Oakland Bollard-izes Protected Intersections at Lake Merritt

Hey SFMTA, tell us again why you can't do protected Intersections on the cheap?

One of Oakland's new low-cost protected intersections around Lake Merritt BART, complete now with K71 bollards. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick
One of Oakland's new low-cost protected intersections around Lake Merritt BART, complete now with K71 bollards. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick

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The City of Oakland finished installing bollards on its new protected intersections and pedestrian bulb outs around the Lake Merritt BART station last week. And so far, they seem to be working as planned, slowing turning traffic, making it easier for Oakland Chinatown’s large elderly population to cross the street, as well as offering safer crossings for cyclists.

With shorter crossing distances and motorist forced to slow around turns, it’s just easier to cross the street thanks to these protected intersections

Streetsblog watched a crew on Friday put in the last of the K71 bollards, which appear more robust than the safe-hit posts generally favored in San Francisco. They’re installed by drilling a hole in the asphalt and then filling the hole with epoxy. A threaded mount is then inserted into the hole and, after it dries, the bollard is bolted onto  it–making replacement quick and easy. Streetsblog thanked the crew for doing the messy work. “Anything to help keep people safe–it’s not fun to ride [a bike] through here,” said one of the workers.

Workers filling holes with resin to glue down in the threaded piece of pipe that will hold the bollard
Workers filling holes with resin to glue down the threaded mount that will hold the bollard

Meanwhile, San Francisco advocates were quick to point to the elephant in the room on their side of the Bay: if it’s this easy and cheap to do protected intersections for bicycles in Oakland, why is SFMTA still doing “mixing zones,” at intersections, which Dutch engineers have found are not as safe? (For that matter, why does Oakland continue to install mixing zones in other locations?)

Streesblog has been asking the same question as Grochmal for years, and the answer is usually that protected intersections take longer and/or require phased signals.

“Protected intersections work best when you are able to set the bikeway away from the right lane by a car length and when you are able to get turning vehicles to be close to perpendicular when crossing the bikeway,” wrote Ben Barnett, spokesperson for SFMTA. “Some intersections are more conducive to this than others. We are planning to implement such a design for northbound 7th Street at Townsend Street as part of the quick build project going to public hearing July 9th and it will be evaluated along with the rest of the bikeway as part of our evaluation program.”

Streetsblog also has a request in to Oakland’s DOT to find out if protected bike lanes will be added around Lake Merritt BART. However, OakDOT’s Nicole Ferrara had previously explained that it’s a money issue, and as developments go in around Lake Merritt BART, they may be able to get protected bike lanes funded as mitigation.

Meanwhile, if you follow Grochmal’s Twitter exchange, there’s also a bunch of neat videos and suggestions for minor improvements to the Lake Merritt treatments from Bike East Bay’s Robert Prinz.

Streetsblog has a suggestion too–shortly after the posts were installed at 7th and Madison they were pretty much ruined by an incompetent and dangerous motorist(s). Maybe it’s time to install something made out of steel and/or concrete, that can damage or disable a car? Maybe a concrete block next to the posts? Wouldn’t that be better than allowing a motorist who is this dangerous to continue on their way, so they can mow down a person a mile or two farther down the street?

Come on DMV... how do you keep issuing drivers license to people who clearly can't operate a car?
Come on DMV… how do you keep issuing drivers license to people who clearly can’t operate a car safely?

Let’s hope longer-term improvements will depend more on concrete. Let us know your thoughts below.

  • keenplanner

    Thumbsup on the bollarded bulb-outs, as long as they become real bulb-outs soon, but who picked that washed-out aubergine color? Yuck!

  • Mike

    “Streetsblog watched a crew on Friday put in the last of the K71 bollards, which appear more robust than the safe-hit posts generally favored in San Francisco”

    As demonstrated in the last photo of this blog post! ; ) That was after how many days?

  • Nicole

    Color was chosen by the Chinatown community to match their color palette.

  • Roger R.

    Good point Mike. But the key word is “appear.” I’ve watched motorists slowly and deliberately drive right over the safe-hit posts in SF to reach the curb. The Oakland posts look like they can damage your car, so I don’t think motorists will be as likely to do it intentionally. I think the damaged posts in the last photo are obviously from a drunk or otherwise incompetent and/or dangerous driver taking that turn too fast–it leads to the freeway, and we know how motorists tend to get into freeway mind before they get there. But, again, if it were up to me I’d just put down a giant concrete block or planter. A trip to the body shop is a good lesson in how to drive safely.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    One of the problems with the streetscape in this part of Oakland is it’s clearly designed to get drivers out of Oakland and back to the suburb where they live, rather than being designed to serve Oaklanders. It’s the result of decades of broken thinking and overt racism. No amount of paint and plastic can fix this. As much as I appreciate the efforts of OakDOT lately, what these streets need is a radical reorganization starting with a restatement of purpose. Why do these streets exist? Whom do they serve, and how? Only with a major shift in the narrative can these streets be fixed.

  • Roger R.

    Couldn’t agree more.

  • Roger R.

    Well, I like the color. To each their own I guess.

  • Sean

    They just used the same color to make temporary bulbs on Market St in Longfellow, North Oakland. Drivers still rarely yield, but at least it sort of shames them to stop more.

  • I look down on that intersection from my office. I didn’t see the bollards get squished but I’ll bet it was by one of the many tractor trailer trucks that make a right turn there. It’s passable but pretty tight for these trucks.

  • John Eldon

    What are straight-ahead/through bike lanes doing to the right, instead of the left, of right-turn-only vehicle lanes? Perfect setup for a right hook or even a left cross from oncoming motorists who assume the cyclist is turning right, because of his position on the road.

  • Nicole

    You should check out the Downtown Oakland Specific Plan. The draft is out and that’s exactly what it does 🙂

  • WheelsTurning

    Is it just me or does this design force motorists to disobey CVCs 22100 & 21717? Together, those laws are there to prevent right hook collisions. This intersection seems to mandate the risk.

  • WheelsTurning

    I think the intent is to provide infrastructure that doesn’t require learning about the appropriate movements on the road. (No need to learn to “weave” to go straight.) But in doing so, mandates that bicyclists take on that right-hook/left-cross risk.

  • John Eldon

    That is precisely the problem. Too many of these structures designed to give wheeled pedestrians a false sense of security unnecessarily endanger those of us who know how to ride a bicycle in a safe, vehicular, and otherwise lawful manner. We just had the same thing happen on northbound Torrey Pines Rd. adjacent to the UCSD campus. We used to have two left-turn-only lanes, a left-turn bike lane, and two right-turn-only lanes, a configuration that served us well for decades. Now we have lost the left turn bike lane and have all cyclists channeled to the right of the double right-turn-only lane. This is great fun when motorists in the curb lane block the view of motorists in the other (larger radius, faster) right turn lane.

  • DrunkEngineer

    The bike lane needs to be painted green in the section where it passes through the intersection. This would help minimize risk of right-hooks.

  • Scott Mace

    Thank you for pointing out that risk is, as you say, minimized. That still means it’s risky. True “protection” would involve a separate signal phase for cyclists.

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  • Meh, the separate signals are beneficial, but not necessarily essential.

  • Scott Mace

    Sure, if motorists have eyes in the back of their heads.

  • They only need to be able to turn them.

  • CVC 22100 clearly says “as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway” (emphasis added on that pesky word). If there’s a bollard there, then obviously turning around it meets the “as close as practicable” requirement. Ditto for the driving in the bike lane requirement of CVC 21717.

  • They’re avoiding the weaving issues that that configuration forces. I won’t comment on the specifics of this geometry and implementation since I haven’t personally seen it, but the general concept is pretty well proven by a number of studies.

  • quisqas2378

    In this article that shows the first two photos on the top, OakDOT should EXTEND the Protected bike lane…

  • This is quite enviable. Oakland appears to have largely gotten the geometry right from the pictures, which bodes well for upgrading to concrete at a later date with only minor tweaks.

  • If you can’t tell where as close as practicable is here, please do not drive on our streets.
    if you can tell where as close as practicable is here, please do not post on our comments sections.

  • Over those decades, how’s the 8 to 80 contingent grown?

  • Ultimately, you have to have some way of getting right turning vehicles to the right of the traffic that isn’t turning. What’s your design to solve that for busy city streets? (bonus points for answers for rural highways, freeways, streets with buses trying to get to the bus stop, etc.)
    Is that a one-fix-fits-all-streets?
    For all users?

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  • Roger R.

    I haven’t been through the Torrey Pines intersection I believe you’re referring to in a few years, so I won’t comment on any changes. I will say that it is a very different environment from the heavily urban area around Lake Merritt BART in Oakland. Might I suggest you visit Oakland and see how they’re working before passing judgement.

    Lake Merritt is my BART station, so I ride through them almost daily, and, although I’ll wait for OakDOT’s data, they seem far safer and more relaxed than the “mixing zones” they had before (much nicer to walk across too). In practice, the right hook risk is reduced by protected intersections by forcing motorists to slow and make a tighter turn, not a larger, faster one, as you suggest. It also forces a change in sightlines so motorists don’t have to look over their right shoulder. Bottom line is OakDOT drew from Dutch designs and it seems to work.

  • Prinzrob

    Yes, additional posts have been added at the protected intersection entrance, and I haven’t seen anyone try to drive through since then.

    Now the main problem is drivers blocking the bike lane after the protected intersection exit. This is a justification for extending the protection, not reducing it.

    As for right hooks, studies of protected intersections like this have shown reductions in collision incidence and severity, not increases. The slower vehicle turning speeds also benefit pedestrian crosswalk safety. Those of us used to merging in and out of bike lanes to try to manage the car traffic behind us might feel less of a sense of control, but that doesn’t inherently mean increased risk.

  • Scott Mace

    That assumes they will take the time to slow down sufficiently and do so. And cyclists will have to slow to near-walking speed to facilitate that.

  • The entire point of the design is to facilitate that slowing to allow them to turn their heads.