A month ago the City of Oakland added a buffered bike lane along Bellevue Avenue while repaving the street through Lakeside Park. The new bike lane replaced an underutilized second vehicle lane and provided access to several popular destinations in Lakeside Park including the Lawn Bowling Club, Botanical Garden, and Lake Merritt Boating Center.
Recently, however, the City made a perplexing change to the design that relocated the parking attendant kiosk into the middle of the bike lane. The parking kiosk was previously located in a somewhat inconvenient location for drivers in the new design which required some maneuvering between the kiosk and parked cars sticking out from nearby angled parking.
By moving the kiosk into the bike lane, the City made it more convenient for drivers while sending the message that people riding bikes don’t really matter. The original placement of the parking kiosk was certainly not ideal; however, this placement was not the bike lane’s fault. The parking kiosk remained in the same location before and after the repaving – the only change was the angle and position of the new parking striping intended to fit more cars along Bellevue. Rather than removing the nearest parking space that was too close to the kiosk, the City instead decided to prioritize parking and leave bicyclists to figure it out. Frankly, the outcome of blocking a brand new bike lane just a few weeks after its installation is embarrassing.
The Bellevue Avenue bike lane may not present the most pressing safety issue, but it illustrates the City’s broader ambivalence toward maintaining high quality bikeways. Oakland has done so much great work recently in developing more bicycle-friendly streets, but these facilities are continually plagued by all kinds of obstructions. Each obstacle adds up to a less enjoyable and more stressful ride, and ultimately discourages people from riding. In order to achieve a low-stress bicycle network, Oakland needs to get serious about building and maintaining bikeways.