Conversation Piece: Sharing the road

Conversation Piece: Sharing the road

Michele Ellson

Image courtesy of the City of Alameda.

Last week’s conversation piece on development at Alameda Point was such a success that this week, I decided to tackle another big topic around town: Street safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

The city has been working aggressively to make Alameda’s streets safer and more accessible for cyclists and crossing pedestrians, installing flashing crosswalk lights and pedestrian and bike paths – including the new Shore Line Drive cycle track and planned Cross Alameda Trail – and seeking to carve up a pair of major arterials, Clement Avenue and Central Avenue, so bikes and transit have their own, dedicated share. The city and parents at Alameda’s schools have also been working on a variety of efforts to make students’ trip to and from school safer.

That said, there probably isn’t a pedestrian or cyclist in town who doesn’t have stories about near-misses with cars whose drivers refused to yield or passed a little too closely despite a new state law requiring a three-foot buffer (and to be fair, drivers probably have a few stories of their own).

So the questions for this week are as follows: What are your thoughts on the efforts the city is making to try to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists – do they go too far, or not far enough? What else do you think the city and its citizens can do to keep everyone safe on Alameda’s streets?

Let us know by leaving a comment below. And thanks in advance for being thoughtful and on-topic, and for helping us maintain a civil discussion.

Comments

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

Park street pedestrian crossings:

Nice...

But the pedestrian has no feedback when to begin walking across as he/she can not see lights flashing in the street bed nor does he/she have any visual electric sign or auditory feedback to assist in decision on if it proper time to cross other than having a close review of what the vehicles decide to do with the flashing imbedded street lights. And no feedback as to when the lights turn off!!!

Same goes for the vehicles. No red stop lights only flashing imbedded street flashers.

Poorly designed for both drivers and pedestrians.

Submitted by Donna (not verified) on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

Alameda police should enforce the rules of the road on cyclists

tracyz's picture
Submitted by tracyz on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

The addition of the Bike lane on Shoreline is fantastic! I am looking forward to being able to travel by bike easily from one end of Alameda to the other on a similar track. These are the changes that will attract people who don't use cars to our town. The good old "If you build it, they will come" works in this scenario. I do think that we need some education about using the cycle track. I notice the large green areas and can only guess what they are for. Knowing for sure and having some signs may be a good idea. Seeing innovative solutions like the cycle track applied to high pedestrian traffic areas would be nice. The blinking crossing areas are a nice step but I often see card zip past them even when blinking. The pedestrian areas also need to consider hearing and visually impaired residents.

Submitted by Denyse (not verified) on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

I applaud the city's efforts to accomodate all road users, not just cars. As we continue to build additional housing, our traffic problems will only get worse unless we make accomodations for folks to get around without cars. There will always be pushback from drivers who will feel that the road space is being "taken" from them, but we should view our roads as ways to move people, not cars, and accomodatae all tranportations modes equally. Also MOVING peds and bikes should always take priority STORING personal property in public space (e.g. parking) Peds and bikes have been incredibly underserved in our road design until now, and I'm pleased that our city planners are showeing leadership in restoring some balance to (all* road users. Thank you!

Submitted by Jasmine Stitt (not verified) on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

There were two pedestrian deaths on the street I live on, Otis Drive, in 2014. It is a wide four land road between park st and west line drive. The City should consider placing bulbs outs at the pedestrian crossings, especially near the school and south shore shopping center. Currently parked cars block the line of site, so that motorists can't see pedestrians till they are already in the street. Red curb set backs from major crossings would also be a lower cost solution.

Submitted by Jean (not verified) on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

Yesterday I was driving east on Shoreline Drive when an ambulance with siren sounding and lights flashing came up behind me. Because of the line of parked cars immediately to my right there was nowhere to pull over. I could not simply stop. The ambulance could not have got around me due to cars stopped in the opposite direction. I continued driving and finally was able to pull over into one of the green areas at the next corner. This situation seems to be quite unsafe in case of emergencies. Perhaps parking on the bay side next to the bicycle lane should be eliminated, leaving room for cars to pull over for an ambulance or fire truck.

Submitted by Crabby Cove - M... (not verified) on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

We are badly neglected on Central Avenue between Webster and 2nd. There is no lit crosswalk at 6th and Central even though it has heavy pedestrian traffic from the schools, residents of the neighboorhood, dog walkers, etc. We need very large yellow crossing signs (as you have installed on Webster & Taylor). Also please consider larger 25 MPH signs (there are 2 in this 4 block area and are badly tarnished, no longer reflective). U-turns are a huge issue at 6th and Central. Speeding on Central - what can be done? It's being used as a shortcut for trucks and general contractor 4x4's going out to the point (and avoiding Webster & Atlantic). Finally the speeding on 6th between Central and Lincoln (another 'short cut' for commuters and builders) is a huge problem. Please look at speed bumps for these 3 blocks of Sixth Treet. Looking forward to seeing improvments

Submitted by BMac (not verified) on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

I applaud staff's efforts to improve pedestrian and bicycle access and safety on Alameda streets. This is the forward thinking approach we need to improve many issues, from congestion & parking, to health and safety, not to mention climate change and general quality of life.

We are starting to learn, finally and the hard way, from our design failures of the past where all we did was cede more and more space and entitlement to single occupancy vehicle use. Some of the solutions seem counterintuitive at times, but reducing traffic lanes and adding complete bike infrastructure can help drivers too. People also get spooked by the notion of "narrow" travel lanes, thinking it is unsafe. However, as Shoreline and many other streets show, those streets are still comfortably wide enough for vehicles to travel safely, but the feeling of a more confined area reduces travel speeds and distances pedestrians have to cross, which makes the roads safer for all users in the end.

There is a reason the worst "accidents" (terrible word) happen on streets like Otis and Grand. The wide lanes make drivers think they can travel at higher speeds more safely, which leads to dangerous interactions and raises the stakes when there is a collision, as pointed out above.
Unfortunately, our staff can only lead us to the water, the Transportation commission and city council have to educate themselves, use the best data available and not just rely on old, bad arguments, and move the city in a positive direction.

Submitted by Karen Bey (not verified) on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

Tracy, great idea about more bike education. Also I would love to see some bike shared stations throughout Alameda. Bike sharing allows you check out a bicycle from a network of stations – ride to your destination and return it at another destination. This could be part of the citywide bicycle lane planning, and would also encourage more people to bike.

Submitted by Davis Straub (not verified) on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

Getting to zero pedestrian and cyclist (as well as automobile) fatalities in Alameda is a very reasonable goal. Appropriately designed streets with separate bike lanes and cross walk and sidewalks are a much better solution than police targeting cyclists.

We should not accept the fatalities that are quite preventable with good thinking on our part. We need to improve the livability and commercial viability of Alameda by putting an emphasis on people's own experience of the island from outside a vehicle. Humans like that.

Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Mon, Apr 20, 2015

RE: Donna (Comment #2, APD should enforce rules on cyclists): The APD cannot do much traffic enforcement of *any* sort without 6-10 more sworn officers on the streets, according to APD command staff. But APD needs to enforce the law on auto drivers, too: they run red lights and stop signs, ignore (and hit) pedestrians, speed, and cause other problems. Cyclists, in comparison, cause far less damage to other road users.

ADDITIONAL POINTS
1. Alameda *does* need far more bike safety education to teach safe riding techniques to cyclists who ride against traffic or weave in and our of parked cars out of fear.

2. In general, I am very pleased to see our streets and roads being rebalanced to account for pedestrian safety, transit uses, and safer bicycling. I do not agree that cycle tracks are best in *every* situation, but we can accomplish a great deal with buffered Class II bike lanes, too.

3. Road diets on Otis, Lincoln, Harbor Bay Parkway, Grand, and other wider streets would help a great deal to make walking and transit use safer in Alameda.

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Tue, Apr 21, 2015

Regarding the area from Webster west, there needs to be improved crossing for pedestrians at the uncontrolled intersections of Webster and Haight, Webster and Taylor and Central and Sixth. The imbedded flashing lights at Taylor are weak and do not provide feedback to the pedestrian that they are working. I have witnessed pedestrians push the button and then wait for something to happen. Eventually a motorist in one of the lanes stops, while motorists in other lanes keep whizzing by. Very dangerous.

I cannot believe that the City has not provided additional safety for pedestrians at Central and Sixth. It is near Crab Cove, a school, a church and shopping. Speeding is a problem. Sixth Street is too often used as a truck route. Both motorists and bicyclists run the stop signs at Santa Clara and Sixth. Santa Clara was recently made a "sharrows." Something needs to be done to better separate bicyclists, pedestrians, trucks and motorists at this location.

Submitted by dj (not verified) on Tue, Apr 21, 2015

I look forward to more bicycle improvements and hope that they will include ordinances banning the bicycles from areas where there are both bicycle and pedestrian paths. We need signage at Southshore to get anything on wheels off of the path so pedestrians can have a safe place to walk. Talking to you bicycles and skateboarder being pulled by a sled team of dogs! You are endangering the safety of the walkers! We also need somewhere to walk on the west side of Westline drive. If you go down the east side, there is no safe crossing to the beach for a long, long time.

Submitted by nora (not verified) on Tue, Apr 21, 2015

Jean's comment above is particularly concerning and describes a situation we haven't addressed much. What will the ambulance response times be once all the Complete Streets Projects in Alameda are completed? If they are unacceptable, will the City then have to pay to undo all this complete street nonsense? How many seniors and disabled will suffer or die because the ambulance couldn't get to them in time, because the bicycle lobby had to have its way? Cycling is fine exercise and has its place, but superimposing it on streets that were built decades ago for auto traffic and cannot be widened, may require a heavy price in terms of limited ER vehicle access.

Submitted by AJ (not verified) on Tue, Apr 21, 2015

That could be a concern Nora. That problem could be solved very easily. On every street, there are two complete lanes that are given over to free parking of private vehicles. This is a complete mis-use of public land and giving it away for free as parking is not fair to all the other public road users. One parking lane could be dedicated to bike travel and wider sidewalk. The other parking lane could be left open for emergency vehicles. That arrangement would more equally share the road and provide more safety. Would you agree to this simple change and fairly take on the cost of parking your own private vehicle?

Submitted by dj (not verified) on Tue, Apr 21, 2015

Autos and bicycles ignore pedestrians all the time. Every time someone gets hit the city installs lights that slow the cars down. Cars, if you want to not crawl across town, start obeying the traffic laws. Today I saw a class from Otis returning from the movie. A number of cars blew through the intersection even though they could see the class with the teacher out front trying to slow the traffic. Just not ok. And I drive, just not like that.

Submitted by J.W.T. Meakin (not verified) on Wed, Apr 22, 2015

The bicycle-tripped sensors laid under the roads provide no feedback that they have, in fact, been tripped. The signs on the road surface are right in the middle of the lane, exactly where I do NOT want to be on a dark and rainy night. I want to be about 12" from the right hand curb, where I am much less likely to be wiped by a vehicle whose driver is looking at the traffic lights, not the road. But I don't know if the sensors extend that far, the labeling indicates they don't, and there is no feedback. Catch-22.

Submitted by J.W.T. Meakin (not verified) on Wed, Apr 22, 2015

In general, look at the places where drivers are in a hurry and particularly where the road is narrow and congested. Park St. and High St. are prime examples. Seek to separate motor vehicle and all other users, maybe by providing alternative routes for one class of users. Motor vehicles down Fernside, not High. One-way systems (South on Oak, North on Park, or South on Park, North on Broadway). Traffic circles. Fewer traffic lights, not more. Maybe stop through traffic on Park between Santa Clara and Encinal altogether. Remove parking on these few narrow through streets.

Submitted by nora (not verified) on Thu, Apr 23, 2015

AJ, what do you see as the "cost of parking my own private vehicle"? It isn't a cost which can be valued in monetary terms. I am disabled, and the farthest I can walk, even with a walker, is to the curb to get into my car. My house was built, without a garage, in 1902. Many homes in Alameda are old and have no garage. Some even have no driveway. The people who still live in these homes may be old and disabled also. How far would you have us walk to our cars to make it more convenient for you to ride your bicycle everywhere? (This comment has been edited to reflect our commenting standards.)

Submitted by Lucy Gigli (not verified) on Sun, Apr 26, 2015

Reducing the number of travel lanes has a variety of benefits beyond creating space for bike lanes.
- One very critical benefit is that the fewer lanes make crossing the street much safer. Most collisions with pedestrians on Park Street - a four lane road - happen when someone is trying to cross the street and some drivers stop. But with four lanes of traffic often one driver not paying attention can mean a collision.
- A benefit to narrower lanes of travel is that people drive more slowly. Easier to see and stop for people crossing. Plus in the 3.3 miles stretch between Central and High and Webster and Atlantic, at 35MPH it would take 5 1/2 minutes and 25MPH it would take 8 minutes. A whole 2 1/2 minutes saved.

Submitted by just a regular ... (not verified) on Mon, Apr 27, 2015

Crabby Cove - M suggests adding speed bumps. NO NO NO !!!

Compared to the incompetent traffic planners in Oakland, our engineers here are marvelous. Drivers may not like Shoreline now, but probably because it's "different". When they restriped Broadway from 4 lanes to 2 several years ago I feared the worst, but it turned out to be a great improvement.

But speed bumps should be outlawed in this city. Everywhere they put them in, they use jaw crunching, radiator busting, incorrectly angled, incredibly stupidly designed speed bumps. (e.g. corner of Lincoln Park parking lot at 45 degrees, Nob Hill by the gas station). Until somebody at City Hall learns that a speed bump is not meant to limit vehicles to 2 mph, (and even then knocking your fillings loose), they need to be avoided at all costs. Any citizen asking for speed bumps anywhere in this city should be banished. Or maybe forced to ride over them continuously until some sense is knocked into them.

Please, stop the insanity. No more speed bumps !

Submitted by Julie (not verified) on Mon, Apr 27, 2015

I understand and support increased attention to pedestrian and bicyclist safety. That said, I do want to ensure that we understand how a road diet and revisions to Central intersect with the build out of Alameda (both Alameda Point, as well as Del Monte, Clement, Alameda Landing). For example, for those that live on side streets off of Central, I am glad to hear that the city plans to study how changes to Central will displace traffic. With inevitable increased flow on San Antonio, Santa Clara and Lincoln, as well as those parallel streets across 8th Ave, I hope the community continues to increase its engagement. It's wonderful that folks are becoming more engaged. I for one want to understand more - including alternatives for bicyclists that would connect with Shoreline's recent bike path build out that doesn't also impact one of the most critical East-West streets for auto travel.

Submitted by moxy (not verified) on Tue, Apr 28, 2015

I'm bummed about Shoreline Drive. It has been for my entire life such a beautiful drive, walk and biking experience. Now, over-engineering has created a confusing mess illustrative of stake-holders all trying to lay special claim to 'their' piece of the beach. And improved safety? Nope. Drivers cannot see cyclists in the bike lane because cars now park BETWEEN the road and the rider. Who's expert idea was that??
And the road is no longer safe for drivers, either. My buddy witnessed a man standing next to his parked car completely dumbstruck: a traveling vehicle had hit his driver door as he opened it and, well, there it was lying in the middle of the road. And traffic was backed up because no one could go around, so there is that as well.
I would do nothing to 'improve' our roads except roll out an aggressive media campaign (the one in the theater is good) for everyone; kindergarten children benefit from Safety Town each year (See and BE Seen!!)and we can be doing more for young and old alike.
Also affordable and simple would be to take every intersection in Alameda that has a stop sign attached to it and white stripe the curb from the corner and back about 15 feet so that the area is not available for parking. Imagine being able to pull out SAFELY to see if a car, a bike, or a pedestrian is coming. Too many flashing lights, bumps,bump-outs, and green patches are further distractions and belie the fact that we as humans are the ones in control.
Our roads won't save us.
Everyone needs to slow down and look up. Get off your phones, turn down the music, look both ways and allow the time needed to get where you need to go safely so that you don't feel the need to speed.
We are ALL of us motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians, and I am willing to bet that we have all had near-misses in one or more of these roles. Sadly, changing our roads won't change our very human behavior....but greater awareness through education can!

Submitted by Lauren (not verified) on Wed, Apr 29, 2015

After hearing about the Central Avenue Complete Street Project, after the first planning meeting had occurred, I read as much as I could about street diets, rightsizing streets and complete street projects. I then contacted Gail Payne and requested additional information, that wasn't presented at that first meeting. It seems to me that Central Avenue is not a good pick for a lane reduction.

The traffic data in the presentation they gave (the same one found online) is from 2012. Before any decisions are made we must have updated information.

She did provided me with new Peak Hour traffic data for the main intersections along Central. All my reading has said that, over and above Average Daily Vehicles, Peak Hour traffic is the most important thing to consider when debating a lane reduction. The numbers she provided are mainly from January 12, 2015 (except for 8th & Central, which is again from 2012) and are over the 750 threshold at Webster and at 8th. This means that there will be an offset of traffic, my guess being mainly onto Santa Clara.

They are considering how to develop the base, but in addition to that they are currently building new homes at Alameda Landing, Boatworks, Marina Cove II and Del Monte, all of which are in the Encinal High School boundary. These are projects that are already approved. How is that going to increase traffic?

Central Ave will feel like is Otis St, between Park and Broadway where it narrows, but with a bike lane added in. Even with a bike lane added I would not let my children ride to Encinal from Sherman St. There is too much going on, too many cars, too many driveways, too many side streets.

Why don't we connect the bike lane on Shoreline to something instead? There is a lovely path along Crown Beach and Crab Cove. Let's keep bikers truly safe and separate them from the traffic along Central all together by building a bike only path next to that one.

Submitted by Scott Mace (not verified) on Sun, May 17, 2015

I was sorry to see the mayor of Copenhagen here last week for the simple reason that in Copenhagen, bicyclists who don't use their "cycletracks" but use the traffic lanes instead are actually breaking the law. He told me that such rules are essential to making Copenhagen work. I don't want those rules here in Alameda!