Eyes on the Street: Purple Fix is in on Harrison and 23rd

Purple paint and a new curb cut help people navigate around the tree at the 23rd/Harrison crosswalk. All photos Rudick/Streetsblog unless otherwise noted.
Purple paint and a new curb cut help people navigate around the tree at the 23rd/Harrison crosswalk. All photos Rudick/Streetsblog unless otherwise noted.

Shortly before the Labor Day break, Oakland DOT’s new Vision Zero Coordinator, Nicole Ferrara, tweeted about the completion of her first pedestrian safety project, the crosswalk upgrade at 23rd and Harrison.

On August 1, Streetsblog reported on the start of construction and Oakland’s plans to get safety fixes in at known danger spots quickly. This crosswalk certainly qualified–a pedestrian was fatally struck by a motorist there in June. Even though its directly across from the Downtown Oakland Senior Center, there was no curb ramp. To add insult to injury, there was a large tree right in the middle of where the crosswalk meets the curb.

But that’s all fixed now. The new crosswalk is a trapezoid shape, allowing Oakland’s DOT to build a ramp that bypasses the tree, as seen in the lead photo and the picture below. There are also bollards and purple paint to keep cars from parking in front of the crosswalk and to shorten the crossing distance.


There’s also a clearly marked midway refuge island, with big yellow bollards to give pedestrians a little more safety and breathing room.


Ferrara posted this pic on Twitter of the before and after views:

This shot of the before and after views helps illustrate the changes. Photo: Nicole Ferrara, Oakland DOT
This shot of the before and after views helps illustrate the changes. Photo: Nicole Ferrara, Oakland DOT

So how does it work in practice? Clearly, it’s an improvement, but Streetsblog still found a few cars failing to yield at the shark teeth markings–and one car still blew through the crosswalk completely, even though I was on it. Ultimately, Streetsblog would like to see raised crosswalks become the norm at any known danger spot. A raised crosswalk–sometimes called a combination speed bump/crosswalk–forces cars to slow or risk damaging their suspensions. That’s sometimes the only way to be sure cars drive safely and truly yield to pedestrians.

The Stonestown Mall, of all places, has one of the best crosswalks going--works fine for the rare cyclists too. Photo: Streetsblog
The Stonestown Mall, of all places, has one of the best crosswalks going–works fine for the rare cyclists too.

But raised crosswalks are expensive and take time to install, and it’s hard to fault the newly created Oakland DOT for getting truly significant improvements in so quickly. And, fortunately, there’s more to come: “This project uses paint and posts to transform the intersection of Harrison and 23rd in a matter of weeks versus years, which is what it takes to make significant concrete changes. But we’re not stopping there,” wrote Ferrara in an email to Streetsblog. “There’s a long-term project that will further transform this corridor by turning the painted elements into concrete changes and adding a cycle track along Harrison and a protected intersection at Harrison and Grand.”

Meanwhile, Robert Prinz, Education Director of Bike East Bay, which has long been lobbying for improvements to Harrison/23rd, posted video of the crosswalk in action.

And why purple for the pedestrian bulb outs, rather than the more typical yellow or white? “OakDOT’s Strategic Plan calls on the City to not only improve safety conditions on our streets, but also make walking more delightful,” wrote Ferrara. “We think the purple does just that, and have heard a lot of positive feedback so far!”

What do you think of this new crosswalk treatment? Do you see cars yielding more than before? Do you feel more comfortable with this kind of crosswalk, or is there still more to be done? Post your comments below.

  • gb52

    The purple paint is a pleasant surprise. It definitely stands out as much as the bright green sharrows and bike lanes or bright red transit only lanes. This is way more visible than the tan/white pedestrian zones that SFMTA paints, but all the bright colors get too be quite a vibrant painting on city streets in some neighborhoods. Cant say it’s a bad thing considering how much needs to be done before people start to respect other people and drive like every life matters!

  • Jeffrey Baker

    This is also a 6-to-4 road diet and bike lane installation, of which I approve no matter the color.

  • oak2sfo

    I think purple is not the best choice of color. Given this is close to a senior center, it should have considered best colors for visually impaired which are solid, bright colors, such as red, orange, and yellow. Purple is also a poor color at night.

    Yellow or orange would have been a better choice.

  • DrunkEngineer

    RRFB (rectangular rapid flashing beacon) is what should have been installed, not purple paint.

  • Rode through there not long ago on my way to the large ped-friendlier grocery store nearby and at least in the day that purple really popped. Also love the daylighting on the corner on the west side.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I disagree. Flashing beacons denigrate the rights of pedestrians who didn’t bother pressing the button. If you want flashing beacons they should just be engaged 24×7, but I’ve never seen one that operated that way.


South San Francisco plans to install bike lanes that will disappear to preserve these parallel parking spaces on El Camino Real. Photo: Google Maps

Motorist Convenience Still Trumps Safety in South San Francisco

South San Francisco will rebuild a one-mile segment of El Camino Real this Spring with wider sidewalks, safer crosswalks, curb extensions, pedestrian refuges, bike lanes, and new street trees planted in both the medians and sidewalks. However, the bike lanes won’t be continuous–to preserve curbside parking, in places they will disappear. And some intersections will remain dangerous to […]

Upper Market Street Gets First Phase of Safety Upgrades

The SFMTA has completed its first wave of safety upgrades on Upper Market Street. The changes include painted sidewalk extensions (a.k.a. “safety zones”), high-visibility crosswalks, and signs prohibiting drivers from turning right at red lights. SFMTA officials and Supervisor Scott Wiener held a press conference today to mark the completion of the improvements between Octavia […]

Eyes on the Street: Oakland’s Newest Bike Lanes

Photos: WOBO Cyclists in Oakland’s Lakeshore district are celebrating a hard-fought new bike lane that runs along Harrison and Oakland Avenues south of I-580. Jen Jackson, Vice Chair and co-founder of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO), helped spearhead the initiative, and was thrilled: WOBO is very excited about this important new addition to Oakland’s bike […]