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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Caltrans Plans Dangerous 'At-Grade' Crossing For Bikes/Peds At 40th Street

DOT Overrides Emeryville Bike Committee
State Runs Roughshod
Over Emeryville

After more than a year of careful staff assisted design work, the Emeryville Bike/Pedestrian Committee recently finished their plan to safely link bikers and pedestrians on the Bay Trail to the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge only to have the State swoop in and disqualify the whole design for a cheaper but inherently dangerous link. The committee's plan is safer since one arm of the path sweeps under the 40th Street bridge in order to avoid a dangerous 'at-grade' crossing; mixing high speed vehicles with the bikes and pedestrians. The committee vote was unanimous.

The 40th Street bridge has already seen at least one near fatal bike auto collision and an at-grade crossing as part of what is expected to be a popular bike/ped destination is a certain recipe for more car bike/ped collisions. The dangerous situation is further exacerbated by the fact that Caltrans plans on this crossing of 40th Street at a curving section of roadway with limited visibility.

The Caltrans proposed link will funnel all pedestrians and bicyclists from Emeryville, North Oakland, Berkeley and cities to the north who wish to cross the new Bay Bridge through the at-grade crossing.

After diverting off from Shellmound/40th Street at the contentious crossing, a new path will head south alongside the freeway. From there it will turn west and wind its way through the freeway support columns under the elevated freeway interchange and over some infrequently used railroad tracks before emerging alongside the south side of I-8o. There it will join up with the new bridge slated for completion in 2013. The connection to the Bay Bridge has been in the works for years as a premier part of the not yet completed Bay Trail; a bike/ped path circumnavigating the entire bay.

Caltrans announced the rejection of the Emeryville plan to the Bike/Ped Committee at their regularly scheduled October 4th meeting, citing budgetary concerns for the cheaper albeit more dangerous crossing. Long time committee member Scott Donahue, chagrinned with the Caltrans proposal, spoke for the group, "We as a committee feel that this crossing is unnecessary and dangerous; it will put pedestrians and bicyclists at a safety risk for no reason other than a lack of Bay Area governmental regional planning. Additionally, it will slow down vehicle traffic on 40th/Shellmound".


  1. Can the city place flashing vehicle stop signals at the crossing that cyclists can manually activate when wanting to cross the street? Such devices have been successfully used in other bicycle-friendly cities nationally.

  2. You conveniently fail to mention that the at-grade crossing is at a signalized intersection. A signalized intersection is a pretty safe place to cross a street.

  3. What can we do to stop this?

  4. To the readers:
    There is no 'convenience' to not mentioning an unsafe method for bikes and pedestrians to cross a busy street. A not at-grade crossing (a bridge or underpass) is safe, a flashing light signalized crossing is not. Who says this? Well, our bike/ped committee and every other bike advocacy group up and down the state, including the East Bay Bike Coalition and the Sacramento based California Bike Coalition, among others. Study after study shows the ineffectiveness of flashing light crossings during the daytime; the time when the majority of crossings at 40th Street will occur. This is a reckless public safety move on the part of Caltrans.

  5. You are incorrect. We are not talking about a flashing signal. There is already a full traffic signal where cars come to a complete stop in the location proposed for the bike crossing. A full signalized intersection is a safe way to cross a street.

  6. There is no study that can be quoted that claims that any at-grade crossing in any permutation is as safe as a non at-grade crossing. One scenario has 6000 pound vehicles moving at high speed in the same geographic location as bikers and pedestrians, the other separates the space with no possibility of interaction between the two.

    This specific site is particularly galling because it is so easy and inexpensive to make a non at-grade crossing as the Bike/Ped Committee recommends; no bridges nor tunnels need be constructed.

    In addition, if Caltrans were to build what the committee recommends, bike/ped convenience would be much improved over an at-grade crossing. Studies have shown bike commuting and general use increases when signalized intersections and reduced and corridors are separated.

  7. You are correct in your comment that a grade separated crossing is safer than an at-grade crossing. However, that's not what you said in the blog entry. You said this crossing would be "inherently dangerous." That is false. I can point to a myriad of studies that demonstrate the safety of fully signalized intersections--which this will be. It is admittedly more dangerous than a grade separated crossing, but by no means "dangerous."

  8. The crossing in question ultimately may or may not be at-grade. It all depends on whether citizens care enough about bike/ped connectivity and safety to insist on the non at-grade plan. If enough citizens rise up and insist on the safer crossing, it will happen regardless of any seeming Caltrans juggernaut.

    Regarding use of the word dangerous; Danger is lurking everywhere. Bikers using the non at-grade crossing could be struck be a meteorite and killed so when I call such a crossing safe, I really need to qualify that I suppose.