OAKLAND -- Rockridge residents gathered to see revised plans for a proposed "road diet" that would decrease the number of traffic lanes along a stretch of Broadway in order to add bike lanes and increase pedestrian safety.
More than 50 people attended the May 29 meeting at the Rockridge Branch Library to hear city staff explain the various aspects of the project, which would decrease the number of lanes between Broadway Terrace and Ocean View Drive from two in each direction to one traffic lane and one bike lane in each direction, plus a continuous center turn lane.
Victoria Eisen of Eisen/Letunic, the city's consultant for the project, said that by "giving everyone a place to be," the road diet could reduce crashes by 29 percent through eliminating lane changes caused by cars turning at intersections, stopping for pedestrians or trying to parallel-park. The proposed changes aim to make the road less stressful for all users.
According to Eisen, current crosswalk conditions across the four-lane-wide road put pedestrians in "double jeopardy:" "When a car is stopped for a pedestrian, it blocks the view for another car. Sometimes pedestrians who aren't aware of that dynamic can then step in front of that second car," she said at the meeting. The plan further aims to improve pedestrian safety with higher-visibility crosswalks, a pedestrian-activated HAWK signal at Lawton Avenue and "bulb outs" at three intersections, which would extend the sidewalk outward to decrease crossing distances. Pedestrian volumes were not sufficient enough at any of the intersections to warrant a traditional traffic light.
Currently, a pedestrian waits approximately two minutes for an opportunity to cross Broadway along the segment of road in question, said city consultant Erin Ferguson, an associate engineer at Kittelson & Associates, Inc. The road diet could decrease wait times to 15 seconds or less.
Drive times, on the other hand, could increase during peak hours, but the difference is "not significant enough ... to change the level of service," Ferguson said, adding that the center turn lane would make it easier for cars to turn onto Broadway from smaller cross streets.
The bike lanes are also intended to increase access to Broadway, but some residents questioned whether enough riders actually want that access in the first place since there is no current ridership data for that corridor. However, city officials and consultants said they are confident the cyclists will come.
"A lot of times, you won't see a lot of bicyclists using a difficult roadway because they don't feel comfortable," Ferguson said. "That doesn't mean that there isn't a demand for it."
Jason Patton, bicycle and pedestrian program manager for the city, said census data shows a 150 percent to 200 percent increase in cycling since 2000.
Rockridge resident and weekend cycler Robert Briant attended the meeting in support of the road diet, which he believes will improve safety.
"The traffic is right on top of you right now," he said. Other bicyclists at the meeting spoke out in favor of a barrier between the bike lane and parked cars, but staff said there is insufficient space.
City staff fielded numerous questions at the meeting, including concerns over increased congestion, pollution and safety.
"This is not the first time that the city of Oakland has reduced the number of traffic lanes in order to improve traffic operations and bicycle and pedestrian access and safety," Eisen said. "In fact, there have been over 40 such projects over 29 miles of roadway."
One of those projects was on Lakeshore Avenue in 2009. According to staff, that road handles 24,000 vehicles per day and are confident Broadway could still handle its current daily load of 14,500. Staff also cited an Environmental Impact Report from 2006-2007, which did not forecast significant changes in emissions or noise.
Jon Gabel, who has lived on Ocean View Drive for more than four decades, also thinks the plan will improve conditions on the busy roadway, but is concerned that the proposed bulb-out on the corner of Broadway and his street will create a bigger hazard because the steep hill reduces visibility.
"I'm all in favor of slowing vehicles down, but not by having them crash into each other," Gabel said.
The road diet would be implemented during previously-planned road resurfacing on Broadway, which staff say is more cost-effective. The estimated price tag is $700,000 -- $90,000 of which will come from the Caldecott Settlement Agreement Fund. The remainder will come from Alameda County's Measure B sales tax. Following the completion of design and construction documents, the project will be bid on next spring, after which the City Council must approve and award the contract. Construction would then begin in fall 2015.