Bus on Grand

Businesses or Bikes?

But unless you are a bicycle fanatic you won’t be happy about OakDOT’s proposed changes for Grand Avenue between Lake Park/Santa Clara Avenues and Elwood Avenue.  Actually, I expect you will be extremely upset–even angry—about it.  I know I am.

How does only one lane of vehicular traffic in each direction sound to you?

  • A repositioned bus stop means that westbound AC Transit #12 buses will have to stop in the only through traffic lane to pick up passengers. 
  • A loss of 43 parking spaces (including 12 currently used as parklets) and parallel parking on one side of the street.

Are you feeling the love?  Well, bicycle riders are because they will get a protected bike lane in each direction.  

This will kill Grand Avenue businesses and the district as you know it.  The Grand Avenue Business Association (GABA) is resolutely opposed to this project.  GABA’s members are in the process of building an active, productive business organization that could lead to achieving great outcomes enhancing the Grand Ave experience and the neighborhood at large.  OakDOT’s project is a death knell to Grand Ave businesses and any ambitions they have.  See the attached 35% design plan by OakDOT and give it some thought.

As an example of how badly these types of bicycle-first projects can turn out, the City of San Francisco is being sued by business owners on Valencia St. whose businesses are being wiped out due to the City’s inserting a bike path down the middle of the street, displacing vehicular lanes and parking on several blocks.  These kinds of actions by transportation experts and insulated bureaucrats are made solely to benefit cyclists.  In situations like this everyone else loses.

I am very much in support of cities doing what is feasible to increase the use of bicycles and improve the safety of riders.  Oakland’s City Council approved the Oakland Bike Plan 2019—a well-produced document that establishes the City’s policy for improving and expanding bicycle routes throughout the city.  It is rich in content and beautifully done.  But it is flawed.  When you look at the public outreach proudly presented in the Plan, most of the organizations are bicycle-based advocates.  There is no indication that business districts and business representatives were consulted, inferring their interests were unimportant.

Message to Lakeshore:  The Oakland Bike Plan 2019 labels Lakeshore’s commercial stretch the same as Grand Avenue.  It will only be a matter of time until OakDOT will turn its attention to you.  Understand that this immediate challenge is yours as well.  It would be wise to start opposition now in solidarity with GABA.

I’m sure some things can and should be done to make Grand Avenue a better and safer experience for cyclists.  There are also higher priorities for Oakland’s limited funding to make streets safer for bicycles and pedestrians.  How about the maintenance of paving?  According to reporting in the December 23, 2023 edition of Oaklandside, since 2018, the City has paid out $10 million in settlements to cyclists and $3 million to pedestrians due to unsafe street and sidewalk paving.  Oaklandside further reported in January, “Over 500 lawsuits filed by pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers between 2014 and 2023 have cost Oakland about $35 million.”  Improving paving conditions [alone] will greatly benefit cyclists as well as everyone else. 

Oakland, like other cities, has a High Injury Network (HIN) map that identifies streets with a high level of vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle collisions. Oakland’s current map indicates that this section of Grand Avenue is not a high-injury roadway.  According to OakDOT, a traffic count conducted between 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. mid-week in September of 2022 at Grand and Lake Park came up with 116 bicycles, 574 pedestrians, 4,918 vehicles.  That means that cyclists represent 2% of multi-mode traffic.  So, what is the justification for OakDOT’s plan?

There are many benefits for increased bicycle use.  However, there is a substantial population that is either too old or physically unable to ride bicycles.  Many of these people rely on their cars to reach goods, services, and restaurants.


In summary

PROS:

  • Improved bicycle safety.
  • (I’m still trying to think of another one.)

CONS:

  • Horrible vehicular traffic flow.
  • Extended vehicular waits for AC Buses to pick up passengers.
  • Loss of 43 of parking spaces (including loss of 12 spaces used as parklets).
  • Parallel parking on the westbound side of the street
  • Possible loss or repositioning of some loading zones.
  • Pedestrians must cross the bicycle lane when leaving the sidewalk to get to their parked car.
  • Extensive disruption to business activity and traffic during construction.
  • Significant cost when money would be better spent on fixing potholes and paving Oakland streets.
  • Difficulty of reversing course and restoring conditions when the resulting traffic and parking disaster is confirmed (due to use of raised concrete buffers for bike lanes).
  • A business killer.

I have communicated with engineers and planners at OakDOT and met two representatives onsite.  They are sincere and well-intentioned.  They have indicated via email that design work with updated data collection and studies of alternatives will begin in late 2024, followed by additional community outreach with the goal of starting construction in early 2026.  They indicated these studies may include Lakeshore from Lake Park to Mandana.

This project is horribly wrong for this essential business and traffic corridor.  The residents of the entire Grand Lake community need to prevent this plan from happening!  It’s time to step up and be heard!  As a start please provide your comments below to help formulate next steps – all views need to be respected, whether in support or opposition to OakDOT’s plan.

My next article will take an in-depth look at the City’s 2019 Bike Plan and related City policies.  Lots to learn – stay tuned.

Be sure to check out OakDOT’s proposed Grand Avenue Complete Street Paving project.


By jerry barclay

Jerry Barclay headshot

Jerry Barclay is a graduate in architecture from UC Berkeley. After a long career in construction and real estate development – which included the redevelopment of Old Oakland, construction of Stern Grove, and a management role for the Christ the Light Cathedra – he is now happily retired from Intuit where he oversaw the company’s expansion of its HQ and global workplaces. Jerry served as the Chair of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee for the Grand Lake Farmers Market for fourteen years.  He and his wife Caryn have lived in the Grand Lake Neighborhood since 1983.


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Comments

22 responses to “Businesses or Bikes?”

  1. Kurt Vogler Avatar
    Kurt Vogler

    As a 21 year Grand Lake resident and user of the streets, I cannot tolerate much more lawlessness I see among drivers. It’s epidemic and there are few signs that this is going to change.

    I’ve penned a draft reply to this post several times already. It’s really easy to get emotional about the subject. But I really feel I must provide my input. As a local resident, driver, cyclist and pedestrian in our neighborhood, I feel my opinion on the subject has merit.

    The way this author attacks the idea of a “road diet” or whatever you want to call it is disappointing. But then I realize that most of us have grown up in car-centric America and we don’t even see the pro-car bias we possess. As a child growing up in San Jose, I thought it was “totally weird” to watch my neighbor cycle to work in the 1970’s. No one did it, so I naturally concluded his choice of transportation was strange. But what was it that influenced my young mind to view riding a bicycle to work as strange and deserving of ridicule?

    Car culture.

    Now, as an avid cyclist, I see the folly in my youthful mindset. I’ve come to understand that automobile dominance in American culture is sacrosanct. And destructive. And whenever I see yet ANOTHER driver break the law and endanger us all, I understand this even more.

    That this author wants to lump crime and other urban problems in with cycling only shows how totally biased this person is. That he’s so far from seeing how much better our streets could be without a “mini freeway” running through our neighborhood called “Grand Ave.”

    We’ve long suffered the effects of induced demand. Keeping Grand four lanes only gives in to this decades-long fallacy that deludes the entitled driver.

    I’d sure like to see a happy, humane, welcoming Grand Ave. shopping district that we can all enjoy without the ever-present domination of the American automobile.

    Thanks for listening.

  2. David Cohen Avatar
    David Cohen

    I did not like this piece. A hit job hiding behind a bunch of dense detail, and pitching the issue as bikes vs. everyone else. I agree with the earlier comments of Arielle and Justin. The most fundamental error is that author’s presumption that the purpose of that section of Grand Ave is to become a freeway. The purpose of the plan is to serve residents and become a more civic space. The author is very concerned about parking spaces. If that’s true, the obvious solution is to get rid of the parklets, which snuck in under the radar, and are a blatant privatization of public space.

  3. Debra Chaplan Avatar
    Debra Chaplan

    From the Publisher:

    Again, I recognize that, along with presenting the OakDOT plan, Jerry Barclay’s article put forth a strong opinion promoting one side of the Grand Ave. repaving controversy. I want you to know that we have a neighbor who has agreed to present another side in an article in the May issue of this publication. There may be more sides presented in the future. I do want to ensure that the community’s viewpoints are fully aired.

    However, since some of the comments asserted that there were factual errors in the article, I asked Jerry to review the items that had been pointed out and make corrections as needed. Here is his response:

    —————————-

    MW posted comments to my article stating, “This article is riddled with inaccuracies and outright falsehoods” and attached an OakDOT document as evidence.

    I subsequently exchanged emails with an engineer at OakDOT to reconcile any inaccuracies. That communication revealed that OakDOT’s document includes an unintentional discrepancy. OakDOT states “These updated plans would require reconfiguration of existing parklets, therefore parklets are not shown on this plan.” Also, “Updated number of parking spaces with Final 35% plans: 42 spaces.” OakDOT confirmed to me that their current intention is not to retain parklets, but if they did, the number of parking spaces would be reduced to 42. OakDOT has confirmed that there are 85 spaces total including those currently occupied by parklets. This corroborates the accuracy of my statement that OakDOT’s plan would be a reduction of 43 spaces.

    MW further states, “…there are clearly marked spots for AC Transit buses to pick up without blocking traffic.” MW is misreading the plan—interpreting loading zones as bus stops. There is only one AC Transit stop and it is at the corner immediately adjacent to the traffic lane, as I stated. This is shown clearly on Section View B-B (which should have been located on the plan view but wasn’t) and on the plan view itself. However, I did not realize that OakDOT’s plan creates a lane to the left of the bus loading area to enable cars to slip around a bus – I had interpreted that to be a left-turn lane. This is still a very problematic design, which I shared with OakDOT.

    I took great pains to ensure my facts were correct including communications directly with OakDOT, with whom I have established a respectful relationship. In hindsight, I should have clarified or separated fact from opinion. And despite how many have interpreted my article, I am not anti-bike.

    By Jerry Barclay

  4. Arielle Avatar

    I was really sad to see this take – especially from a news source that I respect. This is a safety project – for people who bike, walk, use transit and drive. Grand is designed for much higher car throughput. The excess lane capacity invites speeding and reckless driving behavior that contributes to crime. Grand should be a grand street – right next to the lake it should be haven for biking and walking. Right now, it’s a freeway. We can do better. And we certainly should be framing this as us vs them. People on bikes shop at these businesses. Study after study has demonstrated the economic benefits of designing streets to support biking and walking – https://cyclingmagazine.ca/sections/news/canadian-study-shows-new-toronto-bike-lane-improved-economic-activity-in-the-area/

    30 people lost their lives walking and biking in Oakland last year. That’s unacceptable. Our streets are dangerous by design and we can do better.

  5. The only reason I don’t bike in Oakland is because of the lack of bike infrastructure and I’m excited for this to come to fruition. Next time we should feature an opinion on the other side.

  6. Debra C Chaplan Avatar
    Debra C Chaplan

    From the Publisher:

    I published this article because I wanted the issue of Grand Avenue’s potential reconfiguration to be in the Splashpad News and I wanted to generate community feedback – pro and con. I guess I succeeded in that, but as a new editor with just two issues under my belt, I naively didn’t expect the polarized response that we got. Of course, this does show that people are reading, and that’s a good thing. My mistake is that we needed to have three articles instead of one: The first would lay out the OakDOT plan dispassionately, and then we could have pro and con opinion pieces.

    We will look into the potential factual errors in the article that were raised in the comments and make corrections as needed. I’m pleased to say that one neighbor has already agreed to write a “pro” piece for the May issue. And we’ll continue to follow this issue and ensure all sides are represented fairly and accurately.

    1. Thank you Debra,
      It is a great idea to break out this subject in future Newsletters. Maybe not only pros and cons, but the various parts and possibly ways to give input to the city planning as well as progress reports on how or if the project is going forward.

  7. As a preface, let me note that I supported the conversion of Lakeshore and Grand above Mandana to one lane in each direction and for well over a decade, until health issues intervened, my bike was my main transportation. In addition, in previous Splash Pad News articles, I advocated for the closure of the slip lane from Grand onto the freeway and was the first to suggest that, in addition to bike lanes in each direction, the closed street should be turned into a pedestrian plaza. That said, I’m adamantly opposed to the current plans for this very short segment of Grand where dozens of locally-owned businesses survived the pandemic and are now being impacted by another epidemic: auto break-ins and early-morning burglaries. The proposed loss of parklets will be yet another impediment and is a bit ironic in that the City of Oakland and the Bicycle Coalition were the prime advocates years ago. The conversion to one lane in each direction will make backing out of diagonal parking spaces extremely difficult and, on the west side of the street, parallel parking with cars virtually bumper to bumper during rush hour will be impossible. My recommendation is that we, as a very creative community, should put our heads together and come up with revised plans that improve pedestrian and bike safety without the kind of radical changes that will negatively impact shoppers and local businesses.

    1. Justin Avatar

      The snarky anti-cyclist tone of this article and evidence-free assertions that bike lanes will “kill” businesses on Grand Ave does not serve your goal to facilitate a create discussion about how to make Grand Ave better. I respect the work you’ve done for this community, but the DOT has been considering this stretch of road for years and has gone through a number of iterative designs at the urging of local businesses. There were much more dramatic plans on the table, this one is already a compromise.

      Your reference to burglaries and auto break-ins seems beside the point (though I realize you made it with the assumption that protected bike lanes will definitionally be bad for business, and thus another impediment to operation–a position that is, to be clear, entirely unsupported by any evidence). If people are afraid to park on Grand Ave anyway, what difference does the loss of 12 parking spaces make? And if in the process the street becomes safer and more pleasant for folks using other means of transportation, isn’t that a win for businesses?

      That said, if you’re serious about encouraging a conversation, I do hope that you’ll provide space on your site for other voices on this issue. I have a great many friends–yes, who walk, bike, and take the bus, in addition to driving–who avoid Grand Ave because the traffic is terrible, double parked cars make the bike lane unusable, and speeding cars make it unsafe to cross the street. These people also exist, they also live in Oakland, and they also spend money. I, for instance, almost always buy wine at Bay Grape because they have indoor bike parking (and a floor pump!). We need to encourage *less driving* in Oakland and this plan is a good start.

    2. I’m looking at the latest update on the project from Jan. 2024, which clearly states that the parklets are not shown because they need to be reconfigured. I don’t see anything about them being eliminated entirely.

      The plan also states that eight parking spaces were already added back after discussion with local businesses. And there are clearly marked spots for AC Transit buses to pickup without blocking traffic.

      I agree a proper discussion should be had about these plans, but this article is riddled with inaccuracies and outright falsehoods.

      https://cao-94612.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/documents/Grand-Lake-parking-update-Dec-2023_2024-01-19-212838_eanb.pdf

  8. I agree, Bicycle first planning does not make sense with the current aging Oakland demographic.

  9. Anything we can do to reduce standing/double-parking in the bike lanes would be a welcome safety and traffic flow improvement. I own a business along this stretch of Grand Avenue, and I’m 100% in favor of implementing streetscape safety improvements for cyclists and pedestrians, even if it comes at the expense of some parking spaces. There’s a mid-block parking lot, as well as parking on the side streets.

    As with all plans, this one will change with thoughtful public input, and with a little luck, we’ll end up with something terrific for all.

  10. Lindsey Avatar

    This is a real boomer/NIMBY take.

  11. This is not an article. This reads like a “letter to the editor” rant.

  12. Fight the good fight, GABA! Let’s not burn taxpayer money on a “solution” to a problem that could be solved so many other ways. How about having a functioning police department that enforces the California Vehicle Code, for starters? How many bicyclist, pedestrian, senior, children and motorist lives would that save? Way more than this typical well-meaning boondoggle.

    Since Oakland has started the “traffic calming” of corridors like Telegraph avenue I’ve seen more road rage, more aggressive driving and more double-parking, double parking which is now far more obtrusive and obnoxious thanks to the narrowed streets, thanks to all the bike lanes, bollards, parklets and abandoned cars.

    Say NO to this well intentioned folly! Say NO to politicians baby-sitting pointless, wasteful projects so they can ignore the hard problems! Say NO to them wrecking yet another commercial strip.

  13. Raechel Avatar

    This is a very one-sided and inflammatory take. I for one would be thrilled to see a safer Grand Ave for cyclists and pedestrians alike. I’d love to see this newsletter publish an opposing opinion piece. I am a resident in the neighborhood and I’d be happy to contribute.

  14. Justin Avatar

    I’m very disappointed to see this site running this article. Believe it or not, pedestrians and cyclists also patronize businesses, and a friendlier Grand Ave. will make me, for one, much more likely to do so. There has never been a convincing study showing that bike lanes actually harm businesses: business owner are more likely to drive and more likely to be frustrated about loss of parking, and drivers are more likely to complain to business owners about the loss of parking. On the other hand, pedestrians, transit riders, and cyclists are unlikely to tell shopkeepers how they arrived at their shops. Considering there are stories practically every day about pedestrians and cyclists (and drivers!) being killed on Oakland’s streets, I’m glad the city is trying to make Grand Avenue less of a car sewer. There is absolutely no need for two lanes of car traffic in both directions, and the double-parking and parking in the existing bike lanes is a serious issue. If Splash Pad News continues running these sorts of outdated, unscientific driver gripes, I’ll be much less inclined to continue reading. Please reconsider running a whole series of these.

  15. I don’t ride a bike at all, and I’m excited for this plan to come to fruition. I walk regularly to these businesses, as do, I imagine, a lot of people who read this newsletter.

    The premise of this entire column is outdated, inaccurate, and patently wrong. And study after study proves it. I look forward to a better, safer, more prosperous Grand Avenue.

    https://www.businessinsider.com/bike-lanes-good-for-business-studies-better-streets-2024-3?utm_source=reddit.com

    1. 100%!

  16. Regina Aragón Avatar
    Regina Aragón

    Thanks for this very informative article, Jerry. Given how often drivers parallel park (on both Grand and Lakeshore Ave), the further delays that will result if car traffic is limited to a single lane in both directions would make driving through these corridors extremely frustrating. I shudder to think of the resulting road rage, which would likely lead to less safe conditions for local residents and shoppers alike. And, as you highlight in the article, more limited parking and restricted access to businesses is exactly what we don’t need, just as both districts are starting to rebound post-COVID. The loss of park-lets, and the expanded outdoor dining they provide, is also a big negative for me.

  17. Marshall St. Clair Avatar
    Marshall St. Clair

    you are 100% correct – good luck to all residents towards stopping this destructive nonsense

    1. Steven R Johnson Avatar
      Steven R Johnson

      This plan would be a disaster. Thanks for amplifying this misguided plan and taking a public stand against it.

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