OakDOT Installs Unprotected Bike Lanes in the Telegraph Gap

New unprotected bike lanes are being installed in the Telegraph "gap" between 29th and MacArthur. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
New unprotected bike lanes are being installed in the Telegraph "gap" between 29th and MacArthur. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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Oakland is repaving the stretch of Telegraph from 29th to MacArthur, between KONO and Temescal. Unlike the sections to the north and south, this stretch of the street is getting paint-only, unprotected bike lanes.

As indicated in the above tweet from Bike East Bay’s Robert Prinz, the street is getting a road diet and other improvements.

But why isn’t the part of Telegraph that runs through Pill Hill and part of Mosswood getting protected bike lanes? Streetsblog has reached out to OakDOT head Ryan Russo and the agency’s communications staff with that question, and will update this post when they respond.

For years, efforts to repave Telegraph through Oakland were mired in controversy over the placement of the bike lane. The stretch in the KONO district from 23rd in uptown to 29th received the city’s very first protected bike lane in 2016. A before-and-after study indicated a forty percent decrease in collisions and a concurrent reduction in speeds and crosswalk violations. Despite this clear success, the project – which was done with temporary treatments including paint and posts – remained controversial, and several attempts were made to remove the protected bike lanes. A similar fight embroiled the stretch of Telegraph that cuts through Temescal to the north, from MacArthur to 52nd, but in the end advocates prevailed and parking-protected bike lanes were installed there (as seen below).

Telegraph in Temescal, one of the two sections where protected bike lanes prevailed. Looking south. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Telegraph in Temescal, one of the two sections where protected bike lanes prevailed. Looking south. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Although advocates urged the city to install protected bike lanes along the entire length of Telegraph, OakDOT has gone ahead and installed a subpar treatment on the middle portion. It’s unclear why, although this is in keeping with the original overall designs put together in 2016. Perhaps the old designs became enshrined in state funding grants and forced OakDOT’s hand? “I called Caltrans, and they said if Oakland wants to improve on the plans, let’s improve them,” said Bike East Bay’s Dave Campbell in a phone interview with Streetsblog.

Buffered bike lanes could, in theory, work just as well as protected bike lanes–if motorists were always fully attentive, safe, and law abiding. But of course they aren’t, as a tour of the new installation this afternoon confirmed.

A truck parked on the newly installed buffered, unprotected bike lane on Telegraph. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick
A truck parked on the newly installed buffered, unprotected bike lane on Telegraph. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick
It's precisely because motorists don't follow the law that paint-only treatments don't work. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
It’s precisely because motorists don’t follow the law that paint-only treatments don’t work. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Meanwhile, Campbell was impressed with the bus boarding island component of the installation. They provide channels so bike riders are at least protected at bus stops and don’t have to jockey for position with buses struggling to get over to the curb and/or re-enter traffic.

One of the new bus boarding islands on Telegraph. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
One of the new bus boarding islands on Telegraph. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Prinz also cautioned that the treatments aren’t finished.

Nevertheless, the most important aspect of the new configuration is already a fail. As decades of research in the Netherlands and quite a bit of evidence in the U.S. – and Oakland – already shows, protected bike lanes are the gold standard for safety. Just last year a pedestrian was killed in San Francisco on Polk because the city made the same compromise that OakDOT is now making on Telegraph. In Streetsblog’s view, it’s a crime for Oakland to be installing new infrastructure that it knows will cause future injuries and deaths.

“Other countries have long stopped debating about protected vs. unprotected bike lanes. Why are we even still debating where bikes belong on a busy street,” said a frustrated Campbell. “We don’t debate crosswalks, we don’t debate curb ramps, why are we still debating this?”

In addition to reaching out to the city of Oakland, Streetsblog has contacted staff with City Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Carroll Fife (her office said they are also checking with OakDOT) and will update this post with their statements.

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Chris Hwang, President of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Checking out Oakland Bike Infrastructure with WOBO

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Streetsblog did a survey tour of Oakland bike infrastructure last Friday with Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) president Chris Hwang. The group’s mission statement, from its web page, is a familiar one for safe-streets advocates: “We want every person who lives, plays, and works in Oakland to feel safe and comfortable walking and bicycling, and that they know how to […]