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

It only runs five blocks right now, but could be the model for a safe east-west bike connection

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

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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.

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Also looking east, at the end of the path by Entrance Road
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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
  • Sanchez Resident

    Way to go, Alameda. It can be done. Protected bicycle paths are the best way to curtail the inconsiderate auto and truck operators.

  • Unfortunately that’s not a bike lane. The “Bike Lane” signs should be removed and replaced with “Bike Path,” and this publication should get their terminology correct.

  • Looks great as a retrofit, but as a new install, it doesn’t quite meet expectations.

  • Stuart

    Caltrans doesn’t seem to feel that it’s critical to be super pedantic about this:

    A Class IV separated bikeway, often referred to as a cycle track or protected bike lane […]

    http://www.dot.ca.gov/d4/bikeplan/docs/caltrans-d4-bike-plan_bikeway-classification-brochure_072517.pdf

    I’m curious, since I’ve seen you complain about this before: what benefit do you see in constantly correcting people who don’t use bikeway, bike path, and bike lane according to that specific exact breakdown? Do you truly believe that referring to it as a “bike path” (which it’s not clear that it actually is under the Caltrans definition since pedestrians shouldn’t be using it) rather than a “bi-directional protected bike lane” would have made any readers understand this article differently?

  • The Streets and Highway Code (SHC) is where the actual legal definition of each bikeway is located. Nowhere in there is a Class IV called a “protected bike lane” or “cycletrack.” The statement in the CalTrans page you linked uses a big important word called “referred.”

    The reasons for getting the terminology correct because CVC 21208, the “bike lane law” is for Class II bikeways only, aka true bike lanes in California. Advocates of segregated infrastructure always forget about the possibility of increased harassment from motorists or even an invalid citation from a confused cop over a cyclist who chooses not to use a Class IV facility. Advocates of segregated infrastructure of often fail to realize (because they operate from superstition and feelings instead of logic and science) that as a whole they do more less to promote cycling than they think they do since their arguments are to push for more segregation thus telling society bicyclists don’t belong on roadways and can only travel along Special Spaces for Bicycling.

    The California MUTCD only allows the “Bike Lane” sign to be used on true Class II bikeways hence why the signs installed on the bikeway are incorrect. They should be using the “Bike Path” signage.

    It’s imperitive that journalists especially ones as influential as Streetsblog get the terminology right for their California articles and that governments in California use the correct signage.

    Advocates for segregated infrastructure and anti cycling bigot militant motorists both confuse “driver” with “motorist” but that’s a story for another time.

  • Stuart

    The Streets and Highway Code (SHC) is where the actual legal definition of each bikeway is located.

    Right, but Streetsblog isn’t a legal document. Nor is this an article about anything where exact legal definitions are critical to the discussion.

    My point was simply that the Caltrans document demonstrates that general usage of language and legal definition are often different things, and that in the case of different classes of bikways it’s usually pretty easy to map between them. (And specifically, that “protected bike lane” pretty unambiguously refers to a specific class of bikway in common usage.)

    The statement in the CalTrans page you linked uses a big important word called “referred.”

    Let me try using that big important word in a sentence, to make sure I understand it: “In an article about a new bikeway, Streetsblog referred to it as a protected bike lane, rather than a class IV bikeway, since that’s what most people would call it in normal conversation.”

    Did I get it right?

    The reasons for getting the terminology correct because CVC 21208, the “bike lane law” is for Class II bikeways only

    If this were an article about CVC 21208 or a similar legal distinction, I would agree it would matter here. But it’s not.

    It’s imperitive that journalists especially ones as influential as Streetsblog get the terminology right

    I get that you believe that. I’m still not clear on why you believe that always using exact legal terminology outside of of a legal context is imperative.

    Do you think a lot of people are carefully parsing 21208 to understand their legal obligations, know that there are different kinds of bikeways with subtle legal distinctions, but not know what the definitions are and deciding to turn to casual mentions on a blog as legal authority?

    and that governments in California use the correct signage.

    No argument there. I just don’t think see why you hold natural language to the same standard as official signage.

  • LazyReader

    Cant you just bike on the sidewalk?

  • Anonymous Bike Zealot

    Just another example of fencing us off from the real world. We need to stop letting the perpetually fearful make the rules for the rest of us.

  • Anonymous Bike Zealot

    As if it matters. It’s a playpen. Perhaps Bike Playpen signs?

  • Bernard Finucane

    It needs a steel post in the middle of the entrance to keep cars out.

  • Bernard Finucane

    Obvious troll is obvious,

  • George Joseph Lane

    What on earth else do you want?

  • Why are they using temporary materials like plastic poles and plastic barriers on a new install instead of concrete?

  • George Joseph Lane

    What makes you think the plastic is temporary? Plastic safe hit posts are there to alert motorists to the location of the barrier, not to physically stop out of control vehicles.

  • The fact that its plastic and paint means it can be switched back to car space in 3 hours.

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