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Eyes on the Street: Alameda Island’s Short but Awesome Protected Bike Lane

4:06 PM PDT on April 6, 2018

This concrete-protected, on-street bike-path could one day grow into a route across the island. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless indicated

Alameda has a pretty nice (and relatively new) bi-directional protected bike lane on Clement Ave. And if advocates with BikeWalkAlameda get their way, it could eventually stretch clear across the island.

The lane--with smooth pavement, clear signage, and concrete curbs keeping motor traffic out of the bike space--runs from Entrance Road to Paru, a distance of only .3 miles. That's not much (it takes about a minute to ride its length) but advocates and pro-bike city officials now have a toe-hold for creating a completely protected east-west route along the north shore of the island.

How did Alameda end up with this short and isolated segment of protected bike lane?

"This is a unique case because a street wasn’t there before," explained Gail Payne, Senior Transportation Coordinator for the City of Alameda.

The bike lane is part of a recently completed housing project (as seen in the photos below). "The Marina Shores development came online, mostly large single-family houses and a few large townhouses," explained Brian McGuire, president of BikeWalkAlameda.

As part of the deal with the city to develop the land, Marina Shores had to build a new street and sidewalk and provide funds towards the planned cross-Alameda trail, a project to create a safe north-south bike route. Funds are great, but given how long these plans take, BikeWalkAlameda wasn't satisfied; they pushed to get the segment of bike lane in front of the housing development done right away. And they demanded a protected bike lane, to set the bar high for the rest of the project.

So along with the city and the developer, they got a sort of a sanctioned guerrilla installation, before there was anybody living there to complain about a loss of street parking. They even did a "...guerrilla grand opening of the first segment of the cross-Alameda trail, last June," said McGuire.

Looking east on Clement Avenue

But the work is far from over. As of now, the city designs call for a "Cross Alameda Trail" on Clement Avenue of conventional, door-zone bike lanes, according to plans drawn up in 2015. BikeWalkAlameda's strategy is to use the .3-mile seed of a protected lane to fight for protected bike lanes the rest of the way. "We’re looking forward to redesigning Clement because we think there’s a good argument for continuing a protected bike lane all the way past the Fruitvale bridge," said McGuire.

Challenges remain

Alameda also has a protected bike lane on its south shore, on Shoreline Drive (and it has a short protected bike lane on a stretch of Fernside). One of the issues with a two-way, on-street protected bike lane is making safe intersections. As with the Shoreline Drive path, this short, initial segment of Clement is near the waterfront (in this case on the estuary side of the island), so driveways and intersections are few. However, to continue east on Clement as a two-way protected bike lane it will get more complicated, expensive, and messy: "It might require a bike signal phase at Park Street," said McGuire.

"We're planning on hiring a consultant team, to come back with some ideas based on the latest best practices," said Payne. "There’s a lot of driveways, and especially for commercial driveways you need a lot more visibility, and there will be a need to eliminate parking... it’s really evolving."

That said, things are moving along--a $5 million grant came in last April from Alameda County to improve Clement. And starting in October of this year, the city will start outreach and revised plans for the rest of the street.

Also looking east, at the end of the path by Entrance Road
The start of the path at Paru

In the meantime, heading west from the protected bike lane on Clement, the cross-Alameda bike path is supposed to connect to a two-way bike path through the Jean Sweeney OpenSpace Park, which is built on abandoned railroad land. According to McGuire, the city has refused to open the path until the whole park is completed, even though the path itself has "...essentially been done for a month or two. But the park is not projected to open until the fall."

Cyclists are using the path anyway--when Recreation and Parks forgets to lock the gate (as seen below). BikeWalkAlameda is pushing the department to leave this path open while work on the park continues. The hope is the sooner they can get more segments of the cross-Alameda path going, the easier it will be to build support for a complete, protected bike lane for all ages and abilities--down the length of Clement Avenue.

The bike path through Jean Sweeney park is done...but still fenced off, usually. Photo: Pete Grosser
The bike path through Jean Sweeney park is done...but still fenced off and blocked by a gate, usually. Photo: Pete Grosser
The bike path through Jean Sweeney park is done...but still fenced off, usually. Photo: Brian McGuire

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