Victory over incrementalism

I’m back in town now, and this weekend joined up with some folks from OakDOT at the Scraper Bike Team’s “Pothole City” ride. I always want to take opportunities to learn about cycling cultures, and to visit parts of the city I don’t know as well. And fortuitously, earlier in the week OakDOT had just approved a radical road diet project on 90th Avenue, based on the Scraper’s preferred design. It involves a protected two-way bike lane running down the center of the road, painted orange, and potentially incorporating street murals.

East Oakland has a number of arterial streets like 90th which are overbuilt and unsafe for non-motorized users because of vehicle speeds. Instead of riding on the side of the road, when the Scrapers use those streets, they ride down the middle, either in the suicide lane, or on 90th, in the left rather than the right traffic lane. They feel that on a group ride, it’s safer to be more visible in the middle of the road. And 90th is often a spot for sideshows, so locals are accustomed to the appropriation of road space.

Pothole City ride

Champ and RB spoke about the long process required to get the unusual design approved. To them, having the bike lane in the middle of the road was the appropriate solution for the way people in their community use their bikes.

As someone who’s argued with transportation engineers about facilities, I know how hard it is to get them to think outside the box, and this design doesn’t yet exist in NACTO, let alone in AASHTO. It’s rare–almost unprecedented–for a disadvantaged community to be able to influence the city to try something unusual. It really speaks to the amazing work the Scrapers are doing.

Construction is supposed to start before the end of the year; I’ll be looking forward to seeing the vision come to life.

Pothole City ride

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