Cycling Through Oakland: Telegraph Avenue Won't Be A Hellish Dragstrip For Bikes Much Longer
Just like the Wiggle in San Francisco, Oakland's Telegraph Avenue is finally going to get some much-needed love.
That's a good thing, as anyone who has ridden a bike on Telegraph Avenue knows, it's not designed for two wheels.
Some 1,200 cyclists use Telegraph Avenue on any given work day. Unfortunately it's a high-speed auto thoroughfare with no bike lanes for most of its length. The funny thing about Telegraph Avenue is that there's no reason for it to be a hellish dragstrip.
Interstate 980 and Highway 24 mirrors the road, meaning the high-speed traffic really has no reason to be on the surface street. "There's a legacy that prioritizes automobiles over everyone else. We're trying to change that," says Kirstine Shaff, spokeswoman for Oakland's Public Works Department.
She pointed out what might already seen obvious: Fewer than 10 percent of people think that Telegraph Avenue works right now; that was confirmed from early numbers via an online survey from 1,000-plus respondents. "We're working on developing some different options -- those will be available for 2014. Any plan will definitely have community input, there will be community meetings, and of course, we have to find funding."
Unfortunately, for cyclists, any upgrade to Telegraph will have to wait a little while. Bike lanes have been planned for over a decade; they were initially blocked by a lawsuit in 2002. If the current Complete Streets Plan comes to fruition, you can expect Class II bike lanes -- the kind of lanes that are painted inside on-street parking. There's plenty of space on Telegraph for that kind of lane, but Oakland could do one better.
One plan, put forward by the East Bay Bike Coalition, calls for a Class I bike path. That's the kind that puts the bike lane inside the parked cars, like this:
Other improvements to Telegraph that might be considered: lower speed limits, pedestrian bulb-outs to reduce crossing distance, and aesthetic improvements.
Making Oakland's Telegraph Avenue more bike and pedestrian-friendly isn't exactly a new topic. According to a December 2013 memo from Community Design + Architecture, Oakland's street grid was laid out when walking and transit were the most common modes of transportation.
"Neighborhoods like Temescal...developed with housing and businesses clustered along streetcar lines. These neighborhoods can be pedestrian-friendly because they were designed for people to walk from their homes to trolley stops and the surrounding shops, the memo, which was addressed to Jamie Parks,Oakland's Community Street Project Director, states.
If you'd like to chime in on the future Telegraph Avenue, you can still give feedback online today. Otherwise, the Public Works Agency of Oakland is happy to take complaints at 510-615-5566 or online at SeeClickFix -- there's also a SeeClickFix app so you can report problems on from your phone.
As Shaff already noted: In order for Public Works to work, they need an engaged public. So go ahead -- engage. Complain about the streets -- you're playing right into their hands.
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.