The Long Journey to Oakland’s 14th Street Downtown Protected Bikeway

Author: Bike East Bay

Date: January 31, 2024

Group of Oakland elected officials and bike advocates standing in a row and digging into the dirt with gold painted shovels

Last week Oakland electeds, staff, & advocates gathered to celebrate the start of construction for the 14th Street Downtown protected bikeway.

The long-awaited project includes concrete and landscaped planter-protected bike lanes across Downtown Oakland from 980 to Lake Merritt, six protected intersections, widened sidewalks, bus boarding islands and shelters, updated street lighting, public art, and many more features. Learn more about the project here and sign up for updates.

Since the work is very complex the construction will take two years for completion. But once it’s done, this project will serve as an example of the type of high quality infrastructure that every community throughout the East Bay deserves, and of how we can start reconnecting communities bisected by urban freeways like 980.

Read on for a history of this project, and how we got to now:

1999

Oakland’s very first bicycle plan, adopted in 1999, included this recommendation for 14th Street as a “short-term priority bikeway” targeted for completion between 2000-2007. An infrastructure type was not proposed, but nevertheless no bikeway was built on the corridor.

"Oakland Bicycle Plan Recommended Bikeway Network • 14th Street From: Mandela Parkway To: Lakeshore Avenue 14th Street would provide an excellent connection for bicyclists from West Oakland to the numerous destinations downtown and around Lake Merrit. Including the Federal Building, State Building, City Hall, Laney College, Lake Merritt Channel, Kaiser Auditorium, County Center, and the Oakland Museum. The creation of a Class I pathway on the existing 12th / 14*h Street couplet across Lake Merrit Channel would eliminate a major impediment to commuter cyclists in accessing downtown from East"

2007

14th Street was also identified as a priority bike route in Oakland’s 2007 bicycle plan update. The segment through Downtown included a recommendation for painted bike lanes west of Jefferson, and shared bike/car lanes east of Jefferson to Lake Merritt. These bikeways were not built.

Map of the proposed Downtown bicycle network from Oakland's 2007 bike plan.

2012

In 2012 the City of Oakland striped painted bike lanes on 14th Street in West Oakland, west of 980, as well as on Lake Merritt Blvd east of Downtown as part of the visionary 12th Street Bridge rebuild project (photo below). However, the gap from the freeway to the lake remained.

Aerial photo of Lake Merritt Blvd and the 12th Street Bridge at the south end of Lake Merritt in Oakland

2013

Not content with waiting, we at Bike East Bay (then called the East Bay Bicycle Coalition) in partnership with Walk Oakland Bike Oakland launched our own “Oakland Bikeways Campaign” with a focus on bringing continuous bike lanes to three corridors: Telegraph Avenue, Park Boulevard, and 14th Street. Our very first campaign meeting was hosted on January 30, 2013.

Here is an excerpt from our print newsletter reporting on the event:

"Oakland Bikeways Campaign 2013 Rolls Down Telegraph, 14th St and Park Blyd Join our campaign for high-quality bike lanes on three key bike routes in Oakland! If you ride into and out of Downtown Oakland, you should be able to do so comfortably and safely, without having to battle traffic every block of the way. With your help, we can make this a reality on several key bike routes in 2013. Imagine riding every day on a bike lane like the one shown below on Park Blvd. Imagine how many more of your friends and neighbors would ride if they could enjoy a bike facility like this. Oakland is ready to study the removal of travel lanes and striping of bike lanes on Telegraph Ave south of 5l st Ave, on 14th St downtown, and on Park Blvd. We support these bike lanes, but are pushing the City to ensure the lanes are of the highest quality so that cyclists can comfortably ride on lanes that are buffered from traffic. Top notch bicycle lanes can also give thousands of new riders the courage to try bicycling in Oakland. PARK On January 30, a room full of energized volunteers kicked off EBBC's 2013 Oakland Bikeways Campaign, along with our partners at Walk Oakland Bike Oakland. Teams have been formed to lead the campaign for each bike-way. Next up are a series of neighborhood bike rides to survey each street block by block. Please join us for one of these rides, as we canvass the neighborhoods and start strategizing on the type of bike lanes we want the 1 City to study. This is the fun part of the campaign and you should be part of it! For a schedule of neighborhood rides, go to: ebbc.org/oaklandbikeways. Upcoming projects will be more challenging and will need lots of volunteer support and help to get approved. Join the campaign for a better Oakland!"

2014

The following year our Oakland Bikeways Campaign continued, led by our then-Advocacy Director Dave Campbell. This included door to door outreach with local businesses owners, and an activity record posted to our website at the time listed 10 businesses as “supportive” with another 9 as “potentially supportive”.

Landscape architects Alana McWhorter and Justin Richardson volunteered to draw up a concept for painted bike lanes Downtown, and Sam Gross put together a bike-through video rendering of a 2-way protected cycletrack through West Oakland to Lake Merritt.

overhead view concept plan for a buffered bicycle lane on 14th St in Downtown Oakland
Concept art rendering of a 2-way protected cycletrack in West Oakland

2016

The City of Oakland applied for and won $10.5 Million in state funding for a protected bikeway project on 14th Street Downtown, via the very competitive Active Transportation Program. The city’s Downtown Plan under development at the time conceptualized a raised, protected bikeway.

Additional project funds were also secured through other state and regional sources, and via Oakland’s Measure KK transportation and affordable housing bond which Bike East Bay campaigned for, securing a win during the November election.

Map of Oakland's 14th Street protected bikeway project area from the 980 freeway to Lake Merritt
concept art for a sidewalk level protected bikeway on 14th Street as part of Oakland's Downtown Plan
"YES ON KK FIX STREETS, FIGHT DISPLACEMENT"

2017-2022

Over the next several years progress on the project slowed down as city staff attempted to negotiate the bikeway design details with business owners, the fire department, and other stakeholders.

But tragically in June of 2022, 42-year-old Dmitry Putilov was struck and killed by a hit-run driver while he was biking with his kids on 14th Street at Jefferson.

This terrible incident brought together Dmitry’s family, safe streets advocates, Oakland elected officials, and other community members with a renewed understanding of the need for change. Just five days later the project concept design was approved by city council.

Photo of a child holding a sign "slo 4 safety" at a vigil for a bike rider killed in a crash on 14th St in Oakland
Photo by Streetsblog/Rudick

2023

Finally in 2023 with the 14th Street project fully designed, city council awarded the contract to a construction firm to start work. This last vote coincided with additional council decisions on projects in Alameda and Emeryville, making for three protected bikeway approvals in one day!

While we are very excited to now see the project move forward to the construction phase, we also acknowledge that such a long timeline is not acceptable.

In the 5 years from 2016-2021 after the state funding was awarded, vehicle collisions here injured 189 people, 38 of them severely.

This stretch of 14th Street represents one of the densest concentrations of traffic injuries and deaths in the City of Oakland, and there are many other similarly dangerous streets around the city and the rest of the East Bay.

We need to start acting before another tragedy occurs, not only in response to crashes. This means community-sourced biking and walking plans must be implemented with every opportunity, and not sit on a shelf collecting dust.

2024 and beyond...

There are over 70 more protected bikeway projects in development throughout the East Bay right now, such as the Lake Merritt Blvd cycletrack project (shown below) which will connect to 14th Street and loop around the south side of the lake.

In most cases it is no longer a matter of whether these projects will happen but when. The sooner we can move them along to construction the more positive impact there will be on climate change, street safety, environmental justice, and so many other factors by which healthy streets can lead to healthy communities.

Join us in building a network of people-friendly streets and a movement of bike-friendly people!

THANK YOU

Thank you to all the dedicated city staff, construction crews, planners/engineers, elected officials, advocacy partners, concerned individuals, volunteers and Bike East Bay members who make this work possible.

If you are not yet a member/supporter, then join today!

Group of Oakland elected officials and bike advocates standing in a row and digging into the dirt with gold painted shovels
Bike East Bay and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland advocates posing on the steps at Oakland City Hall holding signs reading "Measure KK your tax dollars at work"

Questions about these or other projects? Reach our advocacy team for info by emailing [email protected]

Or click the button below to learn more about our major campaigns (San Pablo Ave, East Bay Greenway, and Bay Area bike bridges) and sign up to receive email updates:

Class notification list