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 led by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and the City Administrator’s Office with support from the Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT) 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

Updated: May, 2022

The pilot focuses on installing engineering treatments to try to prevent sideshows/donuts/dangerous driving at locations identified as heavily impacted by OPD, depicted in the map below. The 10 locations identified by OPD and the current status for each are as follows:

  1. 35th Avenue/MacArthur: OakDOT’s installation of hardened centerlines and Botts’ dots was completed on July 9, 2021.
  2. Fairfax/Foothill: OakDOT's installation of hardened centerlines and Botts’ dots was completed August 18th, 2021.
  3. High/MacArthur: OakDOT's installation of hardened centerlines and Botts’ dots was completed October 15th, 2021.
  4. *42nd Avenue/International Blvd: OakDOT is working on a revised proposal that includes hardened centerlines for Caltrans review that is consistent with their allowed materials (this is their right-of-way)
  5. *42nd Avenue under I-880 (known as “the Pit”): Caltrans' installation of hardened centerlines and Botts' dots was completed June 16, 2022.
  6. 106th Ave/MacArthur: installation planned for late August
  7. 55th Ave/Foothill: installation planned for late August
  8. 82nd Ave/MacArthur: installation planned for late August
  9. Seminary Ave/MacArthur: installation planned for late August
  10. *82nd Ave/International: Intersection in Caltrans right-of-way with treatments subject to state approval

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

In addition to the above ten intersections, the District 4 Council office specifically identified two more locations for sideshow prevention improvements as a part of traffic safety earmarks in Oakland’s 2021-2023 biennial budget. Those additional locations are MacArthur/Coolidge and MacArthur/Fruitvale and are also represented in the map, below. The status of those earmarks is detailed in this table on the above webpage, and analysis is underway re: what would be feasible.

Map of Pilot and Earmarked Sideshow Prevention Treatment Locations updated March 2022
Map of Pilot and Earmarked Sideshow Prevention Treatment Locations updated March 2022

Treatments

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

Hardened Centerlines are mini rubber speed bumps, plastic curb, and delineators placed on the top of street centerlines. This treatment works to reduce the area in the intersection for dangerous driving behaviors, and often 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 and FAQ

Identifying future locations for engineering improvements to deter sideshows will continue to 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 and responded to by OPD.

The sideshow prevention pilot’s ultimate objective is to eliminate sideshows at the pilot locations. As such, OakDOT is coordinating with OPD to assess whether large sideshows continue at the pilot locations and whether they relocate to other locations. Oakland is monitoring large sideshow activity based on OPD reports at locations where treatments have been installed. We are also monitoring maintenance needs of treatments, and getting qualitative feedback from stakeholders including Oakland’s Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission.

The pilot is currently working to roll out five locations per “phase” and the duration of the program will depend largely on the effectiveness of the treatments and available resources. Oakland has set up a new category in the City’s 311 Call Center and website to specifically track public requests for sideshow prevention measures. City departments who receive requests directly from the public will now begin to enter or redirect these requests to 311. These requests will inform future location selection for the pilot, which will continue to be driven by OPD data on large sideshow locations.

City staff continue to communicate with other local jurisdictions about this topic to stay on top of emerging practices, as 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, motorcyclists, 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.

We will continue to update this webpage to share information with the public as this work progresses.

More Information on Oakland Sideshow Prevention Efforts

Oakland Police Department Sideshow Detail