The Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT) has officially announced plans to remove protected bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue in the Koreatown Northgate (KONO) District in favor of paint-only buffered bike lanes. Overwhelming public preference for protected bike lanes aside, this plan is less safe, will require more punitive enforcement via ticketing, diverts resources away from critical street safety projects, and does nothing to address the root issue: KONO businesses need meaningful support. The issue goes before Oakland Public Works Committee on June 22 and the full City Council on July 6. Sign up for our calls to action in advance of these meetings.
Moves Backwards to a Less Safe Design
OakDOT’s plan is to remove the protected bike lanes and downgrade to paint-only buffered bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue from 20th-29th Streets. The data clearly show that buffered bike lanes in general, and on this specific section of Telegraph Avenue, are less safe for all road users than protected bike lanes. OakDOT showcased the increased safety of protected bike lanes in their own presentation about this section of Telegraph Ave. two years ago. Every single survey from the DOT and the business district show public preference for the protected bikeway design, and data show large increases in the number of people biking and walking on the corridor since the protected bike lanes were installed.
OakDOT’s Plan Calls for More Enforcement
To address safety issues with painted bike lanes, OakDOT recommends inequitable and ineffective enforcement and unproven pricing solutions. Buffered bike lanes with “innovative curb management strategies” essentially means ticketing and towing cars that are double parked in the bike lane—something we see time and again in paint-only bike lanes. We do support curb management changes such as more loading zones, accessible parking spots, and metered parking on side streets: changes that could be coupled with the protected bikeway project to help support local businesses and their customers. Increased enforcement and towing of double parked cars is not equitable for lower income customers and doesn’t have the KONO business district’s support. Nor does the DOT have resources to keep bike lanes clear via enforcement, either here or elsewhere around Oakland. Raising parking rates in KONO above rates elsewhere in the city is inequitable for KONO businesses and contrary to what OakDOT heard in their limited public outreach last fall.
Diverts Funding from Other Street Safety Projects
Oakland has already been awarded a $4.5 million grant to upgrade this very section of Telegraph Avenue. The designs include raised concrete curbs protecting the bikeway and upgrades for people who walk and take transit. This even safer iteration of Telegraph Avenue is fully designed, funded, and would have been on the ground this year. A last-minute switch to paint-only bike lanes would require state approval and a major redesign, delaying safety upgrades and costing the city more money and staff resources. OakDOT’s proposal tears out a project that has every resource available to be improved, diverting funds and delaying other critically needed street safety projects in West Oakland, East Oakland and Chinatown.
KONO Businesses Need Meaningful Support
The main pushback on Telegraph Avenue over the years has come from business owners within the district, frustrated with the project’s slow and difficult implementation. Whether the city opts for buffered bike lanes or works to further improve the safety of protected bike lanes, the project could very well face additional years of pushback if the city doesn’t answer the real question: How will KONO businesses be meaningfully supported, particularly as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic? Several options could be implemented in short order, including allocating parking and citation revenue to the district, funding more community ambassadors, and increasing flex streets programming.
Oakland has the funding, designs, and people-power to move forward an even safer iteration of Telegraph Avenue in the KONO district. The city should not divert needed funding away from other neighborhood projects and move backwards to a less safe design. Ready to ensure Telegraph Avenue moves forward? Mark your calendars for June 22, July 6, and sign up for updates today.