October 21, 2010

More Bike Updates, East Bay Style

First, the East Bay Regional Park District has been awarded a $10 million grant to connect gaps in its bicycle and ped path network. Funding comes from the Federal Tiger grant program. Iron Horse trail, my local standby, gets some southern extensions to link up with the Dublin/Pleasanton BART and the new developments around there. The map of the planned improvements was a little lo-res even before I took a screen capture, so your best bet is to follow the link above.

Second, Oakland has some plans of its own: a bikeway that will flow, mas o menos, along the 53rd street corridor from Emeryville to the Rockridge BART station. It will add capacity as an east-west connector that complements existing bikeways: 65th/Ashby BART/Woolsey to the North, and 40th Street/MacArthur BART to the south.

The area under evaluation is between those little orange boxes. Oakland's study proposed a number of alignments, which are visible on the map below:

The final alignment selected, near as I can tell from the city report (Scribd doc @ the end), is #3.

I was pleasantly reading the careful thought the planners had invested in the project--finding funding, sending mailers to residents of 53rd street, compiling feedback from myriad sources, discussing the +/-'s of the 6 different alignments--when I realized that this is all just to paint sharrows. Wtf? Do they really need all that work just to paint some white bike stencils+chevrons? There will be bike-signage as well, with little bike symbols and city and BART directionals, but yeesh.

I also wonder if the addition of sharrows actually does anything--I'd be hard pressed to describe biking on a street with sharrows as any more inviting than biking on a street without them.

The real reason why more significant bike infrastructure (a proper bike lane) is MIA is probably that the streets are too narrow to stripe two five-foot bike lanes while retaining a lane of parking on both sides AND two way travel lanes. Since I'm not intimately familiar with the streets in question, I can't speak to the kind of traffic they get, or the speed. On many residential streets a bike lane is redundant; its principal use is for carving a safe travelway out of busier, car-heavier roads.

So maybe a full bike lane would be overkill after all, but the question about whether public meetings and planning documents and alignment examinations are necessary for sharrow painting remains. It seems the City needs to cover its bases, make sure the residents know to expect some increases in bike traffic, and make sure it has documentation showing careful deliberations were made. No wonder funding is an issue.

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