Supporting City Sideshow Prevention Efforts with Pilot Engineering Treatments at Heavily Impacted Locations

Sideshows and related dangerous driving behaviors including “donuts” are a significant safety and quality of life concern for Oakland residents – as well as the region, are impacting our streets, and are a vexing challenge for local governments.

Background

There is no established best practice or evidence of effective engineering treatments to prevent this type of dangerous driving behavior, and any of the hundreds of intersections in Oakland are theoretically a potential location for sideshows, “donuts” or stunt driving. The City of Oakland has been working with agencies throughout the region to develop, test and implement strategies to mitigate this growing concern.

Because there are no established best-practice strategies to prevent sideshows, the City has embarked on an inter-departmental pilot with participation from the Oakland Police Department (OPD), the Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT), and the City Administrator’s Office to see if we can implement engineering strategies to support enforcement efforts at some of the most impacted intersections in Oakland.

This work was discussed as part of the Mayor’s Town Hall in April 2021, which included a presentation on OakDOT’s sideshow pilot by OakDOT Assistant Director Fred Kelley.

Pilot Projects

Installed 8/16/2021

The pilot focuses on installing engineering treatments to try to prevent sideshows/donuts/dangerous driving at five locations identified as heavily impacted by OPD, depicted in the map below. The top five locations on OPD’s list and the current status for each are as follows:

  1. 35th/MacArthur: OakDOT’s installation of hardened centerlines and Bott’s dots was completed on July 9, 2021.
  2. Fairfax/Foothill: OakDOT's installation of hardened centerlines and Bott's dots was completed August 18th, 2021.
  3. High/MacArthur: OakDOT will be addressing this location next.
  4. *42nd Avenue under I-880 (known as “the Pit”): OakDOT will be addressing this location after High/MacArthur. Proposed treatments will be sent to Caltrans for approval.
  5. *42nd Avenue/International Blvd: Caltrans has rejected OakDOT’s proposal to install hardened centerlines and Bott’s dots (this is their right-of-way)

*Intersection in Caltrans right-of-way with treatments subject to state approval

Map of Pilot Sideshow Prevention Treatments
Map of Pilot Sideshow Prevention Treatments

Treatments

Hardened centerline treatment with safe-hit posts
Hardened centerline treatment with safe-hit posts

Hardened Centerlines are mini rubber speed bumps and delineators placed on the top of street centerlines. This treatment works to reduce the area in the intersection for dangerous driving behaviors, and has broader safety co-benefits.

Hardened centerline treatment extending into the intersection
Hardened centerline treatment extending into the intersection

They reduce vehicle speeds while turning, when crashes – including those involving pedestrians – are more likely to occur. This type of treatment must be installed in areas outside of travel paths

Close-up view of a Bott's Dot
Close-up view of a Bott's Dot

Bott’s Dots are circular ceramic tiles that are being installed to determine if uneven surfaces are a deterrent to dangerous driving behaviors

View of Bott's Dots installed in an intersection
View of Bott's Dots installed in an intersection

Next Steps

Identifying future locations for engineering improvements to deter sideshows will be informed by an assessment by OPD and OakDOT regarding whether the above improvements are effective at deterring sideshows at the pilot locations, and work to create a list of locations impacted by sideshows and dangerous driving behaviors as reported to OPD and OakDOT.

City staff continues to communicate with other local jurisdictions about this topic to stay on top of emerging practices. As of Summer 2021 staff are not aware of any transportation agency having found an engineering cure-all solution—one that is cost-effective, replicable to keep up with spread and relocation, and not met with unintended consequences for cyclists and normal traffic movements.

The City is committed to contributing to the overall work to prevent sideshows in Oakland. From what we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, advanced enforcement tools and creative legislation lead the way with engineering complementing a multi-faceted approach. Engineering solutions need to be effective, cost-effective and replicable – and prioritized at most impacted locations and relative to other critical safety needs facing Oaklanders. At this time, engineering solutions attempt to balance preventing donuts and preserving functionality of our streets for all road users.

More Information on Oakland Sideshow Prevention Efforts

Oakland Police Department Sideshow Detail