At two workshops last week in Oakland, attendees overwhelmingly called for a bolder plan to make Telegraph Avenue safer and include protected bike lanes. Oakland planners ditched their original proposals for parking-protected bike lanes, instead proposing buffered, unprotected bike lanes on most of the street. In Temescal, the street’s most dangerous and motor traffic-heavy section, planners insist on preserving all four traffic lanes, with only sharrows added. But when asked to choose between removing parking or removing traffic lanes, it was clear that the majority of residents who attended both meetings would be willing to give up parking.
Still, a few kept the discussion circling back to the potential tradeoffs between bike safety and transit reliability. Oakland city planners trying unsuccessfully tried to get traction on the idea of moving the bike route a block away to Shattuck Avenue, despite Telegraph being a clear magnet for bike traffic even without any bike infrastructure.
Several people at the workshops argued adamantly that sharrows are not a reasonable alternative to bike lanes. “Please remove sharrows as an option,” said one attendee. “I don’t want to share facilities with a car. We’ve tried it, and I hate it. It’s not safe.”
Oakland planner Jamie Parks opened up group discussions at both meetings by admitting that sharrows are “not the ideal bike facility, but this is the most constrained and congested section of the street.”
“The tradeoffs include removing parking or removing a lane of traffic,” he told attendees. “If we were to incorporate continuous bike lanes, what would people be willing to give up?”
“Parking!” one person shouted from the back of the room at one meeting. Discussions at both meetings stayed mostly polite, and there seemed to be general agreement that providing parking was not as important as safety.
But not everybody agreed. One dissenter said, “I just don’t think politics will allow for the abolition of parking.”
Only some parking spaces on Telegraph would need to be removed to provide bike lanes. But the city doesn’t seem to be seriously considering it, despite strong evidence in other cities that as motor traffic is calmed, and bike traffic goes up, commercial corridors tend to see more people shopping by foot and bike. Oakland’s own findings show that parking spaces in Temescal rarely approach 85 percent of capacity, even at peak times, and that better parking management could make even more spaces available.