The initial phase of much-needed improvements to 20th Street has begun. Oakland recently striped buffered bike lanes for three blocks between Harrison and Broadway as an interim measure for a broader set of road diet and streetscape improvements to occur in the next few years.
Sadly, the initial performance of the buffered bike lanes has not been great: they have effectively served as buffered parking lanes which are used throughout the day by Ubers, BART pickup and dropoff, cars stopped to use an ATM, or even cars parked overnight. Ironically, installing bike lanes has thus far created an ambiguous condition that seems to enable poor behavior and feels less safe than before.
While drivers are still adjusting their behaviors to the new buffered bike lanes, recent examples elsewhere suggest the high frequency of blockages will continue absent thorough enforcement or physical separation. Many of Oakland’s new bike lanes have been plagued by illegal parking –along Telegraph, Broadway, 17th, Webster, Oak, and Madison, paint by itself has proven incapable of keeping cars out of the conveniently car-width lanes, and the City has not sufficiently enforced violations by drivers. These issues are particularly concentrated at locations with high passenger loading demand like the 19th Street and Lake Merritt BART Stations; more thoughtful allocation of curb space could help alleviate issues in such areas. It’s clear, however, that paint is not enough: physical barriers such as soft hit posts or curbs are needed to effectively protect bicyclists and prevent bike lane blockages.