Bike Advocacy Groups honing in on Powell Intersections Safety Improvements at Tonight’s BPAC Meeting

Published On January 9, 2017 | By Rob Arias | News & Commentary, Transit

The Emeryville BPAC will hold a special meeting tonight in Council Chambers. On the agenda are a litany of items but first and foremost is the Powell Street intersections improvements. These intersections, known by most residents as probably the most dangerous in the city, are finally getting some much deserved attention after the tragic pedestrian death of Mahin Ashki back on November 1st.

The BPAC held their regular meeting on November 7th but this was not enough time to get this item on the agenda and a December meeting presented conflicts with having Caltrans representatives present. Sixty minutes have been assigned to this action item in tonight’s discussion and representatives of Caltrans and Emeryville Public Works are expected to be present.

Bike East Bay Advocacy

Bike East Bay Advocacy Manager Cynthia Armour initiated a petition a month prior to this tragedy to pressure Caltrans to act. The post noted that the I-80 offramp crosswalk was part of the Bay Trail and deserved special priority by them. The petition called for three specific short-term upgrades including adding green striping to the crosswalk, installing a ‘no right turns on red’ sign and installing a temporary median extension to prevent drivers from using the on/off-ramps as a shortcut.

east-bay-greenway-crossing

The E’ville Eye subsequently stepped in to help circulate the petition gathering an additional 213 signatures from our readers. Bike East Bay representatives have since met with Emeryville city staff to step up the pressure on Caltrans to take action as well as adding to their list of recommendations including:

  1. Squaring corners off at Powell/NB 80 off ramp and the Southside of Powell/Christie Ave intersections
  2. Evaluating the possibility of additional advance lead time for pedestrians crossing Powell Street on Christie Ave
  3. Installing high-visibility in-street pedestrian crosswalk sign at the end of the median
  4. The addition of “no right turn on red” signs
  5. Secure funding to do a follow-up traffic safety analysis of this corridor to evaluate the effectiveness of improvements to date and compare with the 2005 UC Study
  6. Recommend next set of needed safety improvements

Freeway Jumping exposed by KRON 4

The issue with freeway jumping at the intersection has become so commonplace that it got the attention of KRON 4 People Behaving Badly segment reporter Stanley Roberts. Roberts documented commuters tendencies to use this on-ramp/off-ramp as a shortcut in the above video segment. Roberts notes the net time savings, since drivers generally have to endure metering lights when they re-enter, as a mere 30 seconds. One of Bike East Bay’s asks is to add a median extension in the center of Powell Street to prevent this tactic.

Caltrans slowly coming around

Caltrans has continually cited the lack of reported bike and pedestrian crashes at this location for their inaction thus far. Bike East Bay and The E’ville Eye know this to be bogus and have tried to maintain pressure on Caltrans and the city with a series of articles spotlighting the dangers of this intersection. The posts have garnered quite a bit of resident reaction as dozens have recounted harrowing experiences crossing the path.

“I live near this intersection & have to cross here often. But, I truly fear it. Drivers making a right turn FAIL to look right for pedestrians before turning.” -Dan U. via Nexdoor.

“I cross this intersection as a pedestrian almost daily and it’s crazy how many times I’ve almost been hit by drivers not paying attention.” -Morgan M. via Facebook.

“As a senior walker and cyclist, this is a TERRIFYING intersection!” – Gretchen K. via Facebook.

Most residents know to be hyper-vigilant while crossing these intersections as cars frequently make right turns without stopping and the many near-misses are clearly not calculated into the data. Ashki was in town visiting a relative and probably not aware of the dangerous reputation of the intersection. Many also noted frequent violations by vehicles and the needed enforcement by local authorities. Captain Dante Diotalevi of the EPD noted the possibility of the placement of a decoy patrol car in the vicinity to provide a deterrent but that no additional resources were currently available from their traffic division.

Shortly after The E’ville Eye posted our email petition, we were contacted by Caltrans District 4 Public Information Branch Chief Robert Haus. Haus noted that he met with a Caltrans traffic engineering team to review the location and are issuing the following short-term measures:

Proposed Striping work:

  • Add 12” while advance bar in front of existing crosswalk at the approach.
  • Reposition turning arrows at the approach.
  • Place island striping to extend the existing island at intersection to discourage illegal through-traffic from EB-80 Powell Off-ramp
  • Place lead lines for both left and right turning movement traffic.

Proposed Signing work:

  • Relocate existing “EXIT Speed Warning” sign
  • Install “Signal Warning” sign
  • Replace existing “NO THRU TRAFFIC” sign with “No Through Traffic Symbol” sign
  • Install “Turning Vehicles Yield to Ped/Bike” regulatory signs for crosswalk at the approach
  • Install “Ped/bike” warning signs in advance and at the location of crosswalk at the approach

Signal modifications at intersection:

  • Replace signal heads to remove green and yellow ball and install green and yellow arrows

Haus noted these short-term measures could be implemented in the next 3-6 months, depending on the current maintenance backlog. Haus also expressed a possible compromise with the ‘no right turn on red’ recommendation. “Caltrans supports measures to restrict right-turns at this location when the pedestrian signal is actuated” Haus noted through email. “Traffic Operations staff is currently evaluating this option to determine the extent of work needed for installation and effects on vehicle queuing.” Haus also noted the usefulness of green stripping in crosswalks to increase visibility, but this did not currently conform to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidelines.

Armour expressed optimism with the list but expressed skepticism with just adding stripping as a means of deterring Freeway jumping. “I’d be interested in seeing the island extension be not just paint but also bollards” she noted over email.

Long-term Plan Needed

highway-80-emeryville-trail-path-bridge-temescal-canal

While these safety improvements should have an impact, the city still needs to develop a longterm strategy to address the poor connectivity of this Bay Trail segment. Newly appointed Mayor Scott Donahue is a former BPAC committee member and has a reputation as a staunch bicycle supporter. He’s been shopping his idea of turning the Temescal creek canal bore into a bike/ped thruway that would provide a dedicated path without the addition of expensive infrastructure. The addition of a Bike/Ped bridge similar to the University Avenue pedestrian bridge would cost upwards of $10 million dollars and could take over a decade of planning and building.

BPAC Meeting Agenda →


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About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

7 Responses to Bike Advocacy Groups honing in on Powell Intersections Safety Improvements at Tonight’s BPAC Meeting

  1. Andrew says:

    Traffic circles.

    • Rob Arias says:

      Andrew, are you referring to roundabouts similar to what they’re proposing at Gilman:
      http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/04/28/berkeley-preview-sheds-new-light-on-gilman-roundabouts/

      This intersection is so bad, maybe we need t try something unconventional!

      • Andrew says:

        Rob, yes absolutely. That junction simply has too many entry points (and entry speeds) to be serviced by a typical intersection. Besides being functional, roundabouts are also much more aesthetically pleasing. I recall seeing pictures on here from a proposed plan for that stretch up to Christie Ave that included a tree lined boulevard with public transportation hub… it’d be interesting to see a traffic circle worked into that design.

        Anyway, something has to be done there.

  2. Hit twice at this intersection, once by a hit & run driver that the police won’t do anything about (jurisdictional issues – CHP says it’s Emeryville, Emeryville says it’s CHP, and the driver lives in Daly City, so this idiot gets off scot-free for nearly running me over entirely…ain’t that quaint? And you’d better believe I filed with CalTrans as well…with zero follow-up from their end, despite telling me that I’d be contacted “within 24 hours”, I might add…and I called them, twice, and was given the same spiel both times), and my classic restored cruiser wound up with a nicely-mangled wheel which folded around his front bumper was my reward for deigning to cross on a green light with the “walk” light in my favor before he took off across the intersection and back up onto the freeway.

    White 2004 Nissan Quest, California license plate # 6DSY913, at or about 7:00pm on 05 Sep 16. Driver is an Asian male, shoulder-length dark brown/black hair, mid-20s/early-30s.

    I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I was ALMOST hit.

    Nobody looks right before they turn right. They just keep inching out to see the oncoming traffic, and when it’s clear, they gun it. One time I was blowing a referee’s whistle, loudly and repeatedly, and was still nearly run down. The driver even looked surprised that I was there!

    The only thing I found that worked was a very loud megaphone that I have, which also has a siren feature. A couple of chirps from that grabbed their attention because they thought I was a cop!

    Well, now I have a 140db bicycle horn that sounds like a car horn, and once the weather improves, I’m going to use it.

    Often.

    Will try to make tonight’s meeting if I can. These people with their “decade”-long planning committee BS need to hear what I, and others like me, have to say.

  3. Gary says:

    The sign reads, “Share the Road” which is supposed to be targeted at everyone using the road. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Vehicle traffic is expected to adhere to all signs and bow down when cyclists and pedestrians ignore the signs. Turning right becomes a major challenge since pedestrians completely ignore the “don’t walk” signals throughout the Bay Area. Combine the selfish pedestrians with the selfish drivers that run the red light and completely block the intersection for oncoming traffic and you have a mess. A little bit of consideration from all commuters will help expedite timely and stress free travel. Sure, pedestrians have the right-of-way but is that the attitude you want to project? Regardless of who has the right-of-way, soft human tissue always loses against slow/fast moving metal. If you live, you get to sue the driver and will probably end up with a nice settlement. This idea is palatable to most people. Is a cash payment worth losing a limb, permanent disfigurement or paralysis? An alert driver has to scan for hazards in front of them, in the rear and to the sides while moving at various speeds. Most vehicles have blind spots that will temporarily block the view of a person or another vehicle. But somehow it has become the soul responsibility of the driver to avoid pedestrians even when they’re not obeying the laws. Does this make sense to you? Think about it! Compare the process of driving against the process of walking and tell me which one is more difficult. I know I’ll receive all kinds of comments about drivers doing this or that but this writeup is about the inconsiderate pedestrians and the safety hazards you present to yourself and others. Think before you act.

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