In the Know: How Protected Bike Lanes Work

A day we have waited for since 2013 is here. Oakland Public Works Department has completed the protected bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue and Mayor Libby Schaaf cut the ribbon on May 10, just in time for Bike to Work Day. Our street ambassadors were out to ensure a smooth rollout of Oakland’s first modern on-street bikeway. 

The parking protected bike lanes on Telegraph Ave might require a learning curve: we want to assist everyone in learning how to properly use Telegraph’s new curbside protected bike lanes and floating on-street car parking spaces. Read on and share this useful information with your friends and with people you encounter on Telegraph Avenue. Be in the know.

What are Protected Bike Lanes?

Protected bike lanes are a simple concept, really: they’re like sidewalks for bikes. They are also called cycle tracks and separated bike lanes. Because they use planters, curbs, parked cars (as will be the case on Telegraph Avenue) or posts to separate bike and auto traffic on busy streets, protected lanes are essential to building a full network of bike-friendly routes. Once that network is built, it makes riding a bike a pleasant and practical way for many more people (not just the bold or athletic) to make trips of a mile or two.

Watch for pedestrians


Here is a close up view of a protected bike lane, much like the protected bike lanes coming to Telegraph Avenue. Cars park on your left as you bicycle between them and the curb. When drivers park out in the floating parking spaces, they walk across the protected bike lane to get to the curb. So, watch for people walking to and from cars and the sidewalk. You have the right of way, but they may not realize this at first.

Ride in direction of traffic

The protected bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue are ‘one-way’ protected bike lanes, meaning that you should only travel in the lanes in the direction of adjacent car traffic, i.e. don’t ride against traffic and against the flow of bikes in the protected bike lane, even though you may be tempted to do so.

Can cars park in the protected bike lane?

No. Cars should only park in the floating parking spaces on the left of the protected bike lanes. If a car does mistakenly park in the bike lane, you can leave the bike lane to go around. And if you have time, remind the driver they goofed and parked in the bike lane. Similarly, drivers should not drop off or pick up/load/unload in the protected bike lane, but if they do you can go around.

Do I have to ride in the protected bike lane?

You are legally allowed to leave the protected bike lane, which you may need to do if it is blocked for some reason by a car or if there is a hazard in the way. You may also leave the protected bike lane to make a left turn or a u-turn. There are many gaps in the ‘protection’ of the bike lane where you can leave the lane.

Watch for right-turning cars at driveways and minor streets

At driveways and minor cross streets, drivers turn right across the protected bike lane may not see you at first, even though sight lines have been maximized with the street design. So, be aware of potential right turning cars coming off of Telegraph Ave. For cars pulling out of driveways, your visibility to them is greatly improved with the protected bike lane designs on Telegraph.

On the Right Track from Former Mayor Sam Adams on Vimeo.

How do I make a left turn?

To make a left turn, you have several options. 1) leave the protected bike lane in advance of your left turn and ride like a vehicle to merge left and position yourself properly for a left turn, sometimes as much as a block early; 2) make a two-stage left turn (box turn, Copenhagen left). For this, you stay in the protected bike lane and proceed straight into the intersection of the street where you want to make a left turn, and position yourself on the far side of the intersection just outside of the bike lane, either to the right or left as is safe. Then, reposition yourself to the left and proceed across the cross street when safe to do so. At Grand Avenue and 27th Street, there are two-stage “green” queue boxes where you can reposition yourself for the left movement.

Be ready for merge zones

On your approach to major intersections (at Grand Ave, 27th Street) the protected bike lanes end and a merge zone starts. In the merge zone, the bike lane is striped to the left of a right turn pocket for cars. Green paint directs you where to go. At the far side of the intersection, the protected bike lane resumes. Oakland has received a generous state grant to upgrade the design of protected bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue, which will improve the merge zone design.

Buses and bikes

Initially, buses will still pull to the curb to pick up and drop off passengers. This means that at bus stops, you can either wait for the bus to restart or go around the bus to the left–there is sufficient room. Be careful. In the future, floating bus boarding islands will be installed, where the bike lane stays curbside and goes around the boarding island in the right.

Be a street ambassador

As you use the new protected bike lanes, help share the information on this page with other residents and users of the roadway. And if you are particularly excited about Telegraph’s new protected bike lanes, sign up as an official street ambassador to help us ensure a smooth rollout. Sign up for a one-hour street ambassador volunteer shift.

The Rise of Protected Bike Lanes in the U.S. from The PeopleForBikes GLP on Vimeo.

Read more about protected bike lanes at the Green Lane Project.