San Leandro prioritizes Bancroft Avenue, Williams Street for safety improvements

San Leandro is trying to make the streets in the city safer for people whether they walk, bike, take transit or drive a car, starting with safety improvements on a couple of the most traveled roads.

The San Leandro City Council unanimously approved a crosstown corridor study on Nov. 21, setting the city up to be competitive in getting grants to design buffered two-way bike lanes on Bancroft Avenue and Williams Street. The goal of the changes is to address unsafe speeds, student safety concerns, bike connectivity, BART connectivity, business access, and bus stop quality and accessibility.

“What’s really exciting for this project to us is we may be the first to connect our elementary, middle, high schools and adult school,” said Sheila Marquises, the city’s engineering and transportation director.

But people often ask why the city is investing in bike infrastructure when there are so few people riding their bikes in the city, she said.

About 0.9% of residents in the city ride their bike to work, but Marquises said the city expects more people to start biking once it reaches a tipping point of 2% of residents biking to work.

“So we’re halfway there,” she said.

Once you hit that rate of use, she said it’s believed drivers become more conscientious of bicyclists and that makes the road safer for everyone. That means the more bicyclists a city has, the safer the streets become for all modes of transportation.

The council’s approval of the study will allow the city to apply for grants during the upcoming year. The council would need to approve the design, likely in 2024, with construction expected to start in 2025 or 2026 if all goes well.

The public was largely in support of the study, though some said more safety improvements needed to be included for pedestrians and some of those needs must be addressed before 2025.

One business owner said the loss of parking would have a substantial impact on her customers. Council directed staff to work with her and other business owners that might be impacted.

“This is not cast in stone,” said 1st District Councilmember Deborah Cox. “This is a working document. As we go into design phase, I’m sure there’ll be changes to come.”

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