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Eyes on the Street: Purple Fix Is in at Oakland Downtown Intersection

Purple paint and a new curb cut help people navigate around the tree at the 23rd/Harrison crosswalk. All photos Rudick/Streetsblog unless otherwise noted.

Shortly before the Labor Day break, Oakland DOT's new Vision Zero Coordinator, Nicole Ferrara, tweeted about the completion of her first pedestrian safety project, the crosswalk upgrade at 23rd and Harrison.

SO excited to see my first @OakDOT project in the ground 🤗 Before in top, after on bottom. Wider xwalks, more #purple space for ppl ✅

— Nicole Ferrara (@NicoHFerrara) August 29, 2017

On August 1, Streetsblog reported on the start of construction and Oakland's plans to get safety fixes in at known danger spots quickly. This crosswalk certainly qualified--a pedestrian was fatally struck by a motorist there in June. Even though its directly across from the Downtown Oakland Senior Center, there was no curb ramp. To add insult to injury, there was a large tree right in the middle of where the crosswalk meets the curb.

But that's all fixed now. The new crosswalk is a trapezoid shape, allowing Oakland's DOT to build a ramp that bypasses the tree, as seen in the lead photo and the picture below. There are also bollards and purple paint to keep cars from parking in front of the crosswalk and to shorten the crossing distance.


There's also a clearly marked midway refuge island, with big yellow bollards to give pedestrians a little more safety and breathing room.


Ferrara posted this pic on Twitter of the before and after views:

This shot of the before and after views helps illustrate the changes. Photo: Nicole Ferrara, Oakland DOT
This shot of the before and after views helps illustrate the changes. Photo: Nicole Ferrara, Oakland DOT

So how does it work in practice? Clearly, it's an improvement, but Streetsblog still found a few cars failing to yield at the shark teeth markings--and one car still blew through the crosswalk completely, even though I was on it. Ultimately, Streetsblog would like to see raised crosswalks become the norm at any known danger spot. A raised crosswalk--sometimes called a combination speed bump/crosswalk--forces cars to slow or risk damaging their suspensions. That's sometimes the only way to be sure cars drive safely and truly yield to pedestrians.

The Stonestown Mall, of all places, has one of the best crosswalks going--works fine for the rare cyclists too. Photo: Streetsblog
The Stonestown Mall, of all places, has one of the best crosswalks going--works fine for the rare cyclists too.

But raised crosswalks are expensive and take time to install, and it's hard to fault the newly created Oakland DOT for getting truly significant improvements in so quickly. And, fortunately, there's more to come: "This project uses paint and posts to transform the intersection of Harrison and 23rd in a matter of weeks versus years, which is what it takes to make significant concrete changes. But we’re not stopping there," wrote Ferrara in an email to Streetsblog. "There’s a long-term project that will further transform this corridor by turning the painted elements into concrete changes and adding a cycle track along Harrison and a protected intersection at Harrison and Grand."

Meanwhile, Robert Prinz, Education Director of Bike East Bay, which has long been lobbying for improvements to Harrison/23rd, posted video of the crosswalk in action.

And why purple for the pedestrian bulb outs, rather than the more typical yellow or white? "OakDOT’s Strategic Plan calls on the City to not only improve safety conditions on our streets, but also make walking more delightful," wrote Ferrara. "We think the purple does just that, and have heard a lot of positive feedback so far!"

What do you think of this new crosswalk treatment? Do you see cars yielding more than before? Do you feel more comfortable with this kind of crosswalk, or is there still more to be done? Post your comments below.

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