The Long Journey to the Groundbreaking of Oakland’s 14th Street Protected Bikeway
Moving forward, these projects have to happen faster — lives literally depend on it
3:46 PM PST on February 5, 2024
Editor's note: Robert Prinz of Bike East Bay asked us to publish this piece (a version of it also appears on their blog) as a follow up to remind people of what went into getting shovels turned on Oakland's 14th Street protected bike lane project. SBSF is, of course, more than happy to; it's important to remember the thousands of hours of work, spread over 25 years, that went into getting this transformational bike project under construction. And it's important to pause and say "thanks" to all the dedicated advocates involved, many of whom have moved onto bigger and better things. It's also a reminder that fundamental, systemic changes have got to be made so we can get these projects done much faster and everywhere all at once!
At the end of January, Oakland electeds, staff, & advocates gathered to celebrate the start of construction for the 14th Street downtown protected bikeway.
The long-awaited project includes concrete and landscaped planter-protected bike lanes across Downtown Oakland from 980 to Lake Merritt, six protected intersections, widened sidewalks, bus-boarding islands and shelters, updated street lighting, public art, and many more features. Learn more about the project here and sign up for updates.
Since the work is very complex, the construction will take two years to complete. But once it’s done, this project will serve as an example of the type of high-quality infrastructure that every community throughout the East Bay deserves and of how we can start reconnecting communities bisected by urban freeways like 980.
Read on for a history of this project and how we got to now.
Oakland’s very first bicycle plan, adopted in 1999, included this recommendation for 14th Street as a “short-term priority bikeway” targeted for completion between 2000-2007. An infrastructure type was not proposed, but nevertheless no bikeway was built on the corridor.
14th Street was also identified as a priority bike route in Oakland’s 2007 bicycle plan update. The segment through Downtown included a recommendation for painted bike lanes west of Jefferson and shared bike/car lanes east of Jefferson to Lake Merritt.
These bikeways were not built.
The City of Oakland striped painted bike lanes on 14th Street in West Oakland, west of 980, as well as on Lake Merritt Blvd east of Downtown as part of the visionary 12th Street Bridge rebuild project (photo below). However, the gap from the freeway to the lake remained.
Not content with waiting, we at Bike East Bay (then called the East Bay Bicycle Coalition) in partnership with Walk Oakland Bike Oakland launched our own “Oakland Bikeways Campaign” with a focus on bringing continuous bike lanes to three corridors: Telegraph Avenue, Park Boulevard, and 14th Street. Our very first campaign meeting was hosted on January 30, 2013.
Here is an excerpt from our print newsletter reporting on the event:
The following year our Oakland Bikeways Campaign continued, led by our then-Advocacy Director Dave Campbell. This included door-to-door outreach with local business owners. An activity record posted to our website at the time listed 10 businesses as “supportive” with another nine as “potentially supportive”.
Landscape architects Alana McWhorter and Justin Richardson volunteered to draw up a concept for painted bike lanes Downtown. Sam Gross put together a bike-through video rendering of a 2-way protected cycletrack through West Oakland to Lake Merritt.
The City of Oakland applied for and won $10.5 million in state funding for a protected bikeway project on 14th Street Downtown, via the very competitive Active Transportation Program. The city’s Downtown Plan under development at the time conceptualized a raised, protected bikeway (see lead image).
Additional project funds were also secured through other state and regional sources and via Oakland’s Measure KK transportation and affordable housing bond. Bike East Bay campaigned for KK, securing a win during the November election.
Over the next several years progress on the project slowed down as city staff attempted to negotiate the bikeway design details with business owners, the fire department, and other stakeholders.
Tragically in June of 2022, 42-year-old Dmitry Putilov was struck and killed by a hit-run driver while he was biking with his kids on 14th Street at Jefferson.
This terrible incident brought together Dmitry’s family, safe-streets advocates, Oakland elected officials, and other community members with a renewed understanding of the need for change. Just five days later the project concept design was approved by the city council.
Finally, with the 14th Street project fully designed, the city council awarded the contract to a construction firm to start work. This last vote coincided with additional council decisions on projects in Alameda and Emeryville, making for three protected bikeway approvals in one day!
While we are excited to now see the project move forward to the construction phase, we also acknowledge that such a long timeline is not acceptable.
In the five years from 2016-2021, after the state funding was awarded, vehicle collisions here injured 189 people, 38 of them severely.
This stretch of 14th Street represents one of the densest concentrations of traffic injuries and deaths in the City of Oakland and there are many other similarly dangerous streets around the city and the rest of the East Bay.
We need to start acting before another tragedy occurs, not only in response to crashes. This means community-sourced biking and walking plans must be implemented with every opportunity and not sit on a shelf collecting dust.
2024 and beyond...
There are over 70 more protected bikeway projects in development throughout the East Bay right now, such as the Lake Merritt Blvd cycletrack project (shown below) which will connect to 14th Street and loop around the south side of the lake.
In most cases it is no longer a matter of whether these projects will happen but when. The sooner we can move them along to construction the more positive impact there will be on climate change, street safety, environmental justice, and so many other factors by which healthy streets can lead to healthy communities.
Join us in building a network of people-friendly streets and a movement of bike-friendly people!
Thank you to all the dedicated city staff, construction crews, planners/engineers, elected officials, advocacy partners, concerned individuals, volunteers, and Bike East Bay members who make this work possible.
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