Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 17, 2016

Traffic myth busters

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

Clearly I didn’t get a chance to watch the City Council meeting last night, so instead I want to ramp up in preparation for the big Central Avenue meeting that will happen later on this month. At the end of the year last City Lab had a piece on debunked traffic myths that still didn’t die off by the end of 2015.  I imagine that we’ll see a lot of these offered up by opponents of doing anything on Central Avenue that will have the perception of taking away something from cars.

One of the arguments will definitely be that bike lanes will make traffic congestion worse. From City Lab:

Bike lanes are all too often the punching bags of the transport planning world, and in 2015 they once again took all sorts of shots from local residentsretailers, and religious groups alike. One mainstay anti-bike argument holds that converting general road space into a bike lane is bad for traffic.

But to respond in rhyme: when good design’s in place, that’s just not the case. New York City proved as much with bike lanes recently installed on Columbus and Eighth avenues. By reducing the width of car lanes from 12 to 10 feet and adding protected left turns, the city was able to preserve vehicle volume and actually reduce travel times by 35 and 14 percent, respectively.

Then someone will, naturally, claim that narrower roads are somehow less safe (we’ve heard this one about Shoreline).

Speaking of 12-foot lanes versus 10-foot lanes, the common perception holds that the wider option is a safer design, since it gives drivers a bit more room to maneuver. But what some new research published in 2015 showed quite clearly was that wider lanes also invite cars to drive faster—erasing whatever safety benefits might be gained by additional space, and actually leading to more dangerous streets.

An evaluation of intersections in Toronto and Tokyo found lower crash rates in lanes that were closer to 10 feet, compared with those that were wider than 12 feet. “Given the empirical evidence that favours ‘narrower is safer’, the ‘wider is safer’ approach based on intuition should be discarded once and for all,” wrote the researcher who conducted the study. Oh, and the 10-foot lanes still moved plenty of traffic.





  1. Folks can let the council know that they are a party of the majority of alamedans who support increasing bike lanes by quickly sending an email from here:

    The proposal is a compromise that provides smple room for drivers while directly connect two schools to safe biking for the first time west of Webster in locations where kids have been hit multiple times in the last few years.

    Comment by jkw — February 17, 2016 @ 6:39 am

  2. Is there a link to a map of the project?

    Comment by MP — February 17, 2016 @ 7:26 am


    Comment by Neighbor Lee — February 17, 2016 @ 8:33 am

  4. The article about the team myths is a good one. Thanks for posting it. The issue that must be taken in to consideration is that we can’t paint every street with the same brush. Just because something worked well on 8th Street in NY or in Montreal, does not mean it will work well on Central Avenue in Alameda. For example, when the Ferry station is established at the Seaplane Lagoon and people use Central to get there, what impact will that have? Not just with the line up of cars, but with people coming and going from the neighborhood and schools. Alameda is allowing far too many people to live her who bring cars with them. Is it truly wise to restrict the roads that those cars represent and need? I support bike safety and building areas that enhance their ability to be used, but I am also of lessening the stress that people face in getting around this island. Is it a car vs. bike issue, or a over population issue?

    Comment by Bill2 — February 17, 2016 @ 9:18 am

  5. One way of relieving the stress of getting around and on and off the island is to give people choices. Making key roads like Central Ave safe for walking, biking and driving means that we give people choices. Even if we didn’t bring one more person onto the island, we need to transform our streets so that they serve everyone. That includes designing the roads for 25MPH like the narrower lanes. AND let’s stop making the assumption that someone driving across town has more right to get there safely and expeditiously than the person walking or biking.

    Comment by Lucy Gigli — February 17, 2016 @ 9:43 am

  6. Being too lazy to read the reports, does anyone know the reason for not proposing extending the path all the way up Main to where the ferry terminal is? Is Main too narrow there?

    Comment by MP — February 17, 2016 @ 10:16 am

  7. 4. your post makes me think your previous post from last week or before that which BMac claimed was sarcasm was actually for real. The one about TOO MANY people in Alameda. Or is this tongue in cheek also? I tend to think at least this one is straight. One outcome may be that more people will ride bikes to the ferry if there is decent and safe infrastructure. If less than a majority of us are altruistic and disciplined enough to get our butts to work via bikes, those who insist on driving will have to think carefully and plan rather than jump in a car because it appears as path of least resistance. Ultimately, using current High Street and Broadway as comps, I think your Doomsday scenario is unlikely even with build out of all the approved projects.

    Comment by MI — February 17, 2016 @ 11:02 am

  8. So Lucy wants to bust the myth by having all traffic, whether it’s auto, bike or walking reduced to the speed of the slowest walker because that’s what Bernie would do to relieve stress.

    Comment by jack — February 17, 2016 @ 11:28 am

  9. A three lane road (with a turn lane) can carry about the same amount of cars as a four lane road without turn lanes. Just drive down Central now and you will see that having all lanes “choose your own adventure” creates aggressive driving, speeding, dangerous movements swerving around cars that are turning or god forbid yielding to crossing pedestrians. Right now cars turning left trap cars that thought they would be cruising straight through an intersection. Then they try to force their way into the other lane, leading to conflicts.

    Bottom line is that 4 lane roads do not function very smoothly for cars. Reducing to one through lane each way and getting left turners out of the way into the middle creates an environment where I can set the pace at a nice 25mph and piss the hell out of the person who wants to go 35-40mph. If that isn’t enough for you, now pedestrians don’t have to worry about one car stopping for them and the car behind them swerving around oblivious to the pedestrian in the crosswalk they are about to hit. This scenario happens ALL. THE. TIME.

    Oh hey, bonus. Now there is also room for bike lanes.

    Comment by BMac — February 17, 2016 @ 11:47 am

  10. “making Central Ave safer…”. Than what? The colorful pie charts in the online presentations apparently describe 2004-2013 data from Gail Payne’s Excel spreadsheets. This data shows NO fatalities on Central Ave during these ten years [although there have been fatalities on many other major Alameda streets in the same time period]; and only 3 injuries in ten years which rise to the level of “severe”. One of these severe injuries involved a motorist hitting a fixed object, which there will be many more of once this project is built. The rest of the injuries during this ten year period are ambiguously described as “other visible” or “complaint of pain”, but evidently none are severe..

    When the actual number of incidents is so small, and other Alameda street data is not provided for comparison, it is hard to derive real meaning from the percentages listed on page 9 of Presentation Part 1

    Central Ave has some real trouble spots, [like why isn’t there a 4-way stop at 6th–instead of a makeshift flag stuck in a bucket of sand??]. Cheaper and faster to fix those NOW, rather than rework the whole street, just because you can.

    Comment by vigi — February 17, 2016 @ 12:15 pm

  11. California Office of Traffic Safety Data

    City of Alameda, Compared to Other Similar Sized California Cities:

    Pedestrians Killed or Injured 17th out of 103
    Bicyclists Killed or Injured 8th out of 103

    Pedestrians Killed or Injured 4th out of 101
    Bicyclists Killed or Injured 6th out of 101

    Pedestrians Killed or Injured 18th out of 102
    Bicyclists Killed or Injured 12th out of 102

    Pedestrians Killed or Injured 8th out of 103
    Bicyclists Killed or Injured 8th out of 103

    Comment by brock — February 17, 2016 @ 1:49 pm

  12. #11 Still says nothing about Central Avenue.

    Comment by vigi — February 17, 2016 @ 2:03 pm

  13. 9. I had the same idea one time with a tailgater on one of our major streets by slowing down slightly to the speed limit. His passenger responded to this offense by chucking a gatorade bottle at my car as they sped passed me on the left. They must have had somewhere very important to go.

    Comment by MP — February 17, 2016 @ 2:31 pm

  14. #12 Nope it doesn’t.

    Do you have list of the Alameda streets/roads/avenues/etc. that are contributing to the City’s poor pedestrian and cyclist injury rankings, and the order in which they should be made safer through infrastructure improvements, that will meet with your approval?

    Comment by brock — February 17, 2016 @ 2:38 pm

  15. Vigi, making Central Ave safer for cyclists and pedestrians does not only prevent injuries on Central Ave.

    I was run off the road while in the bike lane on Santa Clara (w/ a toddler on back) by an AC Transit driver who could not ease into a bus stop gently as I passed the stop, but rather went careening around the front of me, honking as he passed me and cut me off before screeching into the stop. Moving bikes off of Santa Clara will decrease injuries on the street w/ the fastest, largest vehicles thanks to the lack of stop signs designed to keep buses moving.

    That is just one example.

    Comment by BMac — February 17, 2016 @ 2:47 pm

  16. 13. Job well done.

    Comment by BMac — February 17, 2016 @ 2:48 pm

  17. 15. well said, but maybe vigi needs a body count to justify change.

    Comment by MI — February 17, 2016 @ 3:55 pm

  18. #14: I don’t have collision stats for all the other Alameda Streets at my fingertips, but my memory says: Otis Drive = RIP Sam Sause. Constitution Way = RIP Augusta Collins, Santa Clara Avenue = Brandon Sorenson.

    I don’t remember anyone being hit and killed on allegedly “unsafe” Central, because the City’s own stats say no such person exists. The perception of unsafe-ness seems to be trumping the reality of where safety hazards exist in Alameda. Taxpayers should be spending money on reality, not perception.

    Comment by vigi — February 18, 2016 @ 11:26 am

  19. 18. rhetorically your arguments sound very reasonable, but in “reality” there are impacts of projects, like the one proposed for Central, which mitigate adjacent road conditions ( see comment 15.) that are less than safe. Therefore the straight up body counts don’t tell the whole story and your rhetoric is meaningless.. Would Sam Sause be here today if such modifications had been implemented on Otis Drive. Good possibility, but many people like yourself would also fight them tooth and nail. It is because Central is so effective as a cross town artery that it invites selection for the modifications to make it EVEN SAFER, so that people won’t get killed by using other streets.

    Comment by MI — February 18, 2016 @ 12:37 pm

  20. 89 collisions on this part of central in twelve years over 4% of Alameda’s collisions despite being less than 1.5% of it’s street mileage with people who walk and bike making up 20-25% of that number. Unless you’re willing to proclaim that people being hit by cars is acceptable, advocating doing nothing to protect very little auto-only benefit is a callous and not incredibly defensible stance to take.

    Made even more so by the studies show there will be low impact to to people who choose to drive. This isn’t bikes vs. cars. this making our streets safer while maintaining mobility for all road users.

    Comment by jkw — February 18, 2016 @ 1:17 pm

  21. I, for one, think we should definitely have our professional experts evaluate the potential dangerous conditions created by an antiquated road design, point out the best practices we could use to improve it, but then wait for fatalities to prove them right before acting upon the recommendations.

    Wisdom is often described as learning from other people’s mistakes. I’m aginn’ it.

    Comment by BMac — February 18, 2016 @ 1:19 pm

  22. #18.:
    Brandon Sorensen killed on his bicycle May 16th, 2011.
    47 other bicyclists injured in Alameda that year.

    Sam Sause killed crossing the street on December 11, 2014
    Augusta Collins killed crossing the street on September 9, 2015
    Extrapolating from 2011 to 2013 data there were probably 36 (40, 30, 37 in the respective years) other pedestrians injured in Alameda that year

    When you were a doctor, did you treat live patients or did you just work in the morgue?

    Comment by brock — February 18, 2016 @ 1:45 pm

  23. #20 = Define “collisions”–a weasel word if undefined. Read #10 above. Talking in Percentages when such small numbers are involved is meaningless, although it does support your attempt to make Central Avenue appear more dangerous than statistics support.

    Remember, I am crippled because I’ve been hit by a car as a pedestrian in a crosswalk. “Almost” being hit is nowhere close to actually being hit. I don’t need your studies or statistics to tell me what is dangerous.

    Comment by vigi — February 18, 2016 @ 1:56 pm

  24. 23. Actually, sorry, you cannot tell us what is dangerous for others.

    Comment by BC — February 18, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

  25. 23. No, “accidents” is the weasel word. “Accident” removes culpability from the person responsible for causing a collision.

    Comment by BMac — February 18, 2016 @ 3:13 pm

  26. 20 = I am trying to figure out where this “89 collisions” figure comes from. Gail Payne released spreadsheets tabulating all the killed & injured on Central from 2004 -2013, inclusive, and whether collisions involved peds, bikes, motorcycles, or a truck (1). The table itself tallies Killed = 0. Injured = 68.

    Now Peter Hegarty in the Alameda Journal has restated this as “89 people have been injured in the past ten years”.

    Where are the other 21 injured and/or collisions? Or were those collisions merely “Property Damage Only”, which are not included on the TIMS table.

    Many collisions do not cause any significant injuries; therefore it is unlikely that every collision on Central resulted in an injury.

    “you are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts”

    Comment by vigi — February 20, 2016 @ 12:25 pm

  27. I definatly remember a young boy being run over and killed on Central Ave., I believe it was on Halloween day, quite a few years ago. Around third or fourth st.

    Comment by John P. — February 20, 2016 @ 2:33 pm

  28. Central Ave. from Webster to Pacific has alot of traffic on it, also many bikes, two schools, actually three counting St. Barnabas, I can look out my front window and see the intersection at third and Central, its a complete mess every morning and afternoon. There is also a reason people have placed buckets with flags on them at sixth and Central so pedestrians can walk across that intersection waving the flag to be seen. This street needs to be improved for everyone. I have heard many accidents happen from inside my house, One happened right at third and Central just as I had crossed the street, about a month ago. Two students walked into the intersection without even looking to see if cars were coming, first guy hits the brakes hard, second guy hits the first guy, and thankfully the two young people just stood there unhurt and shocked. As far as I know it was not reported because all involved were not hurt and told me they would handle it themselves. Statistics don’t always tell the hoe story.

    Comment by John P. — February 20, 2016 @ 2:48 pm

  29. not “hoe” story, whole story, of course.

    Comment by John P. — February 20, 2016 @ 2:50 pm

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