Oakland’s Telegraph Gets “Pop-up” Protected Bike Lane on Bike to Work Day

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan rode on the “pop-up” bikeway, looking very happy. Photo: Dave Campbell, Bike East Bay

Yesterday, on the Bay Area’s 20th Bike to Work Day, Bike East Bay and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland demonstrated what a block of Telegraph Avenue would look and feel like with a parking-protected bike lane. Without help from the city’s Public Works Department (but with city approval), the two advocacy groups created temporary bike infrastructure by painting green lanes and bike stencils, putting down planters, and turning the adjacent traffic lane into a parking lane.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was joined by City Council Members Rebecca Kaplan, Dan Kalb, and Lynette McElhaney, as well as several city planners and engineers on a test run of the lanes, all of whom generally gave it a big thumbs up. One city engineer, after riding the lane, said, “I want this, right now!”

Mayor Quan said “this demo is very helpful to see what Telegraph Avenue could look like with a protected bikeway,” according to a press release from Bike East Bay. “I’m very interested in seeing how the project develops.”

Quan rode from MacArthur BART station on a borrowed bike from Bay Area Bike Share to celebrate the system’s expansion into the East Bay expected next spring. “Oakland is regularly ranked in the top 10 U.S. cities for the percentage of our commuters who cycle, and we’re committed to maintaining that leadership role and building on our successes,” she said in a statement, noting that she lobbied for the BABS expansion.

Oakland is considering parking-protected bike lanes in a redesign of Telegraph, and residents are encouraged to weigh in by May 19. The proposed designs are available on the city’s website, and this comment card [PDF] can be filled out and sent to planner Jamie Parks.

Yesterday’s Bike to Work Day was officially the 20th anniversary celebration of bike commutes in the nine-county Bay Area, although it’s actually Oakland’s 21st event. Oakland saw an increase of 30 percent more riders in Oakland over last year, based on a count of the number of people who checked in at Bike to Work Day energizer stations. In the entire East Bay, including all of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, BEB counted close to 20,000 bike commuters.

Of course, at the end of the block-long temporary protected lane, riders were dumped right back into the present-day reality of Telegraph: fending for themselves in lanes with motor traffic.

Riders test ride the temporary parking-protected bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. Photo: Melanie Curry
Photo: Melanie Curry
  • Lisa Martin

    Some people have a fear of flying, even though statistically, planes are safer than cars. There’s a difference between feeling safe and being safe! Similarly, studies show that cycling in the center of the lane is safer than cycling along the edge, which in turn is safer than a separated bike path like this.

    Why? Because intersections are the most hazardous place, and the best way to mitigate those hazards is by being visible and predictable. That means being in front of motorists so they don’t right hook you, and in line with relevant traffic so oncoming vehicles don’t left cross you. Motorists don’t want to hit you; most car-cycle accidents happen because motorists “didn’t see the bicyclist.” As a matter of defensive driving, you need to be where other drivers are looking.

    This is key: “Of course, at the end of the block-long temporary protected lane, riders were dumped right back into” traffic. Even with permanent installations, riders are protected mid-block (where collision risk is naturally low), but are dumped into intersections (where collision risk is naturally high) without any protection when they most need it.

    Not only do protected bike paths not provide protection at intersections, they actually increase collisions rates there. Screening motorists and cyclists from each other mid-block means that when intersections come up, motorists are not aware of the presence of cyclists at all.

    I understand that facilities like this are well-meant. In reality, though, they come at the expense of cyclists’ lives. They prioritize motor traffic by shunting cyclists off the road and into dangerous areas. A better solution would be lane-centered sharrows and “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs.

  • Bike East Bay

    More and more businesses are coming on board in support of parking-protected bikeways on Telegraph Ave, especially businesses with younger owners and managers–they get it. As Oakland gets younger it is going to get more bike-friendly, and as it gets more bike-friendly businesses are going to thrive with more customers. Find out how you can help at BikeEastBay.org/telegraph

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Some crank showed up at the community meeting last week at the Humanist Hall, claiming to represent the views of the silent majority of merchants who hate bike lanes. Appeared to be a well-known crank, as the presenters addressed him by name.

  • Prinzrob

    The vehicular cycling ideology that you are referencing hasn’t contributed to a significant increase in the number of cyclists since the 1980s, and it won’t do so in 2014 either. Studies also show that individual bicyclists are much safer when there is a larger bicycling mode share in general, both because car drivers are more likely to look for and expect them, but also because more of the public has had their own experiences biking in urban traffic and therefore understands the challenges and needs better. Since more people are much more likely to bike when there is protected infrastructure that FEELS safer, there are then more cyclists in the street which results in ACTUAL safety benefits.

    I totally understand where you are coming from, as I have seen poorly engineered, unsafe bike paths which deprioritize efficiency/utility as transportation corridors through bad design decisions. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t already solutions that work and are safe and that should be implemented in their place. See the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, for instance, for a list of intersection treatments to deal with exactly what you mentioned.

    I manage one of the country’s largest free bike education programs for adults right here in the East Bay, and yes we inform people about vehicular cycling concepts because there are many areas here with little to no bike infrastructure where we want to still encourage people to try biking and to do so safely. However, these concepts are simply a coping mechanism to deal with the lack of good infrastructure, and not an alternative to it.

  • Bike East Bay

    “OK kids, grab your bikes and let’s go rub elbows with SUV car mirrors while listening to the symphony of cars honking and revving their engines at us cause we’re slowing them down. It’s going to be fun!” …dad to his kids

    Meanwhile, 10 million Europeans are all wrong.


  • Kristen

    I filled out a comment card and emailed it to the person you said, but it came back as undeliverable. Anyone else have this problem?

  • What you say is simply not true, or at best distorted to fit your thesis. Those who find riding with the cars should do so and leave the rest of us alone.


Oakland Unnecessarily Pits Safe Bicycling vs. Transit on Telegraph Avenue

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 […]