Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Bikeway Projects

Why was a particular route chosen for the bikeway?

Oakland's Bicycle Master Plan (BMP, 2007) designates specific streets for improvements geared towards bicyclists. Improvements include pavement markings (bike lanes, sharrows, lane reconfiguration) and bicycle wayfinding signs, and may include or build upon traffic calming elements. The analysis for Oakland’s Proposed Bikeway Network focused on maximizing bicyclist safety and access throughout the City (for example, by providing direct, intuitive connections) while minimizing potential adverse effects on other roadway users (in particular, on AC Transit buses).

Oakland's street grid is irregular; in many places there is no grid at all and arterials provide the only through-route for all road users. (Contrast this with neighboring Berkeley, for example, where Milvia St. runs parallel to Shattuck Ave. from Russell St. all the way to Hopkins St., over a distance of over two miles.) In many areas of Oakland, there are no parallel streets where cyclists could be better separated from motor vehicle or bus traffic. In these cases, bikeways are particularly important to create a viable network.

What's the difference between a bike lane, bike route, bike path and sharrow route? How is the specific bikeway type determined for a particular street?

Oakland's Proposed Bikeway Network includes several bikeway types with treatments (e.g. striping, signage) that respond to varying conditions and needs. The treatments generally follow the guidance in the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and/or the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). The primary bikeway types are:

  1. Bike paths (a paved right-of-way that is completely separated from the street)
  2. Bike lanes (striped lanes on streets, designated with specific signage and stencils, for the use of bicyclists). These can include lanes with painted buffers between the travel and bike lanes, and/or between parked cars and the bike lane, and depend on available width. More information.
  3. Bike routes (preferred streets for bicycle travel using lanes shared with motor vehicles). These can include bicycle boulevards, sharrow routes, and/or signage only routes.
  4. Cycle tracks

What is the relationship between the City’s resurfacing and bikeway programs? Can repaving priority be given to bikeway streets?

Oakland's Pavement Management Program sets priorities for which streets will be resurfaced based on five-year paving plans that are adopted by City Council. The list includes many proposed bikeways, and the City strives to include bikeways whenever a street is being repaved. Bikeway projects can be complex and require a year (or much longer) to develop, including design, environmental clearance and public outreach. Therefore in some cases, complex bikeway projects—particularly those that are not BMP priorities—may not be installed when a street is resurfaced. In some cases, new bikeways may be installed on streets with older pavement if the bikeway is a priority project and the street will not be resurfaced in the foreseeable future.

For more information, contact the Pavement Management Program.

How can potholes be repaired?

Please report potholes to the Public Works Call Center at (510) 615-5566 or online. For best results, be as specific as possible about the location(s). Include a street address wherever possible. Prior to installing new bikeways on roads that are not scheduled for resurfacing, bike program staff report potholes for repair.

How are bikeway projects funded?

All Oakland transportation projects, including street resurfacing, are funded by local, state and federal grants dedicated to transportation purposes. These funding sources can only be used for their intended purpose. For example, Oakland receives about one million dollars per year for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects from half-cent transportation sales taxes raised from Alameda County Measure B and, as of April 1, 2015, Measure BB. These funds cannot be used to pay for police services or schools.

Whenever possible, on-street bikeways are installed as part of resurfacing projects to make best use of limited funding. The incremental cost of adding bike-specific striping and markings is a tiny portion of a street resurfacing project's total cost. For example, West St. from W MacArthur Blvd. to 52nd St. was repaved and striped with bike lanes in December 2007. Striping the entire roadway cost $32,000 whereas paving cost $441,000.

Do the same rules apply to bicyclists and motorists?

bikes may use full lane sign

With limited exceptions, rules of the road apply equally to bicyclists, motorists and motorcyclists. According to the California Vehicle Code (CVC) 21200(a), “Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division.” Bicyclists may ride on any road in California unless it is specifically prohibited. These restrictions are limited to particular freeways, tunnels and bridges.

Bicyclists can ride in or move into the travel lane to stay clear of the door zone (where they are at risk of being hit by opening car doors—aka "doored") and to avoid other hazardous conditions like potholes, glass and debris. Bicyclists generally make left turns like motorists. (Read specific provisions of the CVC.)

Sidewalk riding is regulated by individual cities. In Oakland, it is illegal to ride a bicycle which has wheels of 20 inches or greater in diameter or a frame of 14 inches or greater in length on any sidewalk within the City (Oakland Municipal Code Section 10.16.150). Furthermore, sidewalk riding is unsafe. Motorists are not expecting bicyclists traveling at speeds higher than pedestrians to enter intersections (where a disproportionate number of collisions occur). Driveways with limited visibility are particularly dangerous for bicyclists riding on sidewalks. Though sometimes perceived as safer than road riding, sidewalk riding accounts for a high number of collisions with motorists.

How can I report cars blocking a bike lane?

During weekdays, call the Parking Enforcement Dispatcher at (510) 238-3099. On weekends, please report block bike lanes to the Oakland Call Center.

Share the Road sign

What does it mean to "share the road?"

Most bicycling is done in shared lane situations (since bike lanes are only possible on a subset of Oakland's roadways). Bicyclists and motorists can safely share the road (or the travel lane) by responding to the particular roadway configuration. The CVC states that bicyclists must, generally, ride to the right, but there are a number of exceptions that have relevance to Oakland, an older and constrained urban environment. The most important exception is CVC 21202 (a) (3) which states that bicyclists do not need to ride to the right “when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

There are few roads in Oakland where it is safe to share a single lane side by side. Thus, in many locations bicyclists can legally ride in the middle of the travel lane. Motorists must exercise caution when passing. If there is one lane in a direction, motorists must wait until it is safe to pass, and bicyclists traveling below the prevailing speed should allow motorists to pass at the first safe opportunity. When there are two lanes in a direction, a motorist can safely pass by entering the adjacent travel lane. In both situations, motorists must leave sufficient space when passing—three feet is a good minimum—but more may be required when driving faster than 25 mph.

Where and when are speed humps installed? Can speed humps be removed or designed to have less impact on bicyclists?

Speed humps are installed on local (residential) streets that meet certain criteria (width, number of travel lanes, slope, speed limit, etc.). As of August 2010, no additional speed humps are being installed in Oakland due to lack of funding. Prior to that time, speed hump requests were considered by the Transportation Services Division, and required that a neighborhood petition be signed by a minimum of two-thirds of the addresses on a particular block. There is no history of removing speed humps in Oakland. The Bicycle Master Plan (2007, page 86) recommends evaluating an alternative design with a “sinusoidal” profile, to provide a gentler impact on bicyclists, while maintaining the speed-calming effect on motor vehicles.

Can bikeways on residential streets include traffic calming elements, like planted traffic circles, diverters or chicanes?

Traffic circles are installed based on documented collision history and are funded by grants. The City’s Bicycle Master Plan acknowledges traffic calming as a solution for discouraging drivers from using bicycle boulevards as through routes. However, there are currently no projects to add these elements to residential bikeways. Instead, the City’s priority is establishing a network of bikeways on low-volume residential streets using the shared lane pavement marking (“sharrow”), bicycle wayfinding signage and traffic calming features that already exist.

Can speed limits be reduced on bikeway streets?

Under current State law, it is difficult to reduce speed limits on many streets. Cities are obliged to perform speed surveys (every five years) and adjust speed limits to reflect the “85th percentile speed” or the speed that 85% of drivers are traveling. This requirement is based on the assumption that most drivers travel at the “design speed” of a particular road, and to prevent cities from setting “speed traps” and issuing citations by setting speed limits that are lower than necessary. The internet abounds with stories of motorists who fought speeding tickets and won, based on the 85th percentile speed, so traffic enforcement personnel are very careful about citing speeders.

In 2009, the State of California made it more difficult for cities to lower speed limits. City traffic engineers can authorize a reduction in the speed limit on a particular street if there is a study that documents how the reduction was required to address factors that are not "readily apparent" to drivers. For example, if the 85th percentile speed is measured to be 37 mph, the speed limit can only be reduced to 35 mph unless a study shows specific “objective factors” indicating a need to reduce it to 30 mph. “Objective factors” typically means a history of collisions, although pedestrian and bicyclist safety are explicitly noted as considerations.

As elsewhere in California, if a speed limit is not marked, the default speed limit is 25 mph. This is the case on most residential streets in Oakland. (For a list of speed limits on particular streets, see the Oakland Municipal Code.) The vast majority of Oakland’s streets have speed limits of 35mph or less.

When a new bikeway is installed, will there be an education component?

For larger projects, extensive community outreach is performed. For smaller projects, the City mails an educational brochure to all addresses within one block of the project area. The City does not perform other educational activities when implementing bikeway projects. “Street Skills” courses focusing on urban bicycling skills are offered by Bike East Bay. The City strongly encourages all bicyclists to take this course and has allocated $50,000 in state Transportation Development Act Article 3 bicycle/pedestrian grant funds for this purpose, $25,000 in FY13/14 and $25,000 in FY15/16.

How are bikeway projects that remove a travel lane evaluated for feasibility?

Any project that proposes to remove a motor vehicle lane is analyzed to assess its potential impacts on traffic flow and congestion. Impacts are currently studied by analyzing motor vehicle "Level of Service" (LOS), with a focus on the average delay experienced per motor vehicle at intersections. If there are no signalized intersections, the average daily and peak-hour traffic volumes along a corridor are analyzed. Traditionally, projects in California have been designed to maximize bicyclist and pedestrian safety while minimizing impacts on motor vehicle traffic flow, as defined by LOS, and to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The California Office of Planning and Research (OPR) is updating statewide CEQA guidelines to allow jurisdictions to use measures other than LOS to evaluate the environmental impacts of bikeway (and other) projects.

What is a "protected bike lane" (or "cycle track"), and what is the City's plan to build them?

A "protected bike lane" (aka "cycle track") is a type of bike lane that positions bicyclists next to the curb with parked cars, or another protective barrier, separating bicyclists from motorists. Protected bike lanes are common in some countries (notably Denmark and Holland), and they are becoming common in some U.S. cities (notably New York City, Chicago, Portland, Oregon, and Washington DC). Protected bike lanes have been demonstrated to increase the number of people choosing to bicycle, and to attract bicyclists from a broader demographic range (age, gender, etc.) than typical striping-only bike lanes. For this reason, Oakland is interested in installing such facilities where feasible. Oakland's first protected bike lane is planned for Telegraph Ave between 20th and 29th Sts; see project details. In September 2014, Governor Brown signed AB 1193 which “will require Caltrans to create engineering standards for protected bike lanes, which until now have been discouraged by a complex approval process and a lack of state guidance” (source-Streetsblog). As of March 2015, the standards are not yet available, but cities do have some leeway to experiment if they file documents with the Federal and State governments. The National Association of City Transportation Officials, of which Oakland is an associate member, provides design guidelines. Compared to conventional bike lanes, protected bike lanes are typically more complicated and expensive to design, install, and maintain. In some locations, these issues can be overcome. In all cases, such facilities will require that the City secure additional resources for planning, design, outreach, construction, and maintenance. Issues include:

  • street sweeping – facilities must be designed to provide enough width for street sweepers to get in while keeping motorists out (not all streets are wide enough to accommodate this)
  • ADA access - loading zones and bus stops need to be ADA accessible
  • bus stops - if it's not at the curb, it needs a boarding island (a cost consideration, especially if there are many along a route)
  • parking removal - when the light is green, motorists may not expect bicyclists who travel more quickly than pedestrians to be passing them on the right, which creates a potential "right hook" conflict. Therefore, such designs require that parking stalls are removed in advance of most intersections and some driveways. These parking stalls may be metered and generate revenue for the City. In other cases, there might be strong neighborhood opposition to parking removal.
  • fire code – The Oakland Municipal Code requires that streets be sufficiently wide to allow fire truck access: 20’ clear between parked cars and curbs where buildings are <30’ in height, and 26’ clear where buildings are ≥30’. This may preclude parking protected bike lanes on narrower streets and wider streets with raised medians.
  • signal upgrades – in cases where a two-way cycle track is proposed for a one-way street, most traffic signals will need to upgraded, and signal operations overall adjusted. The cost to upgrade the signals at one intersection is estimated to cost around $150,000-$250,000. By contrast, the cost to stripe one mile of typical bike lane is estimated to cost $50,000.
  • storm drain inlets/gutter pans – some streets have storm drain inlet aprons that extend beyond the standard 2’ gutter, reducing the potential bicycling width; some streets have 6’ gutters with seams every 20’ or so. At these locations, the gutters would need to be modified or replaced. In 2014, the City replaced 350’ of the 6’ gutter on Broadway (near Pleasant Valley Ave) with a standard 2’ gutter where the bike lane was striped directly adjacent to the curb. This work, to remediate the length of a one city block (on one side of the street), cost $26,480.