At long last, the Uptown Bike Station opened this week adjacent to BART’s 19th Street Station. The Bike Station offers free, secure bike parking between the hours of 7 am and 9 pm and a range of bicycle-related services – similar to bike stations at Fruitvale, Ashby, Embarcadero, and Downtown Berkeley. 19th Street Station has long needed better bicycle parking, and the Bike Station has been under discussion for over five years. The Bike Station is yet another sign of Oakland’s increasing bicycle-friendliness; however, without any existing or planned connections to bike lanes, the question becomes: when will Oakland’s infrastructure catch up?
Over the past decade, ridership at 19th Street Station has grown at one of the fastest rates in the entire BART system. Since 2005, ridership has increased by 54 percent, making it the ninth-busiest station (for comparison, 12th Street Station has grown by only 15 percent). 19th Street Station serves a diverse ridership base of office, entertainment, and residential trips from some of Oakland’s densest neighborhoods including Uptown, Lakeside, and Adams Point. As Uptown enters a construction boom, ridership will likely grow despite the fact that the station has no automobile parking.
The Bike Station is a much-needed addition to the Uptown neighborhood and 19th St Station. The station’s mezzanine has 64 unprotected spaces which are regularly over-capacity, and the neighborhood lacks a significant supply of publicly-accessible bicycle parking. The 120 new spaces at the Bike Station are not only convenient to BART, but also numerous office towers, the Fox Theater, and dining, entertainment, and retail establishments. Given the latent demand for bicycle parking for both BART and other uses in the neighborhood, it’s possible that the Bike Station could regularly operate at capacity.
Despite these opportunities, one key obstacle remains: no existing or proposed bike lanes connect to the Bike Station:
- Broadway is the key north-south arterial for people biking to 19th Street Station. However, despite its ample space and low traffic volumes, Oakland’s Bicycle Master Plan seeks to divert people biking away from Broadway to Franklin and Webster. This inconvenient diversion not only discourages bicycling to 19th Street Station and Downtown Oakland, it also forces people biking to the Bike Station to deal with a multitude of conflicts with buses, parked cars, and automobiles.
- 19th St provides access to the Bike Station from the east, connecting to bike lanes on Franklin and Webster and the dense Lakeside neighborhood. It is a high speed one-way street flanked by parking garages. No bike lanes are planned on 19th St.
- 20th St provides east-west access to 19th Street Station. It is very bicycle-unfriendly, although the City is planning buffered, unprotected bike lanes as an interim improvement. 20th St connects to a number of key corridors including Harrison St/Oakland Ave and Grand Ave, but a four block-long speedway on Harrison St prevents a seamless, low-stress connection. A redesign of the 20th/Harrison intersection is planned, but the redesign is largely a missed opportunity for a more people-friendly street: Harrison St will remain six lanes-wide with unprotected bike lanes, including a very long stretch before Grand where the bike lane straddles in between two lanes of automobile traffic.
- Telegraph Ave provides north-south access to 19th Street Station and represents another key arterial for people biking. Telegraph will have Oakland’s first protected bike lanes, but people biking will still not be able to access the Bike Station via a continuous bikeway. Instead, it is necessary to either turn onto 20th Street (navigating numerous bus-bike conflicts at the Uptown Transit Center) and ride on Broadway, or disembark at the intersection of Telegraph and 19th St and walk a block.
Oakland is steadily embracing bicycling and developing an interconnected network. The Bike Station represents another major step toward this transformation: it opens bicycle-commuting and riding BART to a wider range of people beyond the typical one-mile walkshed. However, it appears that safe, continuous bicycle access to the Bike Station is not planned anytime soon. One would hope that the City’s recently-launched Downtown Circulation Study may result in more bicycle-friendly designs of Broadway and 19th Street, among others. Until then, if you’re biking to the Bike Station, you’re on your own.