The City of Emeryville has indefinitely closed parts of Doyle Street to vehicle traffic beginning Monday April 20th. The closure is intended to allow pedestrians to practice safe social distancing during the ongoing COVID-19 Shelter in Place Order.
While the gesture was welcomed by some, others, particularly neighbors who live on Doyle, were less than overjoyed.
Oakland Initiates “Slow Streets” Program
The City of Oakland recently implemented its “Slow Streets” program by limited vehicle traffic in 74 miles of its roads last week. Most neighbors and activists cheered the opportunity to safely walk the roads of the city and allow recreation and bike/ped thoroughfare.
The program was deemed mostly a success with a few exceptions including some non-compliant drivers and Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo complaining that that initiative has made some dangerous road conditions in parts of his district.
— Scraper Bike Team (@ScraperBikeTeam) April 19, 2020
Emeryville’s followed suit with less ambitious plans of limiting vehicle access on the strip of Doyle that connects to The Emeryville Greenway which is the main cyclist/pedestrian artery of eastern Emeryville.
Streets that were impacted include:
- Doyle Street from 59th to 61st Streets will be restricted to One Way vehicular traffic
- Doyle Street from 61st to 62nd Streets will be closed to vehicular traffic
- Doyle Street from 62nd to 64th Streets will be restricted to One Way vehicular traffic
- Doyle Street from 64th to Ocean Avenue will be closed to vehicular traffic.
Families, dog walkers and cyclists could be seen testing it out on Monday with mixed reactions. “Just what I was hoping for,” commented one resident. “[I] walked it this afternoon with my dog. Love it,” noted another.
Other residents appreciated the effort but were less keen on the execution. “The divider is seeming counter productive, as it forces people into lanes that are too narrow to distance in,” noted one commenter in The E’ville Eye facebook page.
“I give it an A- for concept and a C for execution,” described one resident. “The barriers are very large and ugly, many of them are covered in graffiti. The whole street looks like a construction zone.”
Some neighbors who actually live on Doyle were none to pleased with the removal of parking and thoroughfare to their homes. In a letter to Emeryville Public Works Director Mary Grace Houlihan, a neighbor pointed out the inconvenience the closure has caused by the elimination of parking for residents.
“There would be other ways to achieve what they want to achieve. Like blocking the roads and only allow resident traffic. Since we are all sheltering in place, there are 17 cars alone of people who live here and have a car on our stretch of Doyle.”
The letter asked that parking be reinstituted for residents of the street. “[parking restriction] creates a great deal of stress (and potentially economic hardship w/increased danger of car break-ins) for us residents.”
City Automates Crosswalks signals
In addition, the city has automated its crosswalks signals to discourage the spread of COVID-19 through surface contact.
The crosswalk buttons, disparagingly referred to by activists as “beg buttons” have been temporarily activated to automatically cycle without the need to press the button.
“We’ve manually placed the detector cards for all of the pedestrian movements to be on ‘call’ constantly,” said City of Emeryville Senior Civil Engineer Ryan O’Connell. “The detector cards shouldn’t be doing different things based on if someone pressed it or not.”
Some signals, such as those on San Pablo Avenue, fall under the jurisdiction of CalTrans and have not be automated. Those that are have been designated with laminated placards on the poles.
Additionally, all audible-assist signals will activate automatically for the visually impaired.