Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 25, 2006

Alameda Traffic Safety Toolbox

Filed under: Alameda, Bayport, School — Lauren Do @ 9:51 am


The Alameda Journal has weighed in on the speeding issue in an editorial in Fridays on-line edition.

Please, slow down! MANY NEW ARRIVALS to the Island will tell you that at first, they’re bemused by the 25 mph speed limit found on most of our roads.

For most, however, those thoughts quickly turn to frustration and annoyance. That frustration and annoyance in turn leads to heavier feet on the accelerator. Soon, people that at first found it quaint to do 25 mph are now sailing well past 30 mph — justifying in their own minds why the law doesn’t apply to them.

Our message to these folks is: 1.) Stop it and 2.) Get over yourself.

And while we shouldn’t have to explain this, we will.

You’re driving in a predominantly residential area that’s just chock full of pedestrians. You know whom we’re talking about, right? It’s those two-legged, upright creatures that dare to delay your commute an extra 15 seconds when they use that pesky crosswalk in front of you.

Please take our word for it — Alamedans walk everywhere. And, if you could take a minute to return your coffee to your cup holder, unplug your cell phone, turn off your precious navigation system and actually look out your windshield, you might just see us.

And while many of us adult Alamedans would just find it swell if you’d slow down and respect us while we’re sharing our streets, our thoughts today turn to the tons of children who soon will be joining us out there when our schools start up Monday.

Kids being kids will be darting on and off the sidewalks. Their movements are often completely unpredictable. They’re having fun and they’re are not thinking or caring that you’re 15 minutes late for that business meeting or pedicure.

It’s a horrible thing to think of any pedestrian suffering injury at the hands of a careless driver. For a child to be harmed, however, it is an even greater tragedy.

The only way to protect against this is to ask you to slow down, obey the speed limits — especially around our schools — and pay attention to your driving.

The Journal was spot on about this, particularly because school season is about to start again (Monday) and there will be kids all over Alameda crossing the streets.  Unfortunately, since not all pedestrians are mindful of their own safety, particularly kids who are so excited to see their friends, the onus in on us adult drivers to do our part to ensure the safety of our children and pedestrians in general.

And Bayport neighbors, you know who you are, those stop signs are not there as street decoration, they are there for a purpose.  It is tempting to roll through those stop signs because there aren’t that many pedestrians right now, but soon we will have a lot of kids coming in and out of the neighborhood, so please take the two extra seconds to come to a complete stop.

Although one traffic calming technique I think the City of Alameda should institute is the Coordinated Signal Timing (see page 3).  One street that I believe could particularly use this is Otis between Westline and Park.  If they timed the lights correctly (I know there aren’t that many) that drivers driving at 25 mph would never hit a light, they could reduce the speeding on that street.  Think of the strip of road that borders Ocean Beach in San Francisco (I think it is Ocean Blvd or is it Drive?) if a car is driving at the speed limit, that car will never hit a red light.  Very effective.

Another solution that I find compelling is the Neighborhood Speed Watch Program (see page 13) that is discussed in the Traffic Safety Toolbox.  It might be a bit difficult for the average private citizen to take down all the information for the speeding vehicle, but note to the Alameda Police Department, if you ever decide to implement this, I’ll be the first in line to volunteer.

The toolbox also had a possible fix for Bayport neighbors who are concerned with the additional traffic that will result from the opening of school.  Particularly because it would be more intuitive for parents dropping off their children (on the Jack London Side) to go straight down Austin rather than make a right turn to exit on Mosely.  Austin is a private street, that is, a privately maintained street using the homeowner’s association fees when maintenance is needed on the surface.  If the City was willing to make the streets in Bayport public, this probably wouldn’t be an issue, but while we are footing the bill for our streets, it is only fair that we divert the non-Bayport residents traffic to the public streets that the City maintains.  With that, I suggest the Barrier Half Street Closure (see page 28) for the intersection on Austin at Jack London. 


That way, residents can still go north on Austin and turn left or right on Jack London, but the southbound route of Austin is blocked from Jack London Avenue.  I think this would be a less intrusive fix than blocking off the entire intersection, which was initially proposed.


  1. Though I wholeheartedly agree with the Sun editorial on speeding, I’m afraid I can’t endorse the idea of Barrier-Half Street Closure as a “traffic calming” measure, even if it is one of the items that made it into the City’s toolbox. The same goes for No Left/Right Turn Signs, Barrier-Diagonal Road Closure, Barrier-Street Closure, and One-Way Street Conversion, as well as for medians that are designed to prevent turns. All of these reduce the connectivity of the street grid, which is one of the main island’s greatest assets.

    A better way to address issues of “cut-through” traffic is with measures that discourage but do not fully block traffic. For a great example of this in action, consider Pacific Ave. Although it is possible to drive almost all the way across the island on Pacific, most drivers do not take this route because there is a stop sign on practically every block.

    However, the stop signs do not prevent someone from using Pacific for any distance, in either direction. This means that if other routes are blocked, Pacific is still available. It means that the common navigational strategy of driving around a given block will not be frustrated by a one-way street, a barrier, or by a “no turn” sign.

    I think Berkeley provides a great cautionary tale of why connectivity-destroying traffic calming methods should be avoided. The closed and one-way streets and blocked turns make navigation difficult and confusing. Although the cul-de-sacs created by these schemes are undoubtedly appreciated by the residents of those streets, the residents of the streets that do go through, like College Ave., are treated to streams of bumper-to-bumper traffic because almost all of the alternate routes have been blocked off.

    Bayport was designed to have a traditional grid of publicly accessible streets, in keeping with the Alameda’s Economic Development Strategic Plan:

    New developments are to be laid out in modified grid fashion, to provide seamless integration with the existing street pattern and to provide public sightlines to the shore.

    There is similar language in the Alameda Point section of the General Plan:

    Alameda Point’s planned street system reinforces the City’s traditional street layout, a primary grid pattern of streets with variation allowing for smooth traffic flow, specialized land use patterns, and landscaping opportunities. This pattern of development, along with policies intended for neighborhood traffic management would result in a safe and comfortable pedestrian, bicycling, transit, and automobile environment. Alameda Point’s street system also needs to be integrated with the surrounding neighborhoods.

    The importance of the grid is also expressed in the Northern Waterfront General Plan Amendment:

    The Northern Waterfront GPA would place an emphasis on . . . an extension of the existing street grid to the waterfront.

    For those who prefer the arterial-collector-local street model of automobile-oriented suburban development, there will always be the Harbor Bay Isle and South Shore neighborhoods. After these flirtations with non-traditional street systems, however, most Alamedans now favor retaining the traditional grid system on the main island and extending it to any new developments there. The plans cited above are the official expression of that desire.

    Comment by Michael Krueger — August 25, 2006 @ 12:15 pm

  2. Oops, I made a mistake in my link to the Northern Waterfront General Plan Amendment. I hope this one works. 😉

    Comment by Michael Krueger — August 25, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

  3. Okay — two things:

    1) There ARE certain roads out here that could probably stand an increase in speed. I reviewed another commentor’s issues on this subject in another thread and there’s probably SOME merit in exploring a 30-35 zone on some of the major arteries (parts of Otis NOT near the schools, for example).

    Basically, any 2-2 lane road in which there are no schools or major shopping centers would be a potential canidate for this increase. (There’s not that many, but there’s a few.)

    And local studies/surveys that figure in the foot traffic, establish the driving patterns, and have a decent sample size with respect to the nearby cluster population would probably help to establish a safe yet increased speed limit in these particular areas.

    That said, I’m not arguing an increase across the island — because MOST of the Alamedan roads should definitely STAY at 25.

    Yeah, it feels slower than off-island driving, but there definitely is FAR more foot traffic (or so I’ve noticed) on both crosswalk AND non-crosswalk areas in Alameda than other places I’ve lived.

    As such, it takes a bit of getting used to, so enforcing 25 and driving slower is probably the right call.

    2) re: Austin and Jack London square Bayport intersection.

    While I agree the island idea is probably the best in terms of directing traffic in a method that would benefit Bayportians and making sure kids aren’t in the line of fire, I’m still in favor of the more agressive “two clay pots” solution of blocking off the whole intersection and forcing folks to turn left or right on Jack London.

    While it’s not as handy as the island in terms of establishing the traffic conditions we Bayportians want, it’s effective both in terms of cost and making sure folks are safe.

    I don’t know how much assembling the traffic island is, but I’d hazard a guess to say the two pots would be cheaper.

    Not only that, if we later decide we DON’T want the traffic block-off or if it does impact traffic to the point of wanting to undo the situation, boom — a dolly and ten minutes later, and we’re back to the originally open road.

    Just my two cents.

    Comment by Dave S. — August 25, 2006 @ 2:37 pm

  4. The difference is that the road Lauren mentions is a private road. The city does not maintain it. The Bayport HOA does.

    Comment by Ben Kruger — August 26, 2006 @ 6:36 am

  5. According to the Planning Department, there is a public-access easement for all of the privately maintained streets at Bayport. Thus they are privately maintained but not private.

    Comment by michaeljkrueger — August 26, 2006 @ 8:53 am

  6. Gee Dave S. – finally something we agree on!

    I’ve always suggested that one or two principal arteries could probably stand a modest increase in speed limit. The speed surveys confirm that people are driving 30 to 35 MPH on many of these arteries anyway. An absurdly low speed limit can frustrate drivers generating agressive, dangerous driving that the speed limit supposedly prevents. And the government owes it to citizens to allow them to move expeditiously – and safely – about their business.

    Constitution Way from the tube to Lincoln is another route that could merit an investigation.

    The speed survey from the city lists Neptune Park and a seniors home at Independence plaza as mitigating factors. But this argument looks pretty weak. To wit:

    Neptune Park is a Park in name only. So far as I can tell, there are no more than 3 or 4 benches, no childrens playground, no parking for people to drive to the park and get out and run around, and no other facility. It’s a park in the sense that there was nothing else could be done with the swatch of land but put some grass down and call it a park.

    The senior center at Independence Plaza is not accessed from Constitution Way, but rather Atlantic Avenue. There is one driveway from Constitution Way into the complex, but no visible pedestrian access. The complex from Atlantic to Neptune “Park” is bordered by a wrought iron fence.

    The rest of Constitution Way along this route is largely bordered by sound walls. There are sidewalks set back from the street and I think (from memory) four un-controlled pedestrian crosswalks.

    All this, yet Constitution Way has always been a heavily enforced route.

    Comment by keepmeasurea — August 26, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

  7. Oh Lauren – that’s funny. Are you moderating comments now?

    Comment by keepmeasurea — August 26, 2006 @ 12:28 pm

  8. One of the reasons the speed limit on Constitution Way is “heavily enforced” has a name: Divina Estandian. Ms. Estandian, a 70-year-old grandmother, was struck and killed while crossing Constitution Way in the crosswalk at Eagle Ave. on December 29, 2001, on her way home from her daughter’s house. Friends, relatives, and the community group Pedestrian Friendly Alameda (formed March 10, 2001, following a series of earlier accidents) urged the City to install pedestrian safety measures on the street and to step up enforcement of the 25 MPH speed limit. I am pleased to hear that the heavy enforcement continues.

    Constitution Way cuts through residential and mixed-use neighborhoods, separating the Webster St. commercial district from largely residential neighborhoods to the east. Like Ms. Estandian, people in these neighborhoods need to cross Constitution Way to reach their shopping, work, social, and recreational destinations.

    Motorists aren’t the only citizens who deserve “to move expeditiously–and safely–about their business.” In a city like Alameda, where a finely grained mixture of land uses is the rule rather than the exception, speed limits cannot be raised to accommodate motorists without simultaneously endangering and inconveniencing pedestrians and bicyclists. Are they second-class citizens? Is their safety and time less valuable than that of motorists?

    Comment by Michael Krueger — August 28, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

  9. Michael,

    I’m sorry to hear about Ms. Estandian. I’m unfamiliar with the details of that case, but I may have some time to dig into it. I wonder if the 25MPH speed limit and heavy enforcement is the best way to prevent future occurances, rather than, say, lighted crosswalks?

    Your argument pre-supposes that pedestrians are _always_ pedestrians and _never_ drivers, and vice versa.

    As soon as we park our car, we’re pedestrians. We all play both roles, unless we never drive. (Perhaps Ms. Estandian, at her age, no longer sat behind the wheel, and moved only on foot.)

    We all deserve to move expeditiously and safely, whether on foot, pedal or behind the wheel.

    As a pedestrian, I step lively when in cross crosswalks, and I make eye contact with drivers, and I actively work to make sure both cars and peds can get by quickly.

    As a cyclist, I signal my turns and stop at stop signs and stoplights. Which is more than I can say for most of the cyclists I see in Alameda, or elsewhere for that matter. I’ve seen cyclists blow through stop signs, or ride through a stop sign onto a cross walk in front of me as if they were suddenly a pedestrian, rather than a vehicle.

    The 25 MPH speed limit, and aggressive enforcement might be easier to swallow if:

    o If there was equal enforcement for cyclists.

    o If so many cyclists didn’t espouse this holier-than-thou attitude that suggests because they are on a bike instead of in a car, they don’t have to honor the rules of the road

    o If I didn’t have personal experience and anecdotal reports of Alameda PD handing out tickets to drivers that a pedestrian conciously and visibly yielded right-of-way to, or Alameda PD grossly inflating the reported speed when handing out speeding tickets. (Presumably to increase the fine.)

    Comment by keepmeasurea — August 29, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

  10. You make a good point about our multiple roles as citizens. Nearly everyone is a pedestrian at least part of the time, and many of us are drivers, bicyclists, and transit riders as well. You’re right that we shouldn’t view these as distinct groups pitted against each other, but rather as an overlapping set of road users, all of whom need to share and follow the rules of the road.

    I’m a regular cyclist myself and a big advocate of bicycling for environmental and health reasons (not to mention fun), but I’m afraid I also have to agree with your comments about cyclists with an attitude. I frequently see cyclists running stop signs, running red lights, riding on the wrong side of the street, riding unpredictably onto the sidewalk or crosswalk and then back into the street, and riding at night without any lights. I’ve seen some pretty bad driving here in the Bay Area, but nothing approaching the casual and nearly universal disregard for the rules of the road exhibited by all too many cyclists.

    I know I’m not the only one with this perception, because drivers are sometimes visibly shocked that I stop at stop signs and red lights when I’m on my bike. I often see them slowing down, even when they have the green, assuming that I will run the red. Although I make every effort to set a good example, it worries me that those of us who follow the rules seem to be in the minority.

    I agree that education and enforcement should be stepped up, and cyclists should never make excuses like, “Oh, but I’m being so environmentally friendly that I don’t have to follow the rules.” This is no more tolerable than the motorist who says, “My vehicle is bigger, so I don’t have to follow the rules.” Both attitudes are insufferable.

    I see pedestrian misbehavior as less of a problem. Certainly there are jaywalkers and those who disregard traffic signals, but if anything, I would say most pedestrians are too timid. Of course, people need to use common sense, look where they are going, and not stride out in front of speeding vehicles just because they have the right of way; however, they should confidently assert their right of way as long as it does not put them in immediate danger.

    When I’m driving, I try to be on the lookout for pedestrians, but it’s hard for me to stop for them when they cower on the sidewalk instead of clearly indicating their intent to cross the street. I’ve even had similar experiences on my bicycle. Once I stopped for a man who had started crossing the street, but then he waved me on. There was no other traffic coming, so I said, “Go ahead, you have the right of way.” He replied, “But there are no lines,” pointing at the road surface. I explained that he had the right of way even in an unmarked crosswalk, and he told me he had never heard of that. Even though these things are clearly stated in the widely studied California Driver’s Handbook, it seems that the rules of the road are not well known.

    So yes, I agree that cracking down on speeding drivers is only one part of the solution. All road users need to show respect for each other, use common sense, and follow the rules.

    Comment by Michael Krueger — August 29, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

  11. “Use common sense”?

    To quote Bullwinkle and Rocky: “But that trick NEVER works!” 🙂

    Seriously, though — and perhaps strangely so — I agree with both of you on cyclists and pedestrians.

    Peds have the right of way pretty much always (whether or not we folks in cars like it, them’s the rules), and cyclists need to follow the rules too rather than assume they are “pedestrians with wheels”.

    I suspected that the speed limit restrictions were based on the increased foot traffic (based on the number of Alamedan-non-crosswalk-using folks I’ve encountered) but couldn’t conclusively prove it.

    Factoring that in, the 25 mph rules make a LITTLE more sense.

    But I think that’s the point — each area in which there IS a major throughfare, we should make sure to KNOW of these factors rather than ASSUME them.

    Comment by Dave S. — August 29, 2006 @ 5:15 pm

  12. I wanted to quickly chime in on the Speed issue.

    It’s often trotted out that the speed limit should be set at the 85th Percentile Speed (often 33-36 MPH on Alameda’s Streets). The assumption (incorrect I would argue) is that if the speed limit were raised to 35MPH, then no one would be speeding.

    The trouble is (verifiable by driving on any of the 35MPH roads in Alameda or Oakland) is that once the speed limit is raised, the vehicle speed will be raised as well, cars will start travelling 40-45MPH.

    What’s currently happening, without a rise in the speed limit, is that the 85th percentile speed increases every year as drivers become more accustomed to the higher speeds on the roadways. (It’s called speed creep).

    Two points that are key to this discussion are:

    1. Under EXTREMELY favorable conditions, the time savings in driving through Alameda are at best 2 minutes (while the effect on neighborhood livability and connectedness is hugely negative, studies have shown that traffic speed and volume directly correlates to interaction between neighbors, getting lower are speed/volume increase).

    2. In a survey of Alamedans conducted by Alameda Public Works Department a couple of years ago, residents overwhelmingly backed keep the speed limits at 25MPH.

    Lastly, and I apologize for the long comment, everybody (keep measure A and amend measure A alike) talks about the “small town feel” and “charm” and “historic character” of Alameda. Part of that is the slower pace of life on the island, the calm, less invasive traffic on the streets. As a father of 2 young kids, I’m happy that they can play on the sidwalk and walk around the block alone without worrying about cars flying by at 40+ MPH. When I bike (almost everyday, but never with an attitude :-)), I’m happy not to contend with 40MPH traffic. It makes my forays to the store, Park Street, etc. enjoyable, instead of a chore.

    Comment by John Knox White — August 30, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

  13. Funny nobody has commented on my note about the Alameda PD practice of inflating the reported speed limit or giving tickets to drivers even when the pedestrian has made eye contact and waved the car through.

    Two truisms about speed limit enforcement – a) it’s drop dead simple to do and b) it generates revenue. Enforcing good cyclist, pedestrian and general driving behavior (signaling turns, etc.) is, well, gee, hard.

    I understand John’s point about people always driving 5 to 10MPH above the limit, no matter what the limit is set at. So fine, engineer the roads to 30MPH, set the limit to 30MPH and enforce the limit to 30MPH, and provide proper cross walks for peds.

    The 85th percentile rule is the LAW. And doesn’t the law equally apply to speeding drivers, mis-behaving cyclists and public works engineers?

    And why, oh why, are there never any police enforcing the speed limit on _my_ street, where my wife and I walk our 3-year old to the park, daily?

    Comment by keepmeasurea — August 30, 2006 @ 10:19 pm

  14. I’ll bite.

    1) Aside from 1 or 2 anecdotal stories by people who were ticketed crying “they inflated my speed” I have seen not stats, facts, information, etc. that shows that the APD purposefully inflate speeds. I am not a kneejerk defender of the police, but I HIGHLY doubt that they are inflating speeds to increase ticket prices. Feel free to prove me wrong, and I’ll fight the issue hard, but you’ll need more than a couple of people’s say-so.

    2) Ditto to the Pedestrian ticket. State law says that if a ped is in a crosswalk (marked or unmarked), drivers must yield the right-of-way. It’s possiblet that the ped waved on the car and that the officer didn’t see it, again, it’s one story that hardly proves a meaningful trend.

    3). the processing cost for speeding tickets is greater than the revenue generation, especially when accounting for the officers time. The idea that the police are generating revenue is mis-guided (and paranoid).

    4). Alameda used to be known for aggressive speeding tickets, however, the last facts I saw (a couple of years ago I believe) the overall number of issuesd speeding tickets was less than an average of 3 a day, I’ll try and dig up current info.

    5). the 85th percentile is not just an engineering rule. Just like the guideline that streets need to be engineered for 15MPH over their posted speeds (therefore a 30MPH street is engineered for 45MPH). The 85th Percentil is also the rule for ticketing. Even if the city engineers a street for 30MPH and posts it 30MPH, if the 85th Percentile of cars drive it at 40
    MPH, the cops cannot ticket for slower speeds.

    6. I agree about the law being the law. It’s a matter of priorities and perception. Drivers may feel that the police favor other modes, but I’m not sure it holds up. When a driver in Alameda runs into a pedestrian in a crosswalk by not yielding ROW, the driver is not ticketed unless there is a major injury or drinking involved. That makes no sense to me, and it sure seems to favor the driver. I see red-light runners on High street every day, I’ve never seen a policeman trying to ticket them (and I’ve written to ask them to do so.) Again, not a real anti-car measure. Lastly, when Pedestrian Friendly Alameda approached the police about suporting doubling traffic fines in schools zones the official response was that many police didn’t feel it was fair to the drivers to charge them more for the same fine (so much for inflating revenue).

    7). Last Point. I would guess that enforcement makes sense when it’s done at the city’s gateways and major roadway, slowing drivers down as they enter the city and traverse it, thereby causing them to drive slower on the less travelled roads. To my mind, with the little speed enforcement that actually happens in Alameda, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to use the time on lightly travelled streets.

    I have to cross high street daily, and I don’t seen any evidence of enforcemtn of speeding, re-light running, not yielding to peds, etc. But can say with certainty that these happen on a significant daily basis. High Street is one of the heaviest used roadways in the city, if it’s not happening there, it probably won’t be happening on less used streets either.


    Comment by John Knox White — August 31, 2006 @ 8:58 am

  15. John – what’s the point? I could produce some facts to support my assertions, but then someone else will just accuse me of being ‘hostal’ to an opinion different than mine.

    Comment by David Howard — September 1, 2006 @ 8:57 pm

  16. Lauren – I miss the little index that was once on your site!

    I couldn’t locate the South Shore Shopping Center Development thread with all the back and forth about pedestrian safely there, but I did notice that another pedestrian was hit at South Shore today, and from the number of emergency responders, it must have been a major injury. There were no less than 7 emergency vehicles that I counted, but there could have been more. (Fire truck, ambulance, & 5 squad cars.)

    The incident occurred between Mervyns & the Office Max.
    I am willing to bet the developers still think the side walk the PB was requesting is not needed.

    Comment by David Kirwin — December 16, 2007 @ 5:56 pm

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