New Bike Lanes in Oakland Are Not Exactly Working Perfectly
Cities all over the Bay Area have been talking for years about how to improve the traffic infrastructure for cyclists, pedestrians, transit users, and of course, cars and trucks. And while any conversation about how to improve road safety is one we appreciate, it seems that time and time again the measures being implemented fall short of the hoped-for results.
This time it is Oakland who has tried something new. As of a couple of weeks ago, the city has installed new bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue. These bike lanes are “parking protected” bike lanes, which means that the cyclists are riding all the way over on the right side of the road, with a lane for parked cars on their left, and then the flow of normal traffic to the left of those cars.
This kind of bike lane is intended to offer cyclists extra protection by keeping them out of traffic and out of the way of car doors opening on the left. All cars can merge to the left without worrying about crossing into the bike lane, and there’s an extra buffer between the parked cars and the bikes to allow for car drivers to load cargo without standing in either car or bike traffic.
Like so many of the traffic-improving plans we’ve seen rolled out, it sounds pretty good in theory.
However, on Telegraph Ave, the other residents of the road have not exactly been taking the new bike lanes as seriously as cyclists would hope.
For instance, the new street layout has reduced the traffic lanes to just one going each way, which has slowed down traffic (some might argue that’s a good thing, on a traditionally fast-paced street). Plus, the reduction in lanes makes it much harder for cars to parallel park, meaning that already slowed down traffic comes to a standstill when someone is parking — or else, the parking car looks for a “not exactly legal” alternative to parallel parking.
“Traffic is slower, because cars have to wait for drivers to parallel park. They are also stopping for crossing pedestrians and slowing down for people getting out of cars. But people are still driving too fast, and that means honking and unsafe maneuvers–like passing over the double line to zoom past cars stopped for pedestrians or other cars.”
In addition to some safety hazards, the bike lanes have caused some confusion for drivers. Some cars have been driving in the bike lanes, and city buses have still be pulling all the way to the curb to load and unload passengers, even though that means pulling into the bike lane every couple of blocks.
Time will tell whether these issues are just growing pains, or problems of their own that will require future solutions.
Residents and business owners in Oakland have been responding to the new bike lanes with mixed reviews. Some people see it as a sign that Oakland is going on the right path towards taking cyclist safety more seriously; others see the bike lanes as creating a whole new set of problems.
Business owners worry about reduced traffic to their stores from confused shoppers who don’t understand where to park. Cyclists worry about frustrated drivers swerving into their space to try to jump ahead of slowed traffic.
“The city has put out some temporary signs to help people, with arrows pointing left to indicate ‘park’ and right for ‘bike.’ For the most part, though, people seem to understand what’s happening. Bike East Bay has been handing out fliers thanking people for parking correctly, and reminding others how to do it right. Many people I talked to seemed to understand how it was supposed to work.
‘This is really a sign that Oakland is growing up,’ one man sitting in his (correctly) parked car told me. ‘This makes Oakland important.’
But others are having a harder time adjusting. Double parking is now pretty much impossible, so it is no longer an option for quick pickups or deliveries. People are worried about getting out of their cars right next to a lane of moving traffic. ‘I saw one lady almost get hit by a bus’ as she got out the driver’s side door, one neighbor told me.”
What do you think of the new bike lanes in Oakland, and the new traffic solutions around the Bay Area?