Biking and walking soar, collisions plummet along Oakland’s protected bike lanes

February 01, 2017

Michael Andersen, PlacesForBikes staff writer

Telegraph Avenue. Photo via City of Oakland.

Another commercial district along a five-lane street has converted two passing lanes to protected bike lanes and seen great results.

Along nine blocks of Oakland's Telegraph Avenue, biking is up 78 percent since protected bike lanes were installed. Walking is up 100 percent — maybe because, thanks to the single lane of through traffic in each direction, the pedestrian yield rate doubled in the mornings and tripled in the afternoons.

Meanwhile, the number of traffic collisions fell 40 percent. Retail sales in a district that has sometimes struggled are up 9 percent, thanks in part to five new businesses.

And the median car speed is now the speed limit: 25 mph. As usual on such projects in urban areas, the main effect of removing a car passing lane was not to jam traffic, only to prevent irresponsible drivers from weaving between lanes in order to get to the next stoplight more quickly.

"On the part of Telegraph that was not reconfigured — where there are still two travel lanes in each direction, parking along the curb, no bike lane, and no median — speeds stayed high, with 85 percent of drivers going over the speed limit," Streetsblog California reported Monday, drawing on a short summary and detailed memo about the project from the City of Oakland.

Opening day. Photo: Seth Solomonow, Bloomberg Associates.

Outcomes like this one aren't flukes. They're actually common. When cities make commercial districts more pleasant by repurposing passing lanes to improve walking and biking, private businesses nearby are typically fine and occasionally ecstatic. That's true from New York City to Portland to Memphis to Salt Lake City.

As Streetsblog notes, Telegraph's new design has flaws, many of which the city is trying to address. Plastic posts will make parking more intuitive. Floating bus stops will aid transit boarding. And Telegraph, which runs in a beeline from downtown Oakland to the University of California at Berkeley, has many more blocks without comfortable bikeways.

Which means, of course, that these numbers have lots of room to grow.

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