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Eyes on the Street: Update on Telegraph, the Protected Bike Lane that Almost Wasn’t

4:29 PM PDT on April 3, 2023

A cyclist riding down the mostly completed protected bike lane on Telegraph in Oakland. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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It’s nice on occasion to do an update on the construction of the Bay Area’s first real protected bike lane through a commercial district: on the Koreatown Northgate section of Telegraph, from Thomas Berkeley Way to 29th in Oakland.

The project is nearing completion, with concrete islands, protected intersections, and a nice decorative brick pattern. Here’s a look at the wide protective islands with clear sight-lines to keep driveways relatively safe.

The project, which should be partially finished this summer, has come a long way since December when Streetsblog last looked at the project. Most of the concrete forms are now poured. New pavement will be next with green Kermit paint. But it’s already one of the most relaxed places to bike in Oakland. It’s going to get even better in a few more years, when full protected intersections are added at major intersections.

As Streetsblog readers may recall, almost three years ago there was an 11th-hour push by then-City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney and DOT Director Ryan Russo to kill this project and install unprotected, paint-only door-zone lanes. At the time, it was stated by many city officials that a protected bike lane was no longer on the table.

Gettin’ it done. Thanks guys!

But Bike East Bay, along with Oakland advocates, essentially said “no f*cking way” (and many literally said that). McElhaney was defeated by newcomer Carroll Fife (how often does that happen in Bay Area politics?) who supported the protected bike lane unambiguously. The project was approved unanimously by Oakland lawmakers who understood that ultimately OakDOT, the mayor, merchant groups, and powerful, wealthy people don’t decide the law, they do.

And now it’s being built, with floating loading zones, bus stop islands, and the works. Farther up the street, in Temescal, a quick-build version of a protected bike lane will soon be backed up with concrete too. The diagram below, provided by Bike East Bay’s Robert Prinz, shows how bike lanes can work with parklets.

“Oakland figured this out ten years ago in their original Telegraph Complete Streets plan,” he wrote to Streetsblog about parklets and protected bike lanes.

Before he left, Russo did, unfortunately, manage to repave one stretch of Telegraph – from 29th to Temescal – with only standard painted bike lanes. Of course, now they are a double-parking zone masquerading as a bike lane, just like every other painted bike lane on earth. During Streetsblog’s ride today, it was again made very clear why unprotected bike lanes, even with plastic posts, simply don’t work. The center section of Telegraph–the Russo lanes–were totally blocked by illegally parked motorists, as was the section south of Thomas Berkeley Way. Motorists were also parked in the center median.

Motorists will park anywhere and everywhere that they physically can. Paint, plastic posts, and tiny little bullsh*t rubber curbs *do* *not* *work* anywhere, ever. Never have. Never will.

This was the situation as soon as Streetsblog left the protected portion
This was the situation as soon as Streetsblog left the protected portion
This was the situation as soon as Streetsblog left the protected portion

Mr. “protected bike lanes aren’t the gold standard” Russo is no longer director of Oakland DOT. He was gone not long after his failed efforts to completely kill this project.

A motorist parked in the center of the street and another one double parked in the vehicle lane.
Here one can see a motorist parked in the center of the street and another one double parked in the vehicle lane, mostly hidden by the pedestrian trying to cross safely.
A motorist parked in the center of the street and another one double parked in the vehicle lane.

It’s always a good time to celebrate what advocates can accomplish when they stick to their proverbial guns and stay focused on achieving safety–real safety, not just talk–for people who get around on two wheels.

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