Eyes on the Street: Dangerous Bridge by Lazear Elementary on 29th in Oakland

State transportation agency has opened an on-ramp-style bridge by an elementary school

California's State Transportation agency has built another freeway-style ramp road right past an elementary school. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless noted
California's State Transportation agency has built another freeway-style ramp road right past an elementary school. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless noted

If you want to know why the death rate on Oakland’s roads keeps going up, look no further than Caltrans/the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC)’s newly opened bridge across I-880 in Fruitvale, on 29th Avenue.

Bike East Bay’s Robert Prinz put it best in the tweet below: “Any organization that is concerned about bike/pedestrian safety would consider a crossing sightline this bad to be engineering malfeasance.”

Prinz is talking about the bike lane that goes under the bridge, on the Jingletown side of I-880, which the new bridge crosses. But the same could be said about almost any aspect of this bridge, which has a sidewalk on only one side, twelve-foot freeway-style lanes, and a landing right in front of Lazear Elementary school.

A transportation official close to the project (he spoke on condition of anonymity) said the bridge was originally rebuilt because truck clearances on I-880 were insufficient and occasionally a truck would hit a bump and brush against the bridge’s underside.

Bike lane? No, this is a gutter pan. But it was the best advocates could get on 29th Avenue in Oakland
Bike lane? No, this is a gutter pan. But it was the best advocates could get on 29th Avenue in Oakland

Clearly, the bridge needed work, but, back around 2007/2008 when the designs were being finalized, it was also an opportunity to make it safer and improve bike and pedestrian access between Alameda, Jingletown, and the rest of Oakland–including the nearby BART station in Fruitvale.

Instead, Caltrans and Alameda County opted not to even have a sidewalk on the side of the bridge next to Lazear Elementary School. “It sucks they didn’t put a sidewalk on there,” said Dave Campbell, advocacy director for Bike East Bay, in a phone interview with Streetsblog.

But, he explained, the bridge was designed at a time when it was tough to get a bike lane or any kind of pedestrian amenities on a new project–especially a Caltrans and ACTC project.

The location of the new bridge. Note the proximity of Lazear Elementary. Image: Google maps
The location of the new bridge. Note the proximity of Lazear Elementary. Image: Google maps

The strategy, he explained, was to get some kind of toe-hold on the bridge–in the form of striped bike lanes on the shoulder–so they could go back in and improve things later. The transportation official who spoke with Streetsblog confirmed that’s why he pushed to at least get a striped lane.

“That makes it easier to do a road diet and finish the bikeway,” added Campbell.

Maybe so, but one has to wonder how any traffic engineer or planner could build infrastructure like this in the first place. After all, engineers are supposed to follow a basic ethics code to build safe infrastructure as well as flatly refuse to do otherwise. The “bike lane” on the school side of the bridge is against a concrete crash barrier (editor’s note: apologies to readers, but I’m not going to risk getting crushed against a slab of concrete trying to use a bike lane like this, which is why the photos are from the sidewalk side).

Yes, that's a bike lane... see it over there?
Yes, that’s a bike lane… see it over there against the concrete–the concrete that’s already scuffed from car strikes?

There’s also a traffic sewer on both landing sides of the bridge, complete with multiple beg buttons and staged crosswalks so pedestrians have to spend an inordinate amount of time to get across it. Clearly, this was built with car throughput in mind and nothing else.

Similar conditions exist, said reps from Bike East Bay, on the nearby 23rd Avenue bridge, also over I-880, which was rebuilt as part of the same project.

Streetsblog reached out to Caltrans public affairs to get more details about who actually designed this bridge and what might be done to fix things and will update this post when an answer comes. Meanwhile, Streetsblog California, as part of a larger interview, asked Laurie Berman, current Caltrans director, about the deficiencies. She said district bike and ped advisory committees will help guide future designs.

After passing through a series of long waits at staged pedestrian crossing with long-wait beg buttons, a pedestrian finally gets to this sidewalk--one side only.
After passing through a series of long waits at staged pedestrian crossings with long-wait beg buttons, a pedestrian finally gets to this sidewalk–one side only.

“It’s a work in progress,” she added. “Not everyone’s going to like everything we do. Sometimes we won’t quite hit it but there are still opportunities to go back and fix some things.”

Look for the full interview coming up in Streetsblog California.

Meanwhile, Bike East Bay’s Prinz said he is hopeful a new generation of Caltrans planners will work with advocates to improve conditions as quickly as possible. “Caltrans has agreed to a site visit with local advocates in January to discuss opportunities to fix the identified bike/walk issues.”

  • Daisy’s World

    The minimum width of a bike lane should be 1.5 meters (5 feet) against a curb or adjacent to a parking lane. … Wider bike lanes are recommended on streets with higher motor vehicle speeds and traffic volumes, or where pedestrian traffic in the bike lane is antici- pated. http://www.daisylimo.com

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    What would it take to fix this? Is it even fixable? How would they even go about fixing this, both physically and politically? This is not an isolated screw-up. It’s so frustrating seeing new development in the East Bay with the same ill-conceived and dangerous bike lanes being built on brand new streets. What a colossal waste of money.

    It would’ve been easy to design a safe bike lane into this project without making so much as a rounding error on the budget. But now any changes probably will never happen until someone dies. Thanks for reporting this.

  • Mike Jones

    Having a freeway off-ramp (29th Ave.) dump traffic straight onto Park Street has never been ideal, but instead of looking at alternatives (Fruitvale Ave. to Tilden Way?) ACTC/Caltrans chose to just “gold plate” this existing mess. No news there….

  • crazyvag

    It’s not just bike lanes, but many crosswalks get rebuilt in SF without bulbouts at all crosswalks or missing bus boarding islands.

  • David Suto

    You didn’t even mention the ramp they are putting on that eastbound side with angles that look like it could impair turning visibility. Also, if you think that looks dangerous, you should see the condition of the highway pavement underneath and the temporary on and off ramps. That’s a fatal accident waiting to happen too anytime speeds actually near posted limits. I used to regularly bike through that area and it is pretty much a disaster. The west side feeder streets have dangerous intersections with merging traffic and frequent light runners, the street immediately feeding the underpass is filled with potholes and double parked vehicles and further down towards Fruitvale you have to compete with vehicles exiting the freeway without a stop sign.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

A rendering of the bridge bike and ped path. Funding is now available to study turning this into another car lane. Image: MTC/HTNB

Marin Supervisor Asks Officials to Study Converting Future San Rafael Bridge Bike and Ped Path into Another Car Lane

|
Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content. A Marin County Supervisor, who represents San Rafael, apparently wants to look at nixing plans for the long-planned bike and ped path on the […]

Bridge the Gap!

|
Photo: Matthew Roth As I climbed the steps out of the Lake Merritt BART station this morning I heard loud chanting. "Wow," I thought, "those bicyclists have really pulled out the troops!" But the demonstrators that greeted me across 8th Street in Oakland were pile drivers, iron workers, carpenters and other trades workers, chanting "Jobs […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Can LA Make “Great Streets” If the Mayor Won’t Stand Up for Good Design?

|
Los Angeles, with its expanding transit network, is supposed to be in the process of shedding its cocoon of car-centricity and emerging, in the words of a recent Fast Company headline, as America’s “next great walkable city.” The city’s streets, however, didn’t change a whole lot under former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. When Eric Garcetti was elected mayor in 2013, advocates thought […]
The entrance to the Posey Tube. Cars transitioning from the tube to I-880 turn Oakland's Chinatown into a traffic sewer. Image: Alameda County Transportation Commission

Oakland Alameda Access Project Kicks Off With a Car-First Focus

|
Thanks to I-880 and its complex of on and offramps, walking or bike riding through Oakland’s Chinatown, downtown, or on routes to Jack London Square and the estuary, can be pretty awful. That’s why a series of projects, some official, some grass-roots, including Walk this Way and Connect Oakland, are trying to fix some of the damage […]