The Oakland Department of Transportation wants to curb one of the most common complaints about road behavior: parking vehicles on sidewalks.
Across Oakland, drivers park on sidewalks, often completely blocking the way for pedestrians and forcing people to walk or use wheelchairs to get around by stepping or rolling across the street. Pedestrian advocates have complained for years that sidewalk parking restricts people’s movement and creates unnecessary hazards.
Kerby Olsen, OakDOT’s new mobility supervisor, said the city plans to better enforce the California Vehicle Code as it relates to parking.
“Parking on the sidewalk is illegal, even if the vehicle does not completely block the sidewalk,” Olsen said at last week’s Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission. “It interferes with the public right of way, also creating potential safety hazards.”
Olsen, who also presented at a meeting of the Mayor’s Commission on Persons with Disabilities last week, noted that illegal sidewalk parking primarily affects people with disabilities, families walking with children and seniors.
The city plans to try to curb sidewalk parking through engineering changes that will make the rules clearer to everyone. OakDOT officials say they will ask people who live on streets where sidewalk parking often occurs, typically narrow streets, to consider two redesign options. Currently, most roads where sidewalk parking is a problem are very narrow two-lane roads, typically 25 feet wide. It is impossible to maintain two lanes of traffic on these roads with street parking on both sides, so many residents now park on the sidewalk. There is not enough street parking available. OakDOT’s proposed solutions are to make two-way streets one-way, or eliminate car parking on one side of the street. In doing so, the Department hopes to allow for more effective enforcement of laws against sidewalk parking.
To find out where sidewalk parking is most common, OakDOT researched ten years worth of Google Maps Street View data. The resulting color-coded map can be seen below.
According to Olsen, OakDOT has the authority to make engineering changes on the road to try to eliminate sidewalk parking and other problems, which means they don’t need permission from the City Council. But they certainly need the support of the general public, which may prove difficult.
Several residents called a meeting of the Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission last week to protest OakDOT’s plans. John Brewer, who lives in the Trestle Glen neighborhood, which could be affected by the street design change, said removing sidewalk parking would make it impossible to park.
“It seems like it’s not a very well-thought-out plan, because you’re not really looking at the details of the road you’re trying to influence,” he said.
According to Brewer, parking on the sidewalk is a good solution to the lack of street parking, especially for seniors who need car access. Changing the street to one-way, Brewer said, was discussed in the early 2000s but rejected because the police department told them it would increase car speeds unless speed bumps were added.
“But of course the fire department was there, and asked if we didn’t have any extra speed bumps,” Brewer said.
One reason residents were upset was because the city gave them express permission to park on the sidewalk.
In 2004, after meetings between the city and Trestle Glen residents regarding complaints that sidewalks were 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. They left at least 36 inches of space for people to pass. The argument was that cars could be safely parked without allowing some pavement parking as the road was narrow.
In a call last week, Olsen pointed to the letter and said its legal exception “is not currently city policy.” However, it appears Oakland never officially rescinded the letter or strictly notified affected residents to change the parking policy.
Lisa Ray, another Trestle Glen resident, said the city should not rescind the agreement reached nearly two decades ago.
“There were a lot of factors considered,” 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 will follow the speed limits to get their kids to and from school. It’s really surprising that they don’t. “
Kevin Dally, who also lives in the Trestle Glen neighborhood, told Oaklandside that while he supports OakDOT’s handling of the “complicated” sidewalk parking problem, he worries that removing cars from the streets could make them too wide and encourage speed.
“Two-way streets can encourage slow driving. Motorists have to pull over, slowing down traffic,” he said.
Alex Frank, a member of the Bike and Pedestrian Commission, said at last week’s meeting that it’s important to remember that new street design options are being considered to protect the most vulnerable people on sidewalks. He also mentioned the option for some residents to park their cars inside their garages.
“There’s no part of your car that’s even close to the amount of a small broken bone in terms of insurance,” Frank said. “You need to make room for someone with a walker, someone with a stroller… If you say, 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 reiterated this point on Twitter By writing that pedestrians’ right to safety is a higher priority than people’s second car.
Not everyone in Oakland has access, however, to a garage, especially in the flatlands where houses are often smaller, houses are larger, and garages have less off-street parking.
Kyle O’Malley, a member of the Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities, said forcing people to move their cars off the sidewalk when there is no other option can be an equity concern because “residential parking may be more accessible on hills. on the flats.”
Olsen said OakDOT will conduct an equity analysis to avoid creating regulations that burden already disadvantaged communities.
Despite the perception that rules against sidewalk parking are not being enforced, the city issues some tickets, including 9,383 in 2020. One of the reasons for the constant banter is that some traffic enforcement officers are afraid to write tickets in certain parts of Oakland for physical fear. violence Staff shortage is also a limitation. Then there are car sizes, which get bigger every year, making it almost necessary for drivers to stop on parts of the sidewalk in neighborhoods where driveways are short. David Ralston, a member of the Bike and Pedestrian Commission, points out the issue, saying many driveways in Oakland are too small to park cars. Olsen said OakDOT does not currently have data on driveway sizes across the city.
With all the differing opinions on how to preserve vehicle parking and keep the streets safe and moveable, Department of Transportation staff said they will be calling community meetings to hear more from residents.
In the meantime, if people want to submit reports of cars parking on the sidewalk, OakDOT recommends calling Parking Enforcement between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays and dialing the Oakland Police Department’s non-emergency number on weekends.