Why Oakland needs a Transportation Commission

In September, the Planning Commission’s lengthy hearing on Kaiser’s proposed new hospital plans drew a substantial number of public speakers. Complaints about the project focused largely on objections to signage and fears about compromising the historical integrity of Mosswood Park with promised improvements. The Commissioners disagreed with the comments on the signage issue, agreed to change the language in the conditions of the approval to accommodate the park people, and focused their discussion primarily on the building’s physical appearance. Lost in all the worries about the park and the signs were the three speakers who came to address the comparatively mundane issue of bicycle and pedestrian access.

They complained that the project was not compliant with the Bicycle Master Plan, described how the proposed changes would frustrate bicycle movement in the area, and requested the Commission send the proposal to the City’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) for vetting before approval. The Commissioners touched briefly on bike/ped issues in their comments, inquiring about the adequacy of secure bicycle parking and asking for a more friendly pedestrian environment on MacArthur, but didn’t even acknowledge the requests for the BPAC to have a chance to comment on the design.

Last month, Kaiser came back with a revised hospital design, and after many hours of comment and discussion, the Planning Commission gave the project their okay. Part of the project’s traffic circulation “improvements” involves installing a median along MacArthur Boulevard in front of the hospital. An unfortunate impact of the median that nobody seemed to consider is that it cuts off bicycle and pedestrian access to Mosswood Park from Shafter and Manila Avenues. More on the problems from the Walk Oakland Bike Oakland blog:

It is widely know in North Oakland that the majority of bicycle commuters from North Oakland use Shafter to access MacArthur to Broadway to downtown Oakland. In this proposed plan Kaiser and Oakland’s own transportation engineers ignored the information. A plan was drawn that was not adequately reviewed by our traffic engineers, and none of the issues have been reviewed by the Oakland Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

The access to Mosswood Park was inadequate prior to the median installation and is worse now. How are pedestrians supposed to access the parks. The Lion’s Oakland Blind Center is only a block away and they are truly denied access under the present plans. Where is pedestrian planning? How about adding High-visibility crosswalks and refuge islands for pedestrians.

Things should never have happened! And the only reason it was allowed to is because the City has no avenue to properly vet transportation issues. The taxi ordinance goes through Public Safety, sidewalks come to Public Works, a new parking structure will get approved by CED, and traffic mitigations and improvements related to new development are considered by the Planning Commission. Without a single body that considers all transportation-related concerns, nobody comes away with a complete picture of how people move around Oakland, and important circulation issues, like the one highlighted above, get completely overlooked, with potentially disastrous consequences. As regional density increases, ensuring the best possible circulation becomes ever more vital, and that simply cannot be accomplished under existing structures. The City needs to establish a Transportation Commission with really decision making power and they need to do it as soon as possible.

50 thoughts on “Why Oakland needs a Transportation Commission

  1. Becks

    Yes! We desperately need a transportation commission and it’s a bit absurd that a city of our size with our various transit issues and needs does not have one yet.

    I’m so scared of what it’s going to be like to get the Council to approve a locally preferred alternative for BRT without a transportation commission. It’s unclear at point what committee would hold hearings on BRT, and really, none of them are appropriate.

    What does it take to get a new commission started?

  2. Robert

    I thought that the bike route in the area was Webster, not Shafter. So perhaps they did follow the bike plan, and the bikers are choosing to ignore it? Pedistrian access is another issue, but with two signaled croswalks in the area, it doesn’t seem like a major inconvenience to me to close off these two streets.

  3. das88

    This seems like an eminently sensible idea.

    I have a question – what’s the difference between boards, commissions, and committees? Is it just semantic or are there real differences.

    Also, I was thinking there should be more public involvement with the city’s website. Oaklandnet.com was pretty cutting edge when it debuted, but it has since become unwieldy. I think if it was more user friendly and had better features more Oaklanders would become interested and involved with civic affairs. Certainly, there is a lot of local expertise that could be tapped.

  4. V Smoothe Post author

    The problem is that no public body ever reviewed the bicycle and pedestrian impacts of the plans. Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee chair dto510 has taken the unusual step of formally requesting BPAC review of the project because the Planning Commission never discussed the transportation aspects, but even if they do get their review, they are merely advisory and have no actual decision making power.

  5. Kevin Cook

    Robert is correct. It’s widely known that people with a clue use webster and not shafter or manila. Southbound, it is faster to use webster through the summit hospital zone than to take a left onto MacArthur and then the right onto Broadway. I have no opinion on the pedestrian access.

    WOBO seems clueless. Here’s a quote from their website:

    “There is no safe, convenient, quick way for bicyclists to get downtown to/from North Oakland. Let’s get some bike lanes on Broadway, Franklin and Webster.”

    What? The aforementioned webster/shafter route is safe and convenient. The quickness of cycling depends upon the rider’s legs not the presence off bike lanes.

    Bike lanes make people who don’t know any better feel safer. They do almost nothing to prevent the most common accidents which occur at intersections. I’ve ridden a bicycle around the eastbay for 16 years and continue to be baffled by the mania for bike lines. Exactly how are bike lines on Franklin and Webster south of 27th going to make anything safer? How many people are hit from behind by cars overtaking them on these streets? Let’s face it. Bicycling in an urban area is inherently dangerous and painting lines on the street is not going to suddenly make it that much safer.

  6. dto510

    Kevin, bike lanes can make bicycling safer by clearly delineating bike-only space and by directing bicyclists to the routes identified by the Bicycle Master Plan. Bike lanes are useless if they are in the door-zone (the three to four feet of space potentially occupied by a parked car’s open door), or if they’re not part of a well-conceived circulation plan.

    Building a median across several intersections on MacArthur restricts bicycle and pedestrian access to Mosswood Park – it’s not just about cross-town bike trips. This is a big project in the center of a neighborhood – Kaiser Hospital’s implications for bicycle and pedestrian access in the area need some review on their own.

  7. Kevin Cook


    Bike lanes could make cycling safer by delineating bike only space if there were a significant risk to cyclists from cars sideswiping them or hitting them from behind as they overtake the cyclists. However, this is not a significant risk to cyclists. Again, accidents happen at intersections and bike lanes do little to nothing at these locations.

    The BMP proposes a bike lane all the way down Broadway. I would argue that it less safe to direct cyclists down broadway with bike lanes than to simply ride the less travelled side streets without bike laness. As an experienced cyclist, I avoid major streets like Broadway, Telegraph and 51st like the plague, yet I see that the BMP plan wants to route people onto these streets. I’ll ignore this plan and continue to choose my own routes.

    Mosswood park is easily accessed at Webster where there is a traffic light to facilitate crossing MacArthur. No light now exists at Shafter or Manila

  8. dto510

    Well, the merits of the Bicycle Master Plan and possible future bike lanes aren’t really relevant. Bicyclists (and pedestrians) are only asking for a chance to review the circulation aspects of the Kaiser Hospital expansion at a meeting that is dedicated just to transportation and not to signage or the building height or the other issues that have dominated the public process so far. I could see improvements to increase access to the park from other intersections as a mitigation, but I want that explained in public before medians are built.

  9. Max Allstadt

    I have a simple, immediate solution for cyclists in Oakland who are frustrated with lack of infrastructure and safety…

    Ride like a anarchist bastard! It’s illegal to ride on sidewalks, but late at night when there’s no one on them, it’s much safer. It’s illegal to hop medians, but if you do it carefully, it’s perfectly safe, and saves time. It’s illegal to ride the wrong way up one way streets, but if you’re sane about it, it’s much much faster to get around town this way. Basically, think of yourself as a pedestrian, with equivalent rights, and equivalent entitlement to do things like crossing against lights and such. As a matter of fact, if you have decent control of your bike, it’s perfectly safe to ride at a moderate pace on a sidewalk with pedestrians on it.

    Oh, and if you’re in decent shape, ditch the roadbike or hipster-ass fixie, and get a cyclocross. They’re as fast as a road bike, but much more durable. You’ll need durability if you’re riding like an anarchist bastard.

    I have been riding in cities with little regard for the law since I was 18. No broken bones, and I’ve never hurt anyone else either. If you think, look and pay attention, you can totally disregard the rules and no harm will come of it.

    Oh and learn how to fall. You will crash, but it doesn’t have to hurt. Any decent martial arts gym can teach you how to fall safely in a few months. If you know how to fall, you can hit an open door head on and ride away winded, but laughing.

  10. Max Allstadt

    As far as the Kaiser project goes, pedestrian access at those crossings is key. We have a park next to a medical center, and the people building the medical center, in placating neighborhood drivers, have forgotten that patients should be able to get to the park easily… I mean their entire “thrive” campaign is driven by messages to get out an live healthily. I’m kind of stymied at how they could miss the fact that making it easy for inpatients and outpatients to get to a park fits the entire Kaiser sales pitch.

  11. Robert

    I agree with several commentors that we are in sore need of a transportation master plan in Oakland. As one who drives weekly into the JLS-DTO-Uptown area, traffic management in that area is a nightmare. If you don’w know exactly where you are going (say if you are a visitor), it is almost impossible to find a decent route through the streets. A proper master plan would address the issues of cars, bikes busses and walking, and what needs to be done to accomodate the different needs. Which would then allow the planning commission and staff to properly determine if a project meets the master plan goals.

  12. Robert

    Max, I don’t see how a median on MacArthur is really going to have an impact on access from the hospital, which is across Broadway from the park. Also, I think that the median is intended to keep the residents on Shafter and Manila happy, not the local drivers.

  13. Kevin Cook


    You brought up the the relationship between bikes lines and the intentions of the BMP. I agree, that the BMP seems to have little relevance to the actual safety of cyclists.

    Max, I couldn’t disagree more with your idea that cyclists should think of themselves like pedestrians. Cyclists should think of themselves like traffic and behave accordingly. Riding down the sidewalk is not only dangerous, despite your experience, but also is simply slow. If you’re actually trying to cover any distance the sidewalk makes no sense. Ask a pedestrian if they like the idea of cyclists careening down the sidewalk at three times their rate of speed. We want drivers to think that we belong on the road. Riding the wrong way down one way streets and riding on the sidewalk only contributes to the perception that we don’t belong on the road but rather forced into designated corridors chosen by some misguided and self-designated bicycling advocates.

    So what BPAC wants is to have a dedicated meeting in which a proposal for needless changes to this plan are heard. This is not the action of an organization that wants to be considered a serious player and not simply a gadfly. Is there some plan to put in a traffic light at Shafter and or Manila and MacArthur? Without lights, it doesn’t make much sense for the blind or the infirm from hospital to be crossing at either of these streets.

  14. Doug

    I agree with the need for a Commission wholeheartedly. The City routinely misses opportunities to advance multimodal transport (repaving 27th w/o bike lanes, no coordinated transit pass b/t AC and BART for Oaklanders, inconsistent crosswalk policy, etc.). They staffed up in this area, so I do hope it gets better…

    Regarding webster vs broadway and bike lanes vs. not…. I would offer that Webster goes one route, Broadway another, and Telegraph another yet. Bicyclists, perhaps more than drivers given the work put in, seek the shortest, most direct route. Webster may work for some folks coming from Temescal, Broadway for folks along that road, etc. Broadway “above” MacA is overbuilt, has little traffic, and should be calmed. We do not need a 6 lane road cutting our community in half. Bike lanes improve access while providing other benefits for neighbors and businesses. Many folks like to come all the way down Shafter and cut over to Broadway @ Mac. I’m glad they will still be able to move freely.

    Here’s to Oakland, hope it’s not Fremont.

  15. Patrick

    Agreed with Kevin: unless you plan on letting everyone you pass know that you’re intentionally riding like an “anarchist bastard” to make a statement, people will just assume that you’re a selfish, uncaring asshole with no regard for law or other people’s safety. And they’re probably right.

    You may further a personal agenda, but it does nothing for the perception of bicyclists, or bicyclist’s rights in toto.

  16. jarichmond

    As one who both walks and drives around Oakland frequently, I hate it when bicyclists go anarchist and ride on the sidewalk or the wrong way on one-way streets. It really creeps me out when a cyclist flies by me on the sidewalk, and riding that way makes it significantly more likely that we’ll have an accident when I’m driving. At an intersection, a driver will be looking for traffic moving in the proper direction, and (hopefully) far enough down the sidewalk to look for pedestrians. At many intersections, it’s difficult to impossible to see far enough down the sidewalk to see a cyclist moving at the much faster speed they tend to move. I’m not going to claim that all drivers do enough to look for cclists and less, but then many drivers don’t pay enough attention to other drivers for safety, either. It still doesn’t mean we should just throw out all the traffic rules.

    A transportation commission would be excellent, though. As it is now, I don’t think Oakland is particularly friendly for moving around by any means (though at least we aren’t as frustrating as moving around in Berkeley!)

  17. Kevin Cook

    Yes, a Transportation Comission will definitely ensure that Oakland “advances multimodal transport” or at least give the people who enjoy urban planning jargon I chance to use it. I’d rather go for a ride.

    Webster, Broadway and Telegraph are all different routes. However, they all basically go in the same direction. Between MacArthur and 51st, Webster and/or Shafter are never more than 4 or 5 blocks from Telegraph or Broadway. The safety conscious cyclist is going to ride that extra distance if they have a destination on one of these streets regardless of the presence of bike lanes on either of the major thoroughfares. I’d argue that the dedicated cyclist likes to ride their bike. Few enjoy driving their car on city surface streets. The “work put in” to riding one’s bike is part of the joy of it. If that extra distance is so physically demanding as to force you off the side streets and onto the big arteries than you need to ride more. Moreover, people who ride consistently understand that another four blocks isn’t going to take any significant amount of time.

    Bike lanes do not “improve access” regardless of the ancillary benefits they may provide to neighbors and businesses. I can legally and physically ride up and down Broadway whether there’s a striped lane or not. What bike lanes do is provide the inexperienced cyclist with a false sense of security and lulls them into thinking that it’s significantly safer to ride on major streets just because there’s a bike lane.

    Even if they go forward with the proposed median, you’ll still be able to ride down Shafter to within a block of MacArthur at which point you could take 38 to Broadway (avoiding the left hand turn on MacArthur) or to Webster and then MacArthur. I don’t really care one way or another about the residents of that neighborhood, so sure, keep the road open. What bothers me about this whole controversy is that it seems a tremendous waste of energy that will do little actually to improve cyclists safety or ability to efficiently move around that part of Oakland. If the cycling advocates feel they need to take a stand and insist on being heard, fine, knock yourself out. However, the more pressing need of cyclists in Oakland (I don’t know about Fremont) for bike racks to replace the decapitated parking meters remains unaddressed while this minor issue receives everyone’s attention.

  18. Max Allstadt

    A little clarification of my anarchist rant:

    1. I don’t expect anybody who is in an official pro-bike role to do anything but condemn my ideas. And I don’t care if they do.

    2. I may ride on the sidewalk a lot, but I yield to pedestrians. I yield a lot of space, the faster I’m going, the more I yield. And you can cover ground on sidewalks, and fast too. My most typical sidewalk sprint is telegraph from 27th to 45th. At night, there’s rarely more than a few people to dodge, and the sidewalk is wide enough to dodge them. Also at night, that stretch of road is driven too fast by people who can’t drive very well. I’ll take the sidewalk, thanks.

    3. I totally disagree that cyclists should be part of traffic-world and not part of pedestrian world. My argument is all about joules.

    If a chubby man weighs 180 lbs and goes running at 10mph, and crashes into somebody, how many joules does that collision create?

    If I weigh 160 lbs and ride my 20 lbs bike on the sidewalk at a 10mph, and crash into somebody, how many joules does that collision create? Approximately the same as the running chubby man.

    Now compare that to a 2000 lbs. car going 35 mph. Get hit by that, and we’re talking two orders of magnitude more joules, if not three. That many extra joules = dead bikers. Lots of ‘em.

    Bikes are closer to pedestrians in both size and the danger they pose. Cyclists are closer to pedestrians in frailty. I’ll take the sidewalk, just like many smart Europeans and Japanese do everyday, legally, without hurting anybody.

    4. Part of the problem here is that laws in America are written so that the lowest common denominator can understand them. The lowest common denominator is unlikely to understand a nuanced set of rules for yielding to pedestrians and slowing at blind corners while riding on a side walk. Thus we get an absolutist rule that just tells us to keep our bikes in the road.

    But consider that the lowest common denominator drinks his weight in Mountain Dew every two weeks, has all of “Friends” on DVD, and loves his wall to wall carpet. That ain’t me. So why should I follow rules written for that kind of schmuck? I refuse to be held hostage by morons, and worse, by the underwriters who insist that every moron must be insured against.

    I realize that this sort of argument opens me up to being accused of being an elitist who choses which laws to follow and which ones not to follow. Correct. But most of you are just like me in other contexts. You’ve driven 80 before, right? Smoked a joint? Jaywalked? And as for bike laws, Oakland requires you to have a bike license by law. Does anybody actually have one?

  19. J-man's Dad

    I’ve been cycling for fun and utility in the Oakland-East Bay for almost 40 years. It’s people who ride bikes like you do that put me in danger everyday, when I ride my bike to and from work, ride for fun and fitness with my family, and train for races on my own.

    In Europe, people don’t ride on sidewalks. The motorized traffic and urban planners respect the right of cyclist to use the roads they paid for and helped create. Have you ever been to Amsterdam, or anyplace in Belgium?

    When I drive emergency vehicles on responses, everytime I leave the firehouse, I’m training the public. If I sometimes pass on the right because some idiot stops in the left lane instead of pulling to the right, I reinforce his idiotic behavior. The extra 5 seconds it takes me to stay behind them, blast the airhorn, and get on the p.a. and say “blue honda, pull to the right” is worth it for next time. When you ride your bike like an idiot, you reinforce stupid behavior among distracted and dangerous drivers. I hope my 13 year old riding to school doesn’t come accross one of the drivers you’ve “trained”.

    Anyone who is interested in this subject should get the book “The art of urban cycling…Lessons from the street” by Robert Hurst.

    It’s only a matter of time before you hurt yourself (by bouncing off a vehicle) or someone else. I hope it’s not too bad.

  20. justin

    I think the most important goal of the Bicycle Master Plan should be to create a safe and rational bicycle system that welcomes NEW bikers onto the streets. If all bicycle policy is supposed to do is to accommodate the very small percentage of Oaklanders who bike as their main mode, it’s missing something huge.

    For example, although anyone “with a brain” may know that Webster is quicker than BWay after Mac, few people even know that street and tunnel exist. Also, there’s a hill after the underpass that not everyone would consider a cakewalk (particularly if you’re a new biker in work clothes). The bike system needs to reflect the predominant understanding of the road system if it is ever to encourage more biking. People know Broadway, so fix Broadway.

  21. dto510

    Kevin is right that the crippling dearth of bike parking is the biggest barrier to bicycling in the city. But that issue has long received significant attention from bike/ped activists and the city’s bike/ped program staff – I will blog that saga soon. Asserting the need for stand-alone review of the circulation of a very large development project at a regular Committee meeting is appropriate and does not take time away from other issues.

  22. V Smoothe Post author

    For those who don’t bicycle around town, the bicycle parking issue that Kevin and dto510 are referring to became a serious problem last year when the City switched to pay and display parking meters.

    From an old blog on the subject:

    Anyway, the impending removal of 4,700 parking meters last summer got the East Bay Bicycle Coalition all upset, because without the meter poles, they would have no place to lock up their bicycles. Seems like a reasonable concern, and one the City should take seriously if they actually care about alternative transportation or reducing oil consumption. So after much protest from the bicyclists, the city agreed to retain two of the old parking meters per block.

    But according to a new internal audit of the parking meter bike parking project, things are not going nearly as smoothly as one would have hoped. Of 576 the old meter poles marked for retention, only 269, or 47%, are left. Nice work, whoever is in charge of removing meters. Way to screw over the bicyclists and make more work for yourself!

  23. Max Allstadt

    Jman’s Dad,

    I don’t ride like an idiot, I ride like an anarchist. There is a shitload of situational awareness and attention that goes into it, and in fifteen years in US streets, I’ve never hurt anyone. I’ve scraped myself up a lot, but that’s part of the fun.

    None of this changes the fact that we need better bike infrastructure for folks who’d rather take it easy. Broadway and Telegraph need bike lanes. Unless they have a raised barrier, I’ll still prefer the sidewalk at times. But we need lanes. The change process is just too slow for me to follow all the rules in the interim.

  24. das88

    Yeah! Everyone agrees that a Transportation Commission is a good idea.

    Sure the self-centered cyclists just want to talk bike master plans, blah, blah, blah because they never walk or ride the bus or get on BART and they certainly never drive a car. We all know that for cyclists transportation and biking are synonymous.

    Still since we all seem to agree that a Transportation Commission is a good idea maybe we should focus on getting one instead of Max’s cycling as political manifesto.

    What should we do?
    1) speak at open forum at council and planning commission
    2) write/call our city council members
    3) bug city council members when we see them out and about
    4) further specify how such a commission would look

    I don’t really know the answers, but I am willing to follow someone else’s lead here.

  25. Patrick

    If you have to “dodge” pedestrians, you’re not yielding to them in any way. Part of what makes cycling on the sidewalk so unsafe for pedestrians is that they do not expect to be confronted by a fast moving bicycle on the sidewalk. Riding a bicycle on the sidewalk eliminates the rider’s safety disadvantage on the street by putting pedestrians at risk on the sidewalk.

    The joules argument is, besides ridiculous, tantamount to comparing organic to inorganic. A running fat man can do things a fast moving bicycle/rider can not. Like jump sideways. Or make the warning “slap-slap” sound of shoes hitting the pavement. Getting hit by a large, relatively cushioned body is inherently different from getting rammed in the crotch by a spinning, unyielding bicycle tire or hit in the back by chromium covered hardened aluminum handlebars. In addition, if two people collide, it is likely that the person running would remain standing, due to the advantage of velocity. When a fast moving bicycle/rider hits a pedestrian, it is unlikely that either would remain “standing”, as the effect of inertia on the two very different masses of the unconnected rider and bicycle would propel them forward at different rates. Finally, the amount of energy expended by two objects of equal mass may be linear, but virtually all pedestrians on a sidewalk are not going 10mph, while virtually all bicycles on a sidewalk are. The energy equation for velocity is quadratic, not linear. And that is why bicycling on the sidewalk is so dangerous, and illegal, as it should be.

  26. Robert

    I don’t think that ‘everyone’ agrees we need another commission. One of the last things we need is another commision holding up development until the bike activiists get everything they want. Since we have both bicycle and pedistrian master plans, the planning staff and planning commission should have more than adequate guidance to enusre that thoses needs are addressed.

    This desire appears to arise from the planning approval of the Kaiser Hospital plan. I have yet to hear anything that suggests that the plan fails to meet the bicycle or pedistrian master plans. And from what I have read it certainly looks like the planning staff and commission and Kaiser recognized and/or made adjustments based on comments to the original plans, and that they followed appropriate procedures.

    When people start complaining about process in the absence of an expectation of getting a different outcome, it is almost always due to the belief that their desires weren’t met in the existing process, and if only the process is changed it would somehow come out better for them. So if the Kaiser Hospital is an example of how the current process failed, what exactly are the areas where the approved plan does not meet the bike and pedestrian plans?

  27. Becks

    Robert – I think V was using the Kaiser issue as just one example of why we need a transportation commission. She also gives other examples, like taxis and parking structures.

    There are so many incredibly important transportation issues that are now shifted to somewhat random committees or commissions, and a centralized transportation commission would make the processes more streamlined. Also, it would insure that transportation issues aren’t forgotten after lengthy discussion about other issues.

    If you really think there should not be a transportation commission, please tell me – does it make sense to have the Public Safety Committee reviewing taxi issues and what committee would be appropriate to review BRT?

    The conversation here seems to have gotten sidetracked on bike issues (which I think is very interesting), but that misses the larger point that Oakland needs a transportation commission to deal with a myriad of complex transportation issues.

  28. justin

    A Transportation Commission should act as a forum to coordinate transportation and land use, largely at the plan and Major Projects level. There should be some pretty hefty membership, too, with reps (who can make decisions) from AC Transit, BART and the Alameda County CMA, as well as Oakland’s Traffic Engineer and someone high up in Planning, as well as the usual interest groups.

    It should NOT be a review body for individual projects. The point is to make sure that AC Transit and Oakland talk specifics so that the city isn’t upzoning a part of town where AC is thinking of cutting service. The point is NOT to convene to negotiate filling in a hole in a median or resolve some condo’s parking issue. It should not be a body a project must get approval from to move on; it should review projects on an ad hoc basis (perhaps projects in particular locations) and provide info to the Planning Commission or Council.

    Transportation is a system, so tinkering with a bike land segment here or bus stop there, isn’t gonna do what we need.

    But it will cost money, as someone will need to staff it. So, perhaps DOA.

  29. Max Allstadt

    Patrick et al,

    It seems to me that the only thing I might do to prove I’m not a menace is to get a helmet cam.

    I don’t go 10 on the sidewalk when there are a bunch of people there. If it’s crowded, I’m in the street. If it’s late and there’s no one out for blocks at a time, I go 20 on the sidewalk. It’s conditional and respectful. Downtown, during the day, I sometimes go about 5, yeilding as needed, but only if the street is really dodgy.

    My joules argument is not at all reduculous. If I fuck up and hit someone, I might make them bruised. I’d likely choose to wipe out or ditch if I ha the chance. I a driver fucks up and hits me, they could well make me dead. I’d rather make someone bruised once or twice in my life than let some drunk driving jackass make
    me dead. The difference, if you do the actual math, is between dozens of joules and tens of thousands.

    As for Europe, do a google search for the town in Germany that took out all traffic signs and lights, and reduced accidents. That’s cause Germans are exacting. Did I mention I’m more than half German?

  30. Patrick

    While I agree that you are much safer on the sidewalk than on the street, the point is that you make the sidewalk less safe for pedestrians. The world is full of people who say things like “I’m really not that drunk and I’ll be extra careful”, but it only takes one accident to invalidate the entire argument.

    Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re cruising along the sidewalk at 10 mph, and a man pushing a baby carriage appears suddenly from behind a (tree, shrub, building, doorway, pick one). As that infant hurtles through the air, would you be completely confident that it will end up simply bruised? I grant you that this scenario is not likely, but it IS possible.

    It doesn’t matter if the difference is 2000 joules or 20; riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is inherently dangerous. And unless you’re omniscient, you are unable to predict what could or won’t ever happen. Making arguments with information that suits your desired outcome – To Hell with Laws and what others Think! – sounds like our current President. What I find most appalling is your willingness to state that the potential injury of others is acceptable if it makes you safer. ME! ME! ME! Not only does that also sound like our current President, but it says a lot about character, as well.

    And the town in Germany (Bohmte) that removed all traffic signals and stop signs? It has a population of 13,312, about half the population of West Oakland. The closest town of any size, Bremen, with a population of ~547,000, is 64 miles away.

    No one denies that an ideal world would have seperate, curb protected lanes that criss-cross our cities. But we don’t. There is no money in Oakland, currently, for that either (unless maybe we take it from the Arts?). Agitate all you like for increased safety for bicyclists. And if you feel brave enough to take a swing down a one way street – in a car lane- go for it. It’s your hide that is on the line. But flouting sidewalk laws to suit your personal needs does a disservice to pedestrians – and bicyclists -everywhere.

  31. Max Allstadt

    People who say things like “I’m really not that drunk and I’ll be extra careful” are why I ride on the sidewalk on Friday nights. Build me a lane divided off with a mini median, and I’ll use it. Until then, careful, conscientious sidewalk riding is what I will do, and what I will recommend to others.

    The potential injury of others is better than my potential flattening by some drunk teenager who’s come in from Orinda in his dad’s Hummer. Again, we’re talking about a hypothetical, potential, as yet unrealized injury. I rarely get within ten feet of a pedestrian when I’m going fast enough to hurt anybody. I have never hurt anyone, and any hypothetical assessment you’re making of the way I ride is not based on eyewitness experience. More likely, I’m guessing the assessment is based on my online obnoxiousness. It is possible to be a blowhard and also ride safely on the sidewalk.

    George Bush comparison? Really?

  32. Patrick

    Oh, and “it’s conditional and respectful”? Only in your opinion. And that is the ultimate in contempt.

  33. Patrick

    I don’t really think you’re obnoxious, but very opinionated. And, at least on this issue, self-serving. Yeah,George W. Bush.

  34. Patrick

    Was the “hypothetical, potential, as yet unrealized injury” the one between you and the sidewalk pedestrian or between you and the kid from Orinda in a Hummer?

  35. New Resident

    I heartily agree with the need for a Transportation Commission. We have a great, nearly perfect, example to follow nearby too. Just across the Estuary the City of Alameda has a Transportation committee that is doing wonders to transform that city’s whole transportation policy. They are driving a new Transportation Master Plan, General Plan Transportation Element, other policies and weighing in with advice on transportation issues of major projects.
    Website: http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/tmp/
    Membership: http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/gov/bdcm.html?entity=5
    Document archive: http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/archive/tcdocs.html

    One big reason for the success of the Commission is the high quality people on it, like John Knox White: http://johnknoxwhite.com/

    Now let’s get the same going over here!!

  36. Max Allstadt


    as for the hypotheticals: I have crashed my bike about a dozen times in my life badly enough to feel it the following day. Many of those were on bike trails where I was doing something risky and fun, and which are moot for this discussion. None of my injuries were on a sidewalk.

    On four occasions, I’ve crashed in the street. I was doored once and rolled out of it with a lightly bruised hip. Luckily the cars behind me were still waiting at a light that I’d just run (the perpendicular street was tiny, no danger). Another time I clipped a parked car mirror trying to stay to the left of a bus, and rolled and scraped myself up. Again, no cars behind me that time to squash me, and I hit the mirror just as the bus had passed. Pure luck.

    The third one was silly and barely counts. Let’s just say that if you have to pop off the back of a bike and start running in mid-air to avoid a fall, you shouldn’t do it in flip flops. And the last and most recent one involved hitting a crack in the concrete on Broadway, losing the bike and rolling head first. A stiff neck was all I got, but the Mercedes behind me came WAY WAY too close to mauling me.

    So is the Hummer hypothetical? Yeah. But I’ve been close enough to being a grease spot on the pavement to have perfectly good reasons for wanting to avoid traffic.

  37. Max Allstadt

    V -

    The removal of meter poles is totally stupid. The removal of the meters themselves is stupid too. We should have just left them and had local artists or art students decorate them. Little martian faces painted on some, robots on others. So easy.

    The existing poles could also have had caps added to them in order to make them useful as lock up spots. I have half a mind to borrow a generator and go out and start welding bars across the tops of the leftover poles.

  38. Robert

    Max, If you weld bars to the top of the poles make sure that they are large enough and with well rounded edges so that the anarchist bicyclists careening down the sidewalk don’t impale themselves when they have to dodge a pedistrian.

  39. Robert

    The change in parking meters is an example of a thoroughly evaluated change, with a final outcome being a poor decision. In addition to the loss of bike parking, the new system is inconvenient for motorists, inefficient for the meter readers, and not capable of accomodating alternatives such as demand or time based pricing for parking.

  40. Robert

    If the commission is thought of as a forum to drive forward a transportation master plan, I don’t see an issue with it other than funding. The original suggestion appear to suppport the commission evaluating individual projects, such as the Kaiser Hospital, for impacts. This should really be the role of the planning commission, IMO. Maybe a Transportation Commission could replace the BPAC?

    I do think that an overall transportation plan would be helpful, although most of the individual pieces already exist in the BMP, PMP, and the transprotation element of the general plan.

  41. Robert

    Becks, I realize that V was using the Kaiser Hospital as an example, however, if an example is given to support the inadequacies of the current system, it really should show a failure of the current system. I don’t think that the Kaiser Hospital makes that point. The other examples are general, indicating that different elemets go through different departments/commissions, but without indicating the downside to that situation.

  42. Andrew

    Max, bicyclists are the same as motorists according to the vehicle code. Please stay off the sidewalks, they’re named sidewalks for a reason. If you want to be an anarchist, walk.

    As for the Mosswood/Macarthur situation, the sooner they put a median across Manila and Shafter the better. Drivers trying to get on Macarthur eastbound from those streets (and vice versa, even more so) are taking terrible chances.

  43. Max Allstadt

    As for the median, there needs to be pedestrian accommodation because the spot is adjacent to a park. Pedestrians, in particular, should not be expected to walk one two or three blocks out of their way in order to reach a park.

    I think medians in general are bad news, car-centric planning. On San Pablo, they act to impede pedestrian flow from one side of the street to the other, which in turn helps impede any prospect of increased neighborhood commerce, unity, or growth.

    Andrew, I don’t care about how I’m classified by the vehicle code. And for the record, my anarchism is restricted to a select few silly rules. Perhaps I’ll violate some of the others and write some nice essays about it over the holidays.

  44. Andrew

    Max, pedestrians would walk only one block to cross Macarthur there, at Broadway or Webster. Whether or not medians in general are bad, “car-centric planning” is a paramount concern in this three-block stretch of Broadway, unlike much of San Pablo. I drive there enough that I can tell the open medians at Manila and Shafter are accidents in the making and danger points at all times. It’s like the crossing of 51st Street at Manila a little farther north–drivers take incredible chances there.

    Point me to your essays when they come out (or post them here); some laws should be laughed at.

  45. bikerider

    Andrew: the reason Manila and Shafter are “accidents in the making” is precisely because Oakland public works has been busy “upgrading” MacArthur into a pseudo-freeway. Undoubtedly, you won’t be satisfied until every single intersection is grade separated (or closed off by concrete barriers), but there are more rational and well-studied approaches to the problem than simply making MacArthur into an expressway.

    For starters, MacArthur needs a “road diet” — the number of lanes (far in excess of what is needed for the traffic volumes) just encourages dangerous passing and higher speeds. Unfortunately, Oakland Public Works is still stuck in a 1950s mindset and despite plans for a transit village at MacArthur, they are still fixated on the all-important automobile “LOS” at intersections.

  46. Patrick

    What MacArthur needs is BRT, to serve those of us who live miles away from International or Telegraph.

  47. Max Allstadt


    The key here is that most able bodied pedestrians don’t go out of their way. By that I mean that if you put a median in, people who regularly come down manila or shafter are likely to jaywalk. Not all, but many. I’ve asked trafic engineers to put in crosswalks in two places in West Oakland. (northgate@23rd and MLK@23rd) Both times they’ve suggested that pedestrians could just walk one bock over to a crosswalk, and one block back. The problem is that what they could do and what they will do are very different things.

  48. Patrick

    If people won’t walk 5 feet to avoid creating a path through a landscaping island in the parking lot of (Safeway, bank, school, restaurant, etc.), who would think they would walk 2 blocks to avoid having to cross a median?