Happy Bike to Work/Wherever Day – (Oakland’s 30th)
Oakland tests out a safe crossing near a high school, and there are plenty of bikes, smiles, coffee, and snacks.
In Oakland this morning, safety advocates and students took advantage of the 30th anniversary of Bike to Work/Wherever Day to call attention to much-needed safety intervention in front of Oakland Tech High School. The school is located on busy Broadway Blvd., and has been the site of numerous crashes and near-misses, including a collision that severely injured a student this past March.
The groups created a pop-up crosswalk using chalk, and deployed traffic cones and signs to create a road diet on that small stretch of Broadway, reducing the traffic lanes from two to a single lane in both directions. Broadway has bike lanes with a painted buffer, and the curb lane in front of the school is a busy drop-off zone in the mornings. The bike lanes also become busy double-parking zones, especially since they are “protected” only by paint, and bikes and cars jockey for position while traffic zooms past.
The temporary crosswalk extends from the school across the four-reduced-to-two lanes of Broadway and across the planted median in the center. Even before it was officially “finished” for Bike to Work/Wherever Day this morning, students were drawn to it and used it in high-school-student fashion (that is, in a giant flowing clump) to cross the street.
"We may need a few extra crosswalks…" 😏
Also a case-in-point on why pop-ups and quick builds need to be a critical part of the outreach and longer-range planning process. They daylight the obvious (but often ignored) reality on the ground.#Oakland #SafeStreets pic.twitter.com/7gELD3eAF1
— Traffic Violence Rapid Response (@RapidRevolt) May 17, 2023
For the most part car drivers proceeded slowly past the crosswalk, willingly stopping for pedestrians and the occasional bike rider using it. However, Oakland city councilmember speeches were punctuated by the sound of a pickup and a car colliding on the far side of the street – adding emphasis to their avowals of commitment to safety.
“Anything and everything we can do to make it safer around schools, we should be doing,” said City Councilmember Dan Kalb. He said the council is going to hear a report this coming week about “what we have done and what we can still do to improve safety” in Oakland. Councilmember Nikki Fortunato-Bas added that the city now has “millions of dollars in our budget to improve bike and pedestrian safety. The entire city council and the mayor are united in this,” she said.
The pop-up was organized by a team of volunteers from local advocacy group Traffic Violence Rapid Response, students from the school, and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) to urge action on this important corridor. Chris Hwang, Board President of WOBO, pointed out that the purpose of the pop-up was to demonstrate “how things can be.”
Oakland Tech Principal Martel Price said he has been concerned about the busy street in front of the school, and about the sheer number of students trying to cross it. “It’s a danger,” he said. “Kids have been hit, and we need to do something. I know this [pop-up] is temporary, but it’s a start to thinking about how to make this a safe corridor.”
Kalb emphasized this point as well: that safety strategies have to take into account “the reality of how students act, not how they should act.” It’s also not just the student’s actions that matter. Everyone who drives through that area, including parents dropping off their kids and the buses giant trucks that use Broadway, needs to be super careful.
Organizers hope to use the pop-up to explore the effect of narrowing the road to one lane, and have counted traffic to determine whether one lane is enough (their preliminary results show that narrowing that part of Broadway would not slow throughput). They are floating ideas about potentially installing a raised crosswalk or other traffic calming measures to reinforce the need to slow down.
Interestingly, they didn’t seem to be taking a cue from a similar Bike to Work Day pop-up that took place in front of Berkeley High School in the before times. That demonstration protected bike lane seemed almost quixotic at the time, although the enthusiasm was palpable – and contagious. It helped demonstrate what can be done to make bicycling outside a busy high school safer for everyone, and now that pop-up has been transformed into concrete – literally.
Bike To Work/Wherever Day is not over! WOBO and Bike East Bay will be hosting an after-work happy hour in Old Oakland on the pedestrian-only blocks of Washington Street (between 8th and 10th streets). There advocates will celebrate the 30th year of BTWD as well as Oakland’s Gold Level Bicycle Friendly City designation. There will be information from a wide range of agencies and advocacy groups, pedal-powered music from Rock the Bike, and a party.
Other “energizer stations” set up around town in the morning included one at Caltrans, where the District 4 team noted that it is commencing the update of its bicycle plan, and would like people to weigh in. More information here.