Bicycle Coalition Plans Controversial Cycling Lane for Telegraph Avenue

bicycle lane separate from cars

Several designs have been put forward as ways to separate automobile traffic from bicycles, like this One-Way Track. Image courtesy of East Bay Bicycle Coalition.

Seen from above, much of Oakland resembles a bicycle wheel: major roads like Telegraph, Broadway and San Pablo don’t follow a grid, but instead run like spokes towards City Hall. These arterials are convenient for commuters – the roadways are wide and tend to take people where they want to go.

It is precisely their convenience that has made them so risky for the city’s cyclists.

“Bicyclists are in a way like cats or water,” said Dave Campbell, the advocacy director for the East Bay Bike Coalition. “They take the most direct route. They’re hard to corral.”

While side streets like Webster or Colby Street are considered to be safer for cyclists, they are often uphill and out of the way. Martin Robinson, a resident of Temescal, said he rarely takes side streets because they often take him off-route. He described riding on the main streets as “dangerous,” and that taking them “feels wrong.”

The East Bay Bike Coalition is currently in the planning stages of a potential bike lane for Telegraph Avenue. As they consider several designs to help keep cyclists safer, however, they are finding themselves running up against opposition from businesses that may have their on-street parking removed to make way for the bike lane.

The public safety concerns for cyclists are real. According to Oakland’s Complete Streets Program, from 2007 to 2011 there were approximately 65 bike crashes on Telegraph Avenue between 20th and 57th Streets, none of which were fatal. An average of 1,200 cyclists cross the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and 40th Street daily, making Telegraph the most used bike corridor in the city.

Campbell says that installing a bike lane on Telegraph Avenue is the Bike Coalition’s “highest priority.”

But it’s also turning out to be one of their biggest challenges: Because there is no unused space on Telegraph Avenue, installing a bike lane would likely require removing some of the on-street parking.

“Very few people raise then hands when you say ‘Who would like to give up your roadway space for bikes,’” Campbell said.

Amy Remsen, the co-owner of Beauty’s Bagel Shop on Telegraph and 36th Street, says that while more bicycle traffic may lead to more bike customers, “a lot of our customers already have trouble parking nearby, so we would hate for that to become even more of an issue.”

The EBBC is working with two design firms, Fehr & Peers and Community Design & Architecture, in order to create what they call an “innovative bike lane,” something more comprehensive than simply putting a white line down the road. Potential designs include a two-way bike lane and “protected bike lanes,” in which a barrier like parked cars or stanchions separate a bike lane from the rest of the roadway.

At a recent meeting at Arbor Café, members of the Bike Coalition discussed how to best win over the residents and businesses of the Temescal stretch of Telegraph Avenue. They believe that cyclists shop more frequently than drivers, even if they buy less when they shop. They hope to convince businesses that less parking does not equal fewer customers, and seek to remind owners that the city install free bike racks in front of their businesses.

The EBBC hopes to have their initial design finished by this fall, and to get the project finished by 2015.

“If they’re riding here,” Campbell said, “we need to make here safer.”

12 Comments

  1. One key clarification, the Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets Project also includes potential pedestrian improvements for safer, more comfortable walking environment, and to improve public safety. Also, the project is an official planning process of the City of Oakland, that has long been stalled and is now re-starting. The East Bay Bicycle Coalition is actively engaged in this public process and hopes to build support for a bikeway on Telegraph that is safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities.

    Dave Campbell
    Advocacy Director
    East Bay Bicycle Coalition

  2. Jeff Goodwin

    As someone who lives and works in close proximity to Telegraph Ave, I’m thrilled to see that the City of Oakland is prioritizing this project. Although Telegraph offers an undeniably convenient route, it’s treacherous territory for cyclists, forcing many of us on two wheels to find alternative routes. This project has the potential to change Telegraph into a welcoming environment for everyone who uses the street.

    • Phil

      I don’t know which Telegraph Ave. you live on but I’m at 59th and there’s plenty of room for cyclists.
      In fact as someone who has cycled for about 40 years I’d call it a pretty good street to cycle on.

  3. harvey

    Lets ban automobiles on Telegraph a create a light rail system from downtown Oakland to the UCB.

    • harvey

      Write me a check Harvey,

      Check out the 1/19/2014 SF Business Times: More housing coming to Temescal, hipster hot spot in Oakland.
      We are so screwed.

  4. It's Me

    You are dammed if you do, you are dammed if you don’t

  5. I have a car, but mostly bus or BART to Temescal. I walk to Telegraph Ave spots if they’re below 33rd. If Telegraph were made more pedestrian, bike, and bus focused I’d use the street more often. When I do drive to Temescal I usually park in one of the public lots or in the surrounding residential area -it’s never an issue.

  6. jeff

    Ha no unused space on Telegraph. Good one! How about removing a travel lane or the center turn lane? There’s seven lanes for cars and almost nothing for pedestrians.

    • Joe

      Exactly what I was thinking when I read this. Losing a lane of traffic in each direction and slowing speed limits would transform Telegraph into a desirable place to walk and hang out. Rather than the auto centric thoroughfare it is now.
      Between Broadway, MLK, and the freeway, there is enough infrastructure to handle a little extra traffic.

  7. jessie

    I would be more inclined to go to Berkeley and Temescal way more often if I didn’t have to ride over to College or Shafter to get there safely. As it is now I can ride 4 blocks till the bike line disappears around Telegraph 55th street. As I result it is easier to just ride to Rockridge and get on BART, and go anywhere right by BART, than it is to go places that should be a 5 min bike ride away.

  8. Kat

    Bike lines are also good economics for the residents of Oakland, because bikes are more affordable than car, so anything that encourages use and safety for a more affordable means of transportation is something that can support more Oaklanders. Thanks to businesses like Bikes 4 Less in West Oakland, there are kids who ride their bikes all over town. Let’s make it safer for them, and everyone else on 2 wheels (and pedestrians, too, for that matter).

  9. Barbara N.

    safety? How about more than one out of 100 cyclists stop at Stop signs.

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