Alameda’s Clement Avenue Safety Project Moving Forward

Protected, two-way cycle tracks, better sidewalks, but intersection danger may remain

A map of the Clement Avenue improvement project. Image: City of Alameda
A map of the Clement Avenue improvement project. Image: City of Alameda

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The advocates over at BikeWalkAlameda (BWA) scored a major victory at the Alameda Transportation Commission recently, when they won approval for the Clement Avenue Safety Improvement Project, which will improve biking and walking between Broadway and Grand.

From BWA’s web page:

On July 24, 2019, the Transportation Commission voted 5-1 in favor of the two-way protected bike lane (Option 3) plus a bonus for vehicular cyclists who still want to ride on the street–put sharrows down so drivers don’t yell at them! This comes before City Council on Sept. 17, so mark you calendars! And then, hopefully, construction in 2020.

“The Clement Ave project from Grand to Broadway is another piece of the puzzle that will create an amazing Cross Alameda Trail (CAT),” wrote BikeWalkAlameda’s Lucy Gigli in an email to Streetsblog. “The CAT is envisioned to be a walking and biking trail for everyone of all abilities. It will stretch from the east end of the island all the way to the west end new ferry terminal (over four miles – protected).” According to the City’s web page, construction could be completed as early as the end of 2020.

Also according to BWA’s web page, this is the longest portion of the Cross Alameda Trail. The project will also fix narrow sidewalks, remove old railroad tracks from the pavement, add street trees, and make the area a much more enjoyable place to bike and walk.

Image: City of Alameda
Image: City of Alameda

“BWA has been advocating for a long time for the completion of the CAT, and the two-way protected bike lane on Clement will be a major piece of that vision, bringing us one step closer to a complete bikeway from Fruitvale to Alameda Point,” wrote Bike East Bay’s Susie Hufstader in an email to Streetsblog. “It was fantastic to hear strong support from the Transportation Commission and we’re looking forward to advocating for City Council approval in September.”

She added that because the Clement project is a segment of the future trail, “a two-way cycle track will create a seamless experience without the need for multiple transitions. And, because of the large Alameda Marina development property and the Naval offices there, the number of driveways and crossings is low.”

“The two-way protected bike lanes have been chosen for a few of our streets because they work well on an island,” added Gigli. “You get way fewer cross streets to deal with when one side of the street is the end of the island. For example, on Clement from Oak to Grand there are currently no cross streets on the north side. Compare this with nine cross streets on the south side. That makes a big difference. ”

It does, and, indeed, because it is an island, two-way cycle tracks make sense on the perimeter, such as on Shoreline Drive.

But Clement does have some cross streets, notably Oak, Park, and Everett. Oak and Everett don’t really go anywhere north of Clement, so there won’t be much cross traffic, but Park sure does, and that could be a problem.

Cross traffic with Park could be very problematic with a two-way cycle track, if the intersection is not properly designed. Image: City of Alameda

Incredible care is going to have to be taken at these intersections, and designs will need to be refined and improved, at least going by the preliminary drawings (see image above at Park and Clement Avenue, with heavy cross traffic, lots of turning movements, and, apparently, no protection for cyclists through the intersection). Gail Payne, Senior Transportation Coordinator, City of Alameda, wrote in an email to Streetsblog that, “yes, we will be looking into protected intersections when we do the more detailed design.”

BWA and Bike East Bay will have to keep an eye on those intersections, Park especially, to make sure robust protected intersections end up in the final designs.

  • thielges

    “…plus a bonus for vehicular cyclists who still want to ride on the street–put sharrows down so drivers don’t yell at them!”

    Unfortunately sharrows are not a magic hex that can placate impatient drivers. The harassment will continue.

    What is the scenario where vehicular cyclists would want to travel outside of the protected bike lanes? A few block trip eastbound? A destination on the south side of the street? I’m just wondering support to ride in the car lane is for longer distance travel or just for short range positioning.

  • Prinzrob

    That part of the statement from BWA was mostly made in reference to complaints from some locals who have been vocal about a lack of sharrows in the travel lanes next to the similar two-way cycletrack on Shoreline Drive.

    I agree that the inclusion of sharrows on Clement won’t make much of a difference one way or another, but it’s a cheap add-on and could stave off another debate allowing staff to focus on more critical stuff.

  • David

    Spandex warriors complain that protected lanes attract slower cyclists, which impede their ability to ride quickly down the street. This is an incredibly small percentage of cyclists, but also a group that is quite vocal.

  • Yolanda

    The cyclist who made the request for sharrows said that he didn’t feel safe in the protected lanes because he rides at a fast pace and motorists won’t see him in time when he’s riding against the flow of traffic in the two-way lane.

  • Jame

    Yup, they always complain protected infrastructure is unsafe. Of course designing the infrastructure for this vocal minority means no new cyclists will show up!

  • Gallups Mirror

    “What is the scenario where vehicular cyclists would want to travel outside of the protected bike lanes?”

    In every scenario where the usual cast of confused cycling “advocates” fails to articulate the protection afforded me by the “protected bike lane”, or how their magical thinking is worth a slower pace with more frequent and unnecessary delays.

    Seriously. Look at the attached diagram. What protection? Bike lanes give the cyclist no special legal protection. Paint is not protection. Door zones are not protection. Hiding cyclists behind parked cars until they emerge unexpectedly into motor traffic at intersections–sometimes heading in the opposite direction–is not protection. A low curb that motor vehicles can easily mount is not protection. These dangers apply to virtually 100 percent of that new bike lane.

    I train very hard almost every day to stay in shape and be quick on a bicycle. In the street, I can go 20-25 mph even in heavy traffic, because any motorist can go that fast or faster. In a busy bike lane or bike path, I can only go as fast as the slowest cyclists–typically the young, the old, or the unconditioned–which effectively caps my travel speed with that of a child. And that’s assuming the bike lane is not blocked entirely–with trash and recycling barrels, piles of raked leaves, snow banks, illegally parked cars, un/loading trucks, police cruisers, and pedestrians. Street traffic, not bike lane traffic, gets preferential treatment. Have you ever seen a four-way stop at the intersection of one busy street and one bike path? Me either. The path cyclist has to stop. The roadway cyclist does not. I could go on all day, but you get the idea.

    I don’t object to installing a bike lane, only to being forced to use it. For my purposes as a cyclist, a “protected bike lane” is empty sloganeering, and a boondoggle at best. It’s really just a way to ensure motorist convenience at the expense of cyclist convenience–despite that under the law they have an equal right to use the road–which is sold to cyclists under the banner of illusory safety.

  • thielges

    “I can only go as fast as the slowest cyclists–typically the young, the
    old, or the unconditioned–which effectively caps my travel speed with
    that of a child.”

    Isn’t it possible just to change lanes and pass when encountering a slower rider?

  • Gallups Mirror

    The omitted words–“In a busy bike lane or bike path…”–provide an important context, since encouraging more people to take up cycling (especially during rush hour) is a major selling point of these “protected” bike lanes, almost as much as the bogus safety claims.

    It’s often possible to overtake safely in a bike lane, yes, but at busy times it’s just as often unsafe, or not possible at all. It’s very situational.

    The attached image is a common sight: casual cyclists riding two or three abreast, occupying the entire lane. This might be an ongoing blockage, if they’re engaged in conversation, or a momentary blockage, as one slow cyclist overtakes two very slow cyclists, but I still have to reduce speed, and either wait to overtake, or ask one to make room. The barriers on the left and right make passing impossible unless one of the cyclists moves aside. Note that the cyclist in the striped shirt is riding in the door zone of stopped or parked motor vehicles. Let’s say he moves over and waves me by. He means well, but the door zone, being unsafe, is unusable space, only he either doesn’t know it or doesn’t care if he gets doored. Now he’s puzzled, wondering why I’m not passing, despite that he moved over. More confusion. More delay.

    Two-way lanes are the worst. The most frequent and dangerous obstacle is the oncoming cyclist who enters my lane, coming right at me–while THEY pass someone going in the opposite direction–after disregarding or underestimating my speed, causing me to brake to avoid a head-on collision.

    The specific reasons for each slowdown aren’t as important as how frequently they occur. Imagine being able to cruise at 20-25 mph, but you encounter other cyclists in similar situations every fifty yards that you travel. It’s one hell of a nuisance on a 7-mile commute. That’s why I refer the road: slowdowns happen in the full lane of the roadway too, but in a 12-foot lane there’s more room to pass, although this is required much less often, without negotiation (“passing on your left!”), and with less delay.

  • Bill Murray

    Which is 100% valid. Road cyclists travel at 20-30 mph. Those speeds are unsafe in the contraflow direction of a two-way bikeway.

  • Bill Murray

    Such an absurd design. They made the bikeway terribly narrow (9′) to retain a very small number of parking spaces on the north side of the street.

  • thielges

    A bike lane so crowded that it is difficult to pass slow riders? That sounds like a good problem to have. Bring it on because with that crowd comes new bicyclists who will vote for candidates and issues who will create more bike infrastructure.

    Think long term and not just for your specific personal need. You will benefit too.

  • Gallups Mirror

    In other words, “protected bike lane” is nonsense and cannot be articulated–by you or anyone else–leaving a “benefit” which makes me slower and protects nobody. No, thank you. I’ll stick with using the center of a lane on the road, and oppose state or local politicians who suggest otherwise.

    This is your failure to think long term, not mine, since separated bicycling facilities are often a prelude to banning cyclists from the roadways altogether: a catastrophe for cyclist rights which has already occurred in 17 states. This is why cycling advocates like the LAB oppose mandatory use laws: if the right to use the road is not defended, it will disappear.

    Sorry, but citing separated infrastructure as a method of recruiting more cyclists is not advocacy. It’s a way of missing the point, like saying they built the Golden Gate Bridge to get more people to cross San Francisco Bay.

  • Baloo Uriza

    I am not down with the two-way cycletrap. “durr, let’s put one lane of traffic between two lanes of oncoming traffic”. It was dumb when we tried it in the 70s, it’s still dumb now.

  • Baloo Uriza

    9 feet isn’t even wide enough to meet federal minimums for two opposing bike lanes (6′ minimum per lane).

  • thielges

    Separated bike lanes should not be used as a reason to ban cyclists from the roadway. So long as there are addresses that can only be reached by biking in the roadway, it is not fair to ban bicyclists.

  • Gallups Mirror

    It’s unfair to ban cyclists from the roadways so long as the roadways continue to be effective ways to travel. To call for anything less is opposition to cycling, not advocacy.

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