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Bicycle Infrastructure

More Paint and Another Death in Oakland

5:34 PM PDT on November 2, 2021

The corner of Foothill and 23rd Ave. in Oakland. Photo: Chris Cassidy

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.

Another vulnerable road user, this time on a scooter, was killed on a notorious stretch of Foothill Boulevard in Oakland. From S.F. Gate:

A 54-year-old woman died in a hit-and-run collision Friday night when a car hit her as she was riding an electric scooter along Foothill Boulevard in Oakland, police said Monday. Michelle Marbley of Oakland died in the 2300 block of Foothill Boulevard shortly after the collision at 10:05 p.m.

Certainly, the driver, who apparently ran a red light and was on the wrong side of the road, was in the wrong. But this is just the latest crash to take the life of a vulnerable road user on Foothill. So far, OakDOT's response has involved plastic, paint, and signal changes, but not the one thing that might have actually prevented this death: concrete and parking-protected bike lanes and intersections.

"This is a street that's had OakDOT's attention for many years and they've done many projects," said Bike East Bay's Dave Campbell. "But even when we have OakDOT's attention and resources we still can't keep people alive."

Painted sharrows on Foothill. Photo: Chris Cassidy
Painted sharrows on Foothill. Photo: Chris Cassidy
Painted sharrows on Foothill. Photo: Chris Cassidy

The bottom line is: "We need much more separation and protection," concluded Campbell.

He made the comments while taking a break from a ride on Milvia, in Berkeley, where that city is in the process of adding concrete curbs and parking-protected bike lanes to truly keep people separated and safe from motorists.

Unfortunately, OakDOT continues to lay down more painted bike lanes that won't actually stop an egregious driver, such as this one on Washington, which was painted within the last few months. How hard would it have been to swap the bike lane and the parking lane below?

New unprotected bike lanes on Washington in Oakland. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick
New unprotected bike lanes on Washington in Oakland. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick
New unprotected bike lanes on Washington in Oakland. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick

But Campbell said the city just continues to paint door-zone lanes and sharrows, even on wide, fast streets where it's clearly inappropriate. "It's time to treat people on bikes like we treat pedestrians, who are separated from traffic."

So how would a protected bike lane and intersection have stopped the latest tragedy on Foothill, considering the driver ran a red light? Streetsblog has had multiple conversations with city planners in the Bay Area who still think there's nothing that can be done to prevent collisions with the worst drivers. But, as seen in the Tweet below (and other photos), that is simply not true. Concrete or parking-protected bike lanes, solid bollards, concrete pedestrian refuge areas with steel and concrete stop blocks and bells, as shown below in London, really do work.

That's not just a picture of a car with two wheels in the air. That's a pedestrian (or several) who got to cross the street and go home instead of to the morgue. Or maybe it's a picture of a safe cyclist or pedestrian miles from that location, because the motorist was stopped before they got anywhere near them. Bottom line: a drunk or otherwise reckless motorist isn't going to get far speeding around an environment that is specifically designed to check such behavior. Chances are, if Oakland were truly built for safety, the driver who hit Marbley would have wrecked on concrete or steel before reaching the site of Friday's tragedy. That result would come only from a systematic approach that prioritizes safety over speed and motoring convenience.

To continue responding to deaths with more paint falls under the definition of insanity, in Streetsblog's view.

Streetsblog has inquiries in to OakDOT's Ryan Russo (and others) and will update this post.

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