Fell Protected Bike Lane Opens, Telegraph Still in Trouble

A look at ongoing protected bike lane developments on both sides of the Bay

Fell Street's new protected bike lane along the Panhandle is open for business. Photo: Terra Curtis
Fell Street's new protected bike lane along the Panhandle is open for business. Photo: Terra Curtis

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Here are updates on two important safe streets projects in the Bay Area: one on the Panhandle in San Francisco and the other on Telegraph in Oakland.

Fell Street finally gets its protected bike lane

As seen in the lead image taken Saturday, the long-anticipated Fell on-street protected bike lane along the Panhandle is open. And as the pictures in the North of the Panhandle Neighbors Association’s tweet below shows, it’s amazing how fast good protected bike lanes (and intersections) can go in once the political will is there.

“Thank you @sfmta_muni for the new Panhandle-adjacent parking-protected bike lane! True litmus test: took my 2.5-yo and immediately she asked to go back to the “grassy park” path,” wrote transportation consultant Terra Curtis in a post on social media. “Infra redundancy is important for mobility resilience and expanding access for people of all ages.”

Streetsblog readers will recall that this new protected lane, designed as an emergency measure to reduce crowding and promote safe social distancing on the Panhandle mixed-use path, was originally supposed to open a month ago. It was delayed by the San Francisco Fire Department, ostensibly because of concerns about the impact on emergency response times. Streetsblog never heard back from the SFFD about what exactly the issues were, but apparently they weren’t significant enough to delay fire trucks–or construction–for very long.

Meanwhile, advocate Matt Brezina, who pushed hard for this lane, remarked on social media that he’s “…even more excited about the improved overall safety of the street for all road users than the protected bike lane itself! So much winning.”

Streetsblog readers may also recall that in 2017, at the intersection of Fell and Baker, at the start of the Panhandle, 90-year-old David Grinberg was killed walking back from the park to his home in nearby Mercy Terrace. Advocates have long held that making streets safer for pedestrians, including seniors, is an important part of building protected bike lanes, which help reduce crossing distances and, if designed properly, increase visibility. Let’s hope this new parking protected bike lane on Fell will do just that.

Telegraph in Oakland, meanwhile, could be going the other direction 

DOT-bollards
A rendering of the next phase of improvements for Telegraph. Image: OakDOT

Meanwhile, over in Oakland, the Koreatown Northgate Central Business District (KONO-CBD) continues its efforts to get the Oakland City Council to remove the protected bike lanes on Telegraph, which were installed in 2016 as one of the Bay Area’s earliest examples of Dutch-style protected infrastructure.

Streetsblog was forwarded an email that went out to their members claiming that the lanes are dangerous, hurt business, and that:

Oakland’s Department of Transportation (DOT) recently began work on a number of changes to the protected bike lanes along Telegraph from W. Grand to 27th Street. These were installed four years ago as a “pilot project” but over the past 3 1/2 years DOT has done no research to assess their safety and their impact on businesses and residents [emphasis added].

That’s an interesting way of framing things–another way might be to say the OakDOT did a study in January of 2017–about a year after the lanes opened and compared crash and sales data before and after. It showed there were more people walking and biking but fewer crashes. It also showed merchants are doing well. As Streetsblog readers will recall, Oakland is in the midst of doing further upgrades on the street, replacing safe hit posts with K71 bollards (seen in the image above and two images below), which are more effective at stopping motorists from double parking.

The CBD’s survey, meanwhile, states that the improved bike lanes could lead to the “possibility that Oakland First Fridays will not be able to resume when pandemic restrictions are lifted.”

It’s unclear how protected bike lanes and bollards are going to stop a street festival. As Bike East Bay’s Dave Campbell put it to Streetsblog, if the bike lanes are an issue, “…expand the footprint [of the festivities] north and south and take over the bike lane all you want.”

These bollards are going to prevent the resumption of First Fridays, according to the KONO CBD. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
These bollards are going to prevent the resumption of First Fridays, according to the KONO CBD. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Last week Streetsblog reported that Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who is up for reelection this November, is taking the CBD’s claims seriously. She said at a City Council meeting last week that she wants removal of the protected bike lane studied. Streetsblog reached out to McElhaney but didn’t get a reply. However, advocate Ryan Lester emailed her to express his disapproval. “…ripping up a bicycle lane is completely at odds with many of the climate and equity goals in Oakland’s 2030 Equitable Climate Action Plan which calls for us to take aggressive action to avert the worst effects of our climate crisis,” he wrote.

Her response was to write that Lester was “misinformed.” She also sent a copy of a “Resolution and Memo clearly directing the OakDOT to work with our Department of Race & Equity to ensure that these lanes are informed by and serve the residents of this neighborhood.” (Readers can download them here: Telegraph Bike ResolutionTelegraph Bike Lane Improvements)

The resolution she’s introduced (which will be heard tomorrow) seems benign and just talks about more engagement and reporting. That’s in contrast to audio from last week’s council meeting, in which McElhaney stated that it should include an option to “…return the KONO Telegraph Avenue bike lanes to its previous configuration”.

“It also shouldn’t be left unsaid that ripping out bicycle lanes and other traffic calming measures along Telegraph Avenue will only hurt the most vulnerable Oakland residents (bicycle riders, pedestrians and transit riders) who don’t have the luxury of being able to purchase a private vehicle,” Lester wrote to McElhaney.

In the exchange, he tried to get her to commit to keeping the protected bike lane. Her reply is below:

response

 

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