The East Bay Bicycle Coalition is campaigning for street improvements on Park Boulevard, including the addition of bike lanes and possibly a reduction in car lanes. I wholeheartedly support this effort. In the first month of this blog’s existence, I wrote a post about why Park Blvd is such an awful street for a densely populated neighborhood (oddly, I did not advocate for bike lanes in that post, even though I get almost everywhere by bike). There have been minor improvements to the street since I wrote that in January of 2009, including new traffic signals and sidewalk bulbouts at the intersection with Newton and East 20th, allowing people to cross over to FM Smith Park with less risk of bodily harm. The main problem, however—a road which feels more like a freeway than a city street—remains.
The dangers of Park Boulevard are not theoretical. I live near the intersection of Brooklyn, Spruce and Park, and the sounds of squealing tires followed by a crash are common. In August 2010, there were two accidents on consecutive days at that one intersection; first a driver lost control on Park and swerved straight into a wall on Brooklyn Ave, then the following day a driver rear-ended an AC Transit bus:
I wish those were freak occurrences, but in fact collisions on Park are routine. Another accident at the same intersection in 2012 involved three cars:
Those are just a few of the many incidents I have heard or seen on that one little piece of Park Boulevard, and presumably many more have happened when I wasn’t around to witness them, or occurred on other stretches of Park. Indeed, just today the bike coalition tweeted this photo of a car overturned in a Park Blvd crosswalk:
With the Parkway Theater still sitting dormant after closing four years ago, Park Boulevard needs all the help it can get, and some local merchants seem to appreciate the benefit to the community that a more livable street could bring. For those who live farther afield, relatively flat Park Boulevard would be an ideal bicycle route for many commuters, but in its current form it does not feel like a safe space for cyclists or pedestrians.
Changes to street designs are almost invariably fought by some neighbors, who fear slower traffic or fewer parking spots (or who are just wary of change in general), so advocates for safer, more ped- and bike-friendly streets need to make their case clearly, loudly, and repeatedly. Nearby Lakeshore Blvd has been dramatically improved by cutting the number of full-size lanes from 4 to 2 and adding bike lanes on either side. A road diet and bike lanes on Park Boulevard would be an improvement as well, making the road safer not only for cyclists and pedestrians, but for drivers as well (see above photos). You can find out more about the Bike Coalition’s Park Blvd campaign here at their website, and take a short survey to give your input about how Park might be improved.