gives priority to that traffic,” he said. “The people who live, work, and shop in Temescal should be the ones who have the stronger voice in this discussion.”

“We’re looking forward to getting as much input as possible,” he said, urging all residents and travelers who use Telegraph to weigh in.

The City of Oakland will hold three open houses starting next week, where planners will collect input to inform a preferred option. That’s scheduled to be presented this summer, along with a design and implementation plan, including cost estimates. From there, planners can seek funding.

Here are the three scheduled open houses:

  • Thursday, April 24, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Beebe Memorial Cathedral, 3900 Telegraph Avenue.
  • Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to noon at Faith Presbyterian Church, 430 49th Street.
  • Thursday, May 1, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street (accessible entrance at 411 28th Street).
  • AJ

    It’s hard to not have mixed feelings about lane removal for cycle tracks in Temescal. They would be great for cycling and good for traffic calming, but not so good for buses. Fascinating how only a couple years ago we were discussing dedicated bus lanes to improve speeds and reliability, and now we’re discussing lane removal to slow buses down more. Keeping all that damn parking makes it feel like choosing between children.

  • Prinzrob

    I agree somewhat, but note that AC Transit has been integrated into the Telegraph planning and design process from the beginning, and this project has the potential to improve service and safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users alike.

    Buses on Telegraph are currently slowed down by having to jockey with bicyclists for curbside space, by having stops situated on the nearside of traffic signals, and by uncoordinated signals which don’t prioritize bike and bus speeds. Mitigations for these issues are all being included in the plan, which could result in faster bus speeds despite the lane reductions. There have also been some proposals for peak hour bus-only lanes which become car parking throughout the rest of the day.

    Beyond that, AC Transit has stated that the main drag on service speeds through this corridor is due to fare collection, so they could deal with that internally by offering things like free or highly discounted Clipper cards for seniors (who are demographically more likely to pay in cash) and by instituting front/rear door boarding policies like Muni in SF.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    AC Transit needs Clipper-only boarding everywhere it operates. Waiting for people to get the stupid dime out of their pockets is, I’m pretty sure, the #1 cause of AC Transit bus delays. It’s ridiculous. There’s no way they are recouping the dime.

    All-door boarding would be a huge help as well.

  • Scott Mace

    Getting bikes out of the way of buses? Don’t you mean cars?

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