Oakland Opens its First Concrete-Curb-Protected Bike Lane

Ryan Russo, Dan Kalb, Renee Rivera and Ann Smulka cut the ribbon on Oakland's first concrete -protected bike lane. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick
Ryan Russo, Dan Kalb, Renee Rivera and Ann Smulka cut the ribbon on Oakland's first concrete -protected bike lane. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick

Some twenty advocates, planners and officials attended a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning for the opening of Oakland’s first concrete, fully protected cycletrack bike lane. The lane runs along upper Broadway between Keith Ave and Brookside Drive, next to SR 24. “This is a great way to spend my third hour on my first day on the job,” said Ryan Russo, Oakland’s new DOT chief, during the brief ribbon-cutting ceremony. Russo, as Streetsblog readers are probably aware, came from New York’s DOT to head up Oakland’s new department. “This is emblematic of what Mayor Libby Schaaf and the community has decided it wants to do.”

To be clear, this is not Oakland’s first on-street “protected” bike lane–that would be on Telegraph, which has a parking-protected bike lane. That lane uses paint and plastic bollards to re-position the parking lanes, so the parked cars act as physical protection. This new lane actually has a physical buffer and concrete divider.

“This is such an exciting day for us,” said Renee Rivera, executive director of Bike East Bay. “This intersection used to be pretty hairy for bikes, pedestrians, and even cars…this is now an exemplary example of a complete street.”

This cycle track, meanwhile, was funded through the city’s settlement agreement with Caltrans over the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel. The lawsuit against Caltrans called for $8 million to be allocated for traffic safety improvements around the Broadway/Tunnel Road area to help reduce traffic safety impacts from the expansion of the Caldecott Tunnel from three bores to four, according to a posting on Bike East Bay’s website.

From Streetsblog’s perspective, this new Broadway cycletrack is the type of infrastructure that will ultimately make cycling truly safe for riders of all ages and abilities. Anywhere where cyclists have to share roadspace with fast-moving traffic there needs to be hefty curbs and buffers, as pictured below, to make sure a split-second of inattention from a motorist doesn’t result in cyclists or pedestrians getting maimed or killed. Only when this kind of infrastructure become commonplace will the Bay Area achieve the mode-share it desires.

Much of the bike lane is at the height of the sidewalk, instead of the street. That means drainage and debris shouldn’t accumulate there. Additionally, there’s a very wide buffered area between cars and cyclists, all of which makes the ride feel calm and safe.

That said, the entire project runs only .2 miles. Nonetheless it’s an important potential bike connection for cyclists heading to downtown Oakland or the BART station at Rockridge, not to mention College Preparatory High School. More importantly perhaps, it’s an example of what top-flight cycle tracks look like. Not paint and bollards, but the real deal.

If Streetsblog were to nitpick: there are driveways that cut across the bike lanes to reach the residences along the street. These driveways should probably have rumble strips or speed bumps to make sure motorists don’t make a fast dash out of or into a driveway. This is especially important on a two-way cycletrack, where motorists might momentarily forget that a bike could be coming from either direction. Perhaps some kind of sensor and signalization is needed.

Also, and this is just a sign of a new project, as readers will see in the last photo, the “no parking zone” at the Brookside end doesn’t extend far enough, and motorists–perhaps innocently, perhaps not–were parked in the bike lane where it transitions back to a typical striped lane along the parked cars. On the Keith end of the lane, it’s a little awkward to get from the cycle track back out into the mixed-flow part of the street.

But Streetsblog spoke with several of the Oakland engineers and officials, and it’s clear these problems are being worked on. The important thing is this project sets a new standard–which Oakland, San Francisco and the other cities of the Bay Area will have to live up to from now on. It’s a fitting milepost for this year’s bike-to-work month.

More photos below.

Bike East Bay's Renee Rivera admiring the results of years of hard-fought advocacy.
Bike East Bay’s Renee Rivera (right) admiring the results of years of hard-fought advocacy.
A real curb and a substantial buffer keeps cyclists and pedestrians safe from fast-moving cars and trucks getting on and off SR24.
A real curb and a substantial buffer keeps cyclists and pedestrians safe from fast-moving cars and trucks getting on and off SR24. Notice there’s still a bit of work to be done.
Driveways/cut throughs maintain motor-vehicle access to residences on the street.
Driveways/cut-throughs maintain motor vehicle access to residences on the street. Speed bumps or perhaps signalization are needed, however, to make sure cars don’t cut through without noticing a bike coming from the contra-flow direction.
Part of the cycle track is level with the sidewalk, which should minimize trash accumulation on the bike space.
Part of the cycle track is level with the sidewalk (the black asphalt immediately to the left of the sidewalk is the bi-directional bike lane, not the roadway), which should minimize trash accumulation on the bike space.
View from the pedestrian bridge of the arrangement of the lanes.
Lane arrangements viewed from the pedestrian bridge. Apologies for the bit of blurred-out chain link fence in the upper right of the shot.
Unfortunately, at the Broadway and Brookside end, the city overlooked the length of the red, no parking zone, and, perhaps innocently, cars parked on the bike lane.
Unfortunately, at the Broadway and Brookside end, the red no-parking zone is too short, and–perhaps innocently–cars parked on the bike lane. City officials will get that fixed.
  • Jeffrey Baker

    Hey, my neighborhood! Now that we have this, it seems important to fix the connections with Keith and Broadway. The bike lanes on those streets are just white stripes on the planet’s worst pavement. Broadway is practically impassible. It’s also a bit of a head-scratcher how one is supposed to transition to Broadway when going south. There’s a bike signal but it’s not immediately obvious and there’s no wayfinding affordance here. I’ve seen multiple people just continue south in the northbound bike lane.

  • bombatta

    Nice article and implementation. It will be interesting to see the impact on bicycle mode choice in this area. I suspect that use will grow as connections to other cycling facilities and safety improvements are implemented

  • Frank Krygowski

    http://www.copenhagenize.com/2014/06/explaining-bi-directional-cycle-track.html

    What does Mikael Colville-Andersen know that Streetsblog doesn’t?

  • Roger R.

    Thanks for posting the link. I can’t really argue with any of the points it makes.

  • Not to place cycletracks next to freeways?

  • Ben Eversole

    This is a great project. I think it will also get a lot of use by people biking to Lake Temescal or to Tunnel Road. I’ve already ridden through here a few times.

  • joechoj

    I very much agree with MCA’s take in general, but knowing this area well I think this design makes sense here. MCA does say that these are acceptable in certain cases. While this stretch is obviously not removed from a roadway, neither is it a dense urban street grid. This is adjacent to a high-traffic feeder street to a freeway in a border area between the freeway on one side and hilly single-family residential neighborhoods with winding roads on the other. It’s a corridor that lots of bikers use both for recreation and commuting, as it’s the main connector from this portion of the Oakland hills to BART and downtown. Drivers navigating this intersection are often impatient and frustrated, having waited a long time to enter the freeway. These emotions can lead to erratic driver behavior here, and having shared car-bike facilities can be incredibly stressful (and let’s not forget dangerous) for bikers.

    Previous to the road redesign, this was a terrible and confusing merge & criss-cross of a few different roadways, and bikes were never given consideration in that unsafe mix. The road redesign simplified the flow of traffic considerably, and while bike lanes could have been added on either side of this redesign, in my opinion, it still would have been a big compromise of biker safety. Instead, a huge width of roadway was reclaimed from cars in the redesign, and bikers are safely shunted onto this facility with a minimum of conflict & confusion. Northbound, entry & exit are completely seamless (as it’s located on the right side of traffic when traveling north). Even southbound, entry is very safe & natural since car traffic has a stop sign where it meets the bike lane. For the price of a little wait for the light at Broadway & Keith to get back on southbound Broadway, you get to skip two fairly hairy auto intersections. This is a great addition to a stress-free bike network, solving the most dangerous stretch of the route from downtown to the hills. While 2-way cycletracks are poor solutions in a city grid, for the 2-way traffic problem MCA describes, it works here. The concrete curb is an especially sweet safety gain for cyclists, and I can only hope this is the start of a new design paradigm in Oakland.

  • joechoj

    Thanks for the continued East Bay attention!

  • Frank Krygowski

    To be clear: I don’t doubt that cycletracks can occasionally be the best solution to a tough traffic problem. But I’m very bothered by the recent and growing propaganda claiming that we need these (almost?) everywhere, and that nothing else can be sufficiently safe. And I agree with MCA that bi-directional ones are usually crazy.

    A bi-directional cycletrack in Columbus, Ohio generated 15 car-bike crashes in its first year. In previous years, the same street had roughly zero such crashes.

  • joechoj

    > But I’m very bothered by the recent and growing propaganda claiming that we need [bi-directional cycletracks] (almost?) everywhere, and that nothing else can be sufficiently safe.

    Agreed, and these absolutist statements are rarely true. Tangentially, however, here’s one I can get behind: “we need *concrete curbs* (almost?) everywhere, and that nothing else can be sufficiently safe.”

  • JudyAF

    PLEASE stop calling this a bike lane. it clearly is not. please refer to the street and highway code definition. this is a class IV separated bikeway or cycletrack. it’s optional use. bike lanes are not. This is also not fully protected. not where it counts

  • Please stop using the term “cycletrack” because nobody but nobody knows WTF a cycletrack is! That’s exactly why cities all over the country are ditching the term ‘cycletrack’ and instead calling it what it is, a Protected bike lane. There are way too many negative connotations with that term ‘cycletrack’, which make building them an uphill battle to a wary public. A protected bike lane is an instinctively obvious and positive term to everybody, regardless if they have ever ridden a bicycle.

  • JudyAF

    Actually there are two lanes there.. so no, it’s not a bike lane. The term bike lane is determined by law.. in the Street and Highway Code, bike lanes are mandatory use and they are on the roadway and have no physical separation. This is a Class IV separated bikeway and is optional to use. The one pictured is 2 way.. and not protected at intersections. They also don’t yet have standards.. so many are dangerous.. too narrow to pass within.. and the cyclists are not visible to motorists at intersections.. where most collisions take place.

  • JudyAF

    The street and highway code name for them is separated bikeway. A bike lane is a preferential travel lane on the road for bikes. Why does the word “cycletrack” have a negative connotation?

  • Aside from traffic engineers for internal use, the only other people who ever call them ‘cycletracks’ are people who are against them and don’t want them built. The term protected bike lanes are what the people building them are calling them in their press releases. Any ‘cycletrack’ terms are usually buried deep within the engineering specifications.

    Both Caltrans and Nacto have established standards in the past few years for protected bike lanes that address the shortcomings of earlier designs, and both are readily visible on their websites.

    The issue of protected bike lanes is completely separate from intersection designs. I’ve seen safe and protected intersection designs on streets without protected bike lanes, and vice versa. One doesn’t preclude the other, and ideally both should be built together. But it’s disingenuous to claim that protected bike lanes are themselves dangerous because of poorly designed intersections. No intersection should have blind-spot merging or boneheaded mixing zones that aren’t obvious.

  • JudyAF

    No Caltans is working on standards but so far there are none. Bike Lanes are Mandatory. Separated bikeways are not by law. They may or may not be protected or safe.

  • Caltrans released the design information bulletin with Class IV guidance [PDF] over a year ago. Additionally, they’ve also pronounced their blessing on the NACTO guides.

  • The driveways need raised entrances, but signals are overkill. A side benefit from raising the driveway entrances is that it will prevent the storm water catastrophe that the current design invites. It’s a really good thing that the Bay Area isn’t snowy because those driveways would cause massive ice patches.

  • JudyAF

    Those are not standards. They never finished standards. They rushed with guidance. And you still must comply with the HDM and MUTCD. Some of these photos don’t comply. They are in error. Until it’s in the HDM anf MUTCD they are not standards.

  • nocklebeast

    the term “cycle track” is what the law says. we might as well use the term used in the law to avoid confusion with other types of bike ways.

    http://law.onecle.com/california/streets/890.4.html

    890.4. As used in this article, bikeway means all facilities
    that provide primarily for, and promote, bicycle travel. For purposes of
    this article, bikeways shall be categorized as follows:

    (a)
    Bike paths or shared use paths, also referred to as Class I bikeways,
    which provide a completely separated right-of-way designated for the
    exclusive use of bicycles and pedestrians with crossflows by motorists
    minimized.

    (b) BIKE LANES, also referred to as Class II
    bikeways, which provide a restricted right-of-way designated for the
    exclusive or semiexclusive use of bicycles with through travel by motor
    vehicles or pedestrians prohibited, but with vehicle parking and
    crossflows by pedestrians and motorists permitted.

    (c) Bike
    routes, also referred to as Class III bikeways, which provide a
    right-of-way on-street or off-street, designated by signs or permanent
    markings and shared with pedestrians and motorists.

    (d)
    CYCLE TRACKS or SEPARATED BIKEWAYS, also referred to as Class IV
    bikeways, which promote active transportation and provide a right-of-way
    designated exclusively for bicycle travel adjacent to a roadway and
    which are separated from vehicular traffic. Types of separation include,
    but are not limited to, grade separation, flexible posts, inflexible
    physical barriers, or on-street parking.

  • nocklebeast

    It’s also the term that is used in the law defining them.

    http://law.onecle.com/california/streets/890.4.html

    So, you’ll need to include the “only” people to use the term “cycle track” as the law’s author, Phil Ting, and the law’s sponsor, the California Bicycle Coalition. It seems reasonable to assume that the author and sponsors of the law creating the new definition of bike way are okay with the term “cycle track” since that is the term in the law that they wrote.

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