The Oakland Department of Transportation wants to prevent one of the most common and most complained about behaviors on the road: parking on the sidewalk.

All over Oakland, drivers park on sidewalks, often completely blocking the path for pedestrians and forcing people who walk or use wheelchairs to turn by stepping or rolling onto the road. Pedestrian advocates have complained for years that sidewalk parking restricts people’s movement and creates unnecessary hazards.

OakDOT’s new traffic supervisor, Kerby Olsen, said the city plans to begin better enforcing the California Vehicle Code regarding parking.

“Parking on the sidewalk is illegal, even if the vehicle does not completely obstruct the sidewalk,” Olsen told the Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission last week. “It obstructs the public right of way, while also creating potential safety hazards.”

Olsen, who also presented at the Mayor’s Commission on the Disabled meeting last week, noted that illegal sidewalk parking mostly affects people with disabilities, families walking with children and the elderly.

The city plans to try to prevent curbside parking through engineering changes that will make the rules clearer for everyone. OakDOT officials say they will ask people who live on streets where sidewalk parking occurs most often, typically narrow streets, to consider two redesign options. Currently, most roads where pavement parking is a problem are very narrow two-lane roads, usually under 25 meters wide. On these streets it is impossible to maintain two lanes of traffic with street parking on both sides, and therefore many residents currently park on the sidewalks. There is simply not enough street parking. OakDOT’s proposed solutions are to make two-way streets one-way, or remove car parking on one side of the street. By doing so, the department hopes to allow more efficient enforcement of curbside parking laws.

To find out where sidewalk parking is most common, OakDOT researched ten years of Google Maps Street View data. The resulting color-coded map can be seen below.

The Oakland Department of Transportation studied ten years of Google Maps street images to find out which ones experienced the most on-street parking.

According to Olsen, OakDOT already has the authority to make engineering changes to the road to try to avoid sidewalk parking and other problems, meaning they don’t need the City Council’s permission. But they definitely need the cooperation of the general public, which can be difficult.

Several residents called last week’s Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission meeting to voice opposition to OakDOT’s plans. John Brewer, who lives in the Trestle Glen neighborhood, which could be affected by street design changes, said removing sidewalk parking would make parking impossible.

“It seems like it’s not a very well thought out plan because you’re not really looking at the specifics of the streets you’re trying to affect,” he said.

According to Brewer, sidewalk parking is a good solution to the lack of street parking, especially for seniors who need access by car. Changing the road to one way, Brewer said, was discussed in the early 2000s but was rejected because the police department told them it would likely increase car speeds unless speed bumps were added.

“But of course the fire department was there and asked that we not have any additional speed bumps,” Brewer said.

Part of the reason residents were upset was because the city previously gave them explicit permission to park on the sidewalk.

In 2004, after meetings between the city and Trestle Glen residents regarding complaints that sidewalks were being blocked, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, City Attorney John Russo agreed to allow residents to park on a portion of the sidewalk, as long as they left at least 36 centimeters of space for people to pass. The reasoning was that the road was too narrow to safely park cars without allowing some pavement parking.

Even cars such as full-sized sedans parked in a designated lot can block sidewalks and force pedestrians onto city streets. Credit: Darwin BondGraham

In last week’s call, Olsen alluded to that letter and said her statutory exemption “is not currently city policy.” However, it appears that Oakland never officially rescinded the letter, nor did it forcefully communicate a parking policy change to affected residents.

Lisa Ray, another Trestle Glen resident, said the city should not throw out the deal that was reached nearly two decades ago.

“There are several other factors that were taken into account,” Ray said. “In addition to pedestrian access and emergency vehicle access, traffic calming [was considered] because the road has a significant grade and you would be surprised to think that parents driving their children to and from school would follow the speed limits. It’s really shocking that they don’t.”

Kevin Dalley, who also lives in the Trestle Glen neighborhood, told The Oaklandside that while he supports OakDOT’s handling of the “complicated” issue of sidewalk parking, he worries that taking cars off the streets could make them too crowded. things and encourage speed.

“Two-way streets can encourage slow driving. Drivers have to pull over to allow passing, slowing the pace of traffic,” he said.

Bicycle and pedestrian committee member Alex Frank said during last week’s meeting that it’s important to remember that new road design options are being considered to keep the most vulnerable people on the sidewalks safe. He also noted that some residents have the option of parking their car inside their garage.

“There’s no part of your car that’s worth as much as a broken bone in insurance calculations,” Frank said. “You have to make room for someone with a walker, someone with a wheelchair… if you’re saying, you can’t park in your garage, ask yourself why I can’t park in my garage. [Maybe] because my car doesn’t fit and it’s full of stuff.”

OakDOT’s Olsen echoed that point on Twitter writing that pedestrians’ right to safety is a higher priority than people’s second cars.

OakDOT employee Kerby Olsen tweeted why his department is prioritizing pedestrians over parking. Screenshot courtesy of Twitter.

However, not everyone in Oakland has access to a garage, especially in flat areas where homes are typically smaller, families are larger, and there is less off-street parking in garages.

Kyle O’Malley, a member of the Mayor’s Commission on Persons with Disabilities, said forcing people to move their cars off the sidewalk when there is no other alternative can be an equity concern because “residential parking it may be more accessible in the hills than in the flats.”

Olsen said OakDOT will conduct an equity analysis to avoid creating rules that burden already disadvantaged communities.

Despite the perception that anti-pavement parking rules have gone unenforced, the city issues some tickets, with 9,383 written in 2020. Among the reasons for the continued ridicule is that some traffic enforcement staff are afraid to write tickets in some parts of the city. Oakland, from physical fear. violence. Lack of staff is also a limitation. Then there’s the size of the cars, which get bigger every year, making it almost necessary for drivers to block parts of the sidewalk in neighborhoods where the roads are short. Bicycle and pedestrian commission member David Ralston alluded to the issue, noting that many streets in Oakland are too small to park one’s car. Olsen said OakDOT currently does not have citywide street size data.

With all the different opinions about how to get cars off the sidewalks while preserving parking and keeping the roads safe and navigable, transportation department staff said they will be calling community meetings to hear more from the residents.

In the meantime, if people want to file a report for parking a car on the sidewalk, OakDOT recommends calling parking enforcement weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on weekends, calling the non-emergency number at Oakland Police Department.

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