Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Bikeway Projects
- Why was a particular route chosen for the bikeway?
- What’s the difference between bikeway types? How is the specific bikeway type determined for a particular street?
- What is the relationship between the City’s street resurfacing and bikeway programs? Can repaving priority be given to bikeway streets?
- How can potholes be repaired?
- How are bikeway projects funded?
- Do the same rules apply to bicyclists & motorists?
- How can I report cars blocking a bike lane?
- What does it mean to “share the road?”
- Where and when are speed humps installed? Can speed humps be removed or designed to have less impact on bicyclists?
- Can bikeways on residential streets include traffic calming elements, like planted traffic circles, diverters or chicanes?
- Can speed limits be reduced on bikeway streets?
- When a new bikeway is installed, will there be an education component?
- What is a "protected bike lane" (or "cycle track"), and what is the City's plan to build them?
- How are bicycle parking locations chosen? How are racks maintained? Where is bicycle parking located?
1. Why was a particular route chosen for the bikeway?
Oakland's Bicycle Plan (last updated in July 2019) 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 with a focus on equity and improving the quality of bikeways to serve all ages and abilities.
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, covering 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.
2. What's the difference between bikeway types? 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 (described on page 80 of the Bicycle Plan) are:
- Shared use paths: a paved right-of-way that is completely separated from the street
- Separated bike lanes (aka protected bike lanes or cycle tracks): on-street bike lane separated from motor vehicle traffic by curb, median, planters, parking, or other physical barriers
- Buffered bike lanes: dedicated lane for bicycle travel separated from traffic by a painted buffer
- Bike lanes: dedicated lane for bicycle travel designated with specific signage and stencils, for the use of bicyclists
- Whether #2-4 above are recommended on a particular street depends on available width and other factors. See typical cross section details.
- Neighborhood bike routes (aka "bicycle boulevards"): calm, local streets where bicyclists have priority, but share roadway space with automobiles, marked with shared roadway bicycle markings (aka "sharrows") and additional traffic calming measures like speed humps or
- Bike routes: signed bike route, where cyclists share the lane with motor vehicles, can include pavement markings, used when there isn't space for bike lanes. (Currently, Oakland has streets with shared lane pavement markings, aka "sharrows" that aren't bicycle boulevards. The 2019 Bicycle Plan seeks to eliminate this type of treatment.)
3. 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 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. Bad pavement impacts bicyclists disproportionately. 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 bike plan 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, and to learn about upcoming projects, go to https://www.oaklandca.gov/topics/paving.
4. How can potholes be repaired?
Please report potholes to the OAK311. 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.
5. 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 several 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.
6. Do the same rules apply to bicyclists and motorists?
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.
7. 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 OAK311.
8. 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.
9. 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.). Learn more and request speed humps. There is no history of removing speed humps in Oakland. Recently updated speed hump design details (TC-1, TC-2) are designed to have less of an impact on bicyclists while still slowing motor vehicle speeds.
10. 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 Plan acknowledges traffic calming as a solution for discouraging drivers from using bicycle boulevards as through routes. Recent projects that have installed traffic circles include those on Plymouth St and Shafter Ave. For more information, see Oakland's Neighborhood Bike Route Implementation Guide.
11. 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 of 2021, there are state legislative efforts underway to give cities more latitude in setting lower speed limits: Assembly Bill 43 would to allow for slower speeds on Oakland high injury corridors; more information.
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.
12. 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 $100,000 in state Transportation Development Act Article 3 bicycle/pedestrian grant funds for this purpose, a series of $25,000 allocations, starting in July 2013.
13. 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" or "separated bike lane") 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. See typical cross-sections for various width scenarios. 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
- ADA access - loading zones and bus stops need to be ADA accessible
- bus stops - if it's not at the curb, a boarding island is required (raising a project's cost, 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.
- 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.
- 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.