The first protected bike lane is coming to East Oakland. After nearly 15 years of development and planning, a protected pedestrian and bicycle lane is about to be implemented along Fruitvale Avenue. The lane will run from East 12th Street and Alameda Avenue to the foot of the Fruitvale Railroad Bridge, with community leaders and residents alike excited for the change.
Anticipated to be completed by the middle of next year, the Fruitvale Avenue crossing is set to link with the Fruitvale Land Crossing Bay Trail project, enabling cyclists to navigate through most of the town swiftly and securely. The Fruitvale Alive! project aims to make it easier for pedestrians to move around. They will expand the sidewalks, allowing people to walk comfortably between the Fruitvale BART station, Alameda, and nearby businesses, including the popular Guadalajara Restaurant on East 12th Street.
To make space for cyclists, they will change one lane for cars going north into a special lane just for bikes, but cars will still have one lane each going both ways. They will also add concrete barriers along the road to slow down cars that currently speed from Alameda to Oakland.
Research has shown that when car lanes are narrower, drivers tend to slow down. This is helpful for cyclists and pedestrians because slower driving means fewer serious accidents and injuries.
On streets like Telegraph Avenue, the bike lanes are shielded by different things like:
- Concrete barriers
- Bus platforms
- Parked cars
In the past, building raised bike lanes in Oakland was challenging due to budget constraints. The cost of modifying existing sidewalk curbs posed a significant obstacle. However, there’s been a positive development as the city and transportation engineers secured a grant from the California Active Transportation Program. This grant has given them the necessary funds and time to carry out a comprehensive street redesign, which includes the curbsides.
This year, there are several other protected bikeways being constructed on dangerous roads in Oakland, such as 14th Street and around Lake Merritt. These bikeways will create a safe route encircling the city’s famous park.
Additionally, a new bike path is being built on the other side of the Fruitvale bridge in Alameda, from Tilden Way to Broadway. However, people biking on the actual bridge will still need to either use the main road alongside cars or dismount and walk with their bikes across the narrow bridge passageway.
Despite the safety improvements of the Fruitvale Avenue project, some residents are concerned that the lane might lead to increased traffic in their neighborhoods, bringing additional issues like more smog pollution. Many homes in the area are already close to the busy 880 highway, situated near active train tracks with frequent deliveries, and adjacent to an old abandoned glass factory that was known for giving off harmful fumes.
Still, the project is a step in the right direction, at least in terms of bicycle and pedestrian safety. With that said bicyclists and pedestrians should always try to take steps to stay safe, even while using protected lanes and paths. These steps include things like:
- Always wearing a well-fitting helmet to protect your head in case of an accident
- Using safety gear for other body parts to reduce the risk of injuries.
- Obeying the same traffic laws as cars. Follow signals, use hand signals when turning, and ride with traffic.
- Sticking to designated bike lanes or paths, since they are designed to minimize the chances of accidents.
- Making sure drivers can see you, especially in low-light situations. Wear bright or reflective clothing, use bike lights or reflectors, and avoid blind spots.
- Signaling your turns and ride predictably to help drivers anticipate your actions.
- Being aware of your surroundings, watching out for potholes, debris, and obstacles.
- Avoid riding on the sidewalk or main road, which is usually not safe or allowed.
By following these tips, you can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries while enjoying bicycling in East Oakland and anywhere else in the city. It’s always important to remember that accidents can still happen, but the hope is with projects like Fruitvale Alive! and others, bicyclists will be able to build skills and confidence, and pedestrians can move around safely while enjoying the area.