The Bay Area Battle Over Protected and Unprotected Bike Lanes

All bike lanes are not created equal.

That is the gist of a recent article in “StreetsBlog” outlining the ongoing battle between Bay Area city officials and safe streets advocates.

While Oakland and other Bay Area communities have increased the number of bike lanes in recent years, many of them are of the “unprotected” variety. In other words, they feature some fresh paint and some bicycle signs, and not much else.

What Makes a Bike Lane Protected?

Protected bike lanes are far safer for cyclists and include features such as:

  • Being physically separated from the street by using curbs, posts, planters, vertically raised paths etc.
  • Exclusively designed for bicycle use, with no pedestrians or cars mixing except at some intersections
  • Still being on or adjacent to the roadway and part of the street grid

Unfortunately, StreetsBlog notes that the Bay Area has fallen behind some other cities in terms of cyclist protection:

“The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts passed a ground-breaking “Cycling Safety Ordinance” two years ago. It integrated the requirement, now enshrined in the city’s municipal code, to install “a Permanent Separated Bicycle Lane” whenever streets are reconstructed.

“The ordinance, which passed 7-0…will bind the city to provide protected bike infrastructure for streets that are included in its bike master plan except in ‘rare’ circumstances, which city officials will be required to justify. The ordinance requires that vertical physical barriers be included.”

No such ordinance has been passed in the Bay Area, although StreetsBlog notes some “watered down” attempts have been made. City officials have claimed that neighborhoods may not yet be ready for the implementation of protected lanes.

No Protected Lanes at the New Athletics’ Ballpark

The controversy was freshly ignited when it was revealed that plans for the Oakland Athletics’ ballpark and the area around it did not contain protected bike lanes. In an editorial, StreetsBlog made the following argument in favor of creating tougher new ordinances:

“Imagine if it took a “public consultation process” before EMTs could administer CPR to a dying cyclist or pedestrian, freshly mashed by an errant motorist; why should we have a public process when deciding whether or not to install protected bike lanes and intersections that are proven to prevent collisions and save lives? It should be obvious that crucial, life-saving safety features can’t be optional. And it’s long overdue for Bay Area lawmakers to follow Cambridge’s example and start authoring and pushing both city ordinances and new state bills to make protected, high-quality bike lanes and intersections a requirement for reconstructing streets everywhere.”

And that is an argument that just about all California cyclists can get behind.

Finding the Right Bicycle Accident Attorney

Gary Brustin is a lifelong cyclist and a specialist in bicycle accident law. In fact, these are the only types of cases he accepts. If you’ve been injured in a collision, we urge you to contact Gary for a complimentary consultation.

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