The Future of Slow Streets
In early 2020, Alameda along with many cities around the nation, implemented “Slow Streets,” a new type of facility that facilitated physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over a 1.5-year period, 4.7 miles of Alameda streets became Slow Streets. This program was extensively evaluated in fall 2021. Much more information can be found on the Slow Streets web page.
In December 2021, the City Council considered the Slow Streets evaluation and staff recommendations, and voted to continue the Slow Streets program until the Active Transportation Plan provided direction on the future of the program AND these actions were implemented.
What’s next for Slow Streets?
A top goal of the Active Transportation Plan is to create a citywide low-stress bicycling network(PDF, 743KB) connecting destinations all across Alameda. It is intended to serve the many people who are interested in biking more but nervous about sharing roads with faster-moving cars (a statistically significant survey(PDF, 9MB) found that nearly half of Alamedans feel this way). This network will also enable more children to bike to school safely and offer comfortable walking routes.
A key element of building the low-stress connected bicycling network(PDF, 743KB) is Neighborhood Greenways which are used on low speed and volume streets. Neighborhood Greenways are not the same as Slow Streets, but they have some common goals – namely to create spaces where traffic is calmed, walking is comfortable, and people feel safe biking without being physically separated from cars. Neighborhood Greenways do not utilize the temporary barricades found on Slow Streets, but instead include a variety of traffic-calming interventions like speed humps and neighborhood traffic circles, along with crossing improvements for busy streets. This poster shows design elements of Neighborhood Greenways (which in the past were referred to as Bicycle Boulevards).
To form this connected, low-stress network, the Plan includes Neighborhood Greenways on three streets that currently have Slow Streets:
- Pacific Avenue
- San Jose Avenue
- Versailles Avenue
These streets were chosen for many of the same reasons they have been long-standing bicycle routes, and became Slow Streets - because they offer continuous connections across Alameda, and are lower-speed and -volume streets. The infrastructure implementation plan(PDF, 2MB) prioritizes the near term transition of these Slow Streets to Neighborhood Greenways, using lower-cost infrastructure than can be built quickly and replace the Slow Streets barricades. Per Council direction, these streets will remain as Slow Streets until this transition is made. Versailles Ave in particular was selected over other parallel streets for a variety of reasons, including that it has more existing safe crossings of major streets, which are essential for Neighborhood Greenways, and better connects to neighborhoods north of Fernside (more information below, under Resources).
Two Slow Streets are not recommended to be Neighborhood Greenways:
- Santa Clara Avenue (which will continue to be a bicycle route marked with “sharrow” stencils)
- Orion Street (which will have speed humps added, as has been planned previously)
Per Council direction, these Slow Streets would be removed shortly after the Plan is adopted. Santa Clara is not recommended because the Slow Streets section closely parallels Central Avenue, which will have separated bike lanes and other safety interventions making it a low stress facility, and because it is not a low stress facility east of Webster Street. Orion Street is not recommended as a Neighborhood Greenway because it is only one block long, and in the future will be part of a much longer corridor of separated bike lanes, as new development occurs.