Bike East Bay Push for More Lakeside Bike Heaven

Please Oakland, I want some more...

Lake Merritt's short section of cycle track, just after it opened. More is coming. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Lake Merritt's short section of cycle track, just after it opened. More is coming. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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It’s arguably the best bike infrastructure in the Bay Area–a two-way lane protected by a curb and buffer, complete with bike signals, alongside a beautiful body of water, complete with lovely plantings. The only downside is that it only runs about 1/4 of a mile, from just north of Madison to Grand Avenue. And the transition back to normal streets and dooring lanes at Grand and Harrison is pretty squirrelly, complete with a death-defying slip lane for cars turning east onto Grand that requires cyclists to navigate across traffic if they want to go straight.

But Rome (and Oakland) weren’t built in a day.

Plans are afoot to fix those transitions and extend the two-way cycle track all around the lake. That’s why Bike East Bay is mounting a push to get the next segment built ASAP.

From the organization’s release, published last week:

Bike East Bay and the community’s vision for a continuous loop around Lake Merritt is coming one step closer: OakDOT is planning an extension of the lakeside cycle track! The new segment will connect south to 14th Street and then extend around the amphitheater area of Lake Merritt over the estuary channel bridge to E.12th Street. It’s part of a 2021 repaving project on Lakeside Drive and Lake Merritt Boulevard

The next segment of protected bike lane planned by OakDOT. Image: GoogleMaps via OakDOT
The next segment of protected bike lane planned by OakDOT. Image: GoogleMaps via OakDOT

The Lake Merritt cycle track was one of the first big accomplishments of Oakland’s then-new Department of Transportation, aided by a full-court press from advocates. Also from the Bike East Bay release:

Just a few years ago, this project seemed fated for a paint-only treatment. Then, in 2016, Bike East Bay and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland successfully campaigned to upgrade the original project to protected bike lanes. OakDOT staff took our request one step further with a cycle track—those shiny two-way protected bike lanes. Thanks to Bike East Bay members’ outstanding emails of support, Oakland City Council unanimously approved those upgrades in early 2018.

Meanwhile, Oakland is conducting online and phone-based outreach to local stakeholders and citywide users of Lake Merritt. Starting early next year, it will refine the “concept plan into final draft plan and present to community via postcard mailers, webinars/online video meetings, and an online survey” with construction and repaving scheduled for the spring/summer of 2021.

Current conditions south of the cycletrack... just another gutter pan bike lane. Image: OakDOT
Current conditions south of the cycletrack… just another gutter pan bike lane. This should look more like the lead image, by the summer of 2021. Image: OakDOT

Bike East Bay wants advocates to build on that momentum and get the city to keep threading that cycle track all the way around the Jewel of Oakland. “COVID-19 has highlighted the need for more recreational space around Lake Merritt for safe social distancing,” Bike East Bay writes in its post. “The new stretch of the Lake Merritt cycle track means that Oakland can answer that need on a short timeline, while providing a lasting benefit to residents traveling into downtown Oakland in the future.”

The organization recommends advocates stay tuned and sign up for Oakland’s updates on the project.

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