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Eyes on the Street: Lake Merritt BART Intersection Improvements

When cities build protected bike infrastructure, they usually start with protected lanes. But even with protected lanes, at intersections cities often settle for intimidating and conflict-causing "mixing zone" treatments, where cyclists have to fight past turning cars. Other times they ignore intersections altogether. But Oakland, in a project to address safety concerns around the Lake Merritt BART station, is taking a different approach.

Cities "...build parts of bike networks, and when it comes to protected bikeways, we have commonly started between intersections, like Oakland did on Telegraph Ave, and Berkeley on Hearst Ave. In this case at Lake Merritt, Oakland is starting with [emphasis added] the intersections," wrote Bike East Bay's Dave Campbell, in an email to Streetsblog. "We know this approach has been tried in other cities and NACTO supports it. We will see how protected intersections work with regular bike lanes, knowing that it is an interim step."

Post-and-paint bulbouts, with bicycle cut throughs, going in at Madison and 8th
Post-and-paint bulb-outs, with bicycle cut throughs, going in at Madison and 8th
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Streetsblog first reported on this new approach for Oakland last year, as part of a piece on the city's overall quick-fix strategy, using paint and posts. It took a little while to get started, but, as seen in the photos, the installation is now well underway, and is expected to be completed shortly. "We’re just waiting for the bollards to be delivered to complete the project. Should be in a few weeks," wrote Oakland DOT's Nicole Ferrara, in an email to Streetsblog. As previously reported, Oakland will use large K71 bollards instead of the safe-hit posts favored in San Francisco.

A detail of the plan for Madison and 8th from an OakDOT schematic
A detail of the plan for Madison and 8th from an OakDOT schematic
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Streetsblog did a tour of the area this morning and, despite Ferrara's assurance, there appears to be a fair amount of work yet to be done, with many intersections just lined with temporary paint markers, rather than the more permanent thermoplastic red seen in the lead image.

Some of the intersections are still waiting for thermoplastic, as in __, seen here
Some of the intersections are still waiting for thermoplastic, as seen here at 9th and Madison
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Meanwhile, the plan is to add these treatments to Jackson at 8th, Madison at 7th, 8th, and 9th, and Oak at 8th.

Of course, ultimately the project won't be complete until protected lanes are included, for the familiar reason seen in the image below. "We might be able to include protected bike lanes in the future," wrote Ferrara. "There’s a lot of development planned around the BART station so that could be an avenue. More planning and outreach would be needed prior to designing improvements, of course."

The unprotected bike lane on 9th Street in Oakland, next to Lake Merritt BART... yet another defacto Uber drop-off zone
The unprotected bike lane on 9th Street in Oakland, next to Lake Merritt BART... yet another defacto Uber drop-off zone
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Still, this is something San Francisco, still with only one protected intersection, might want to keep an eye on. San Francisco of course has long done painted curb bulb outs as intersection treatments, but they generally don't (do any of them?) include bicycle lane cut throughs/protected intersection treatments.

It's good to see Oakland's DOT innovating and pushing to get safety improvements in fast--focusing on the most deadly part of the street first. Bike East Bay, meanwhile, intends to start pushing for protected bike lanes to link up those new intersections pronto. For now, "I am confident that the new intersections will be much safer for pedestrians crossing the street as well as for drivers making turns," wrote Campbell.

What do you think? If it's really impossible to do both at once, which should come first? Protected intersections or protected lanes? Post your response below.

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