Sep 15, 2016

A project that would reduce the number of vehicle lanes on a nearly 2-mile stretch of Carlson Boulevard in Richmond from four lanes to two is facing community opposition.

The city plans to use a $500,000 state grant (Safe Routes to Transit) to install a number of safety improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders on the boulevard, which connects BART stations in Richmond and El Cerrito.

Planned additions include a median pedestrian island and crosswalk at the Richmond Greenway,  bulb-outs at Macdonald Avenue and 24th Street, 40 ADA-compliant curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks at all bus stops. A map posted below provides more details.

Those new amenities, however, are not what’s drawing opposition. The plan also calls for turning one vehicle lane into a bike lane in each direction on Carlson from Broadway to Bayview Avenue. The 1.8-mile stretch of roadway currently has four lanes; two in each direction.

Also, bike lanes would be added on Carlson between Bayview to Tehama, but that stretch would remain with four vehicle lanes.


Project supporters, who include members of bike and pedestrian advocacy groups, say improvements are needed to slow down traffic on Carlson and to create a safe route for cyclists and pedestrians.

Dennis Dalton, a Richmond resident and member of the Richmond Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (RBPAC), said the project will shorten the path to cross the street, making it safer for residents. The lane reduction will also prevent drivers from treating the boulevard like a highway, he added.

“If this project is approved by city council, we won’t have speeders on the boulevard,” Dalton said during an open public comment session at the Richmond City Council meeting Tuesday.

But project opponents, many who are residents living in the area and who use the boulevard, believe Carlson will become congested. They dispute figures by project advocates stating the boulevard is currently not heavily-trafficked. They charge that a similar project that removed a lane from 23rd Street has led to congestion.


Mary Stewart, who says she lives near the boulevard and uses it as a commute route, says she supports adding bicycle lanes on Carlson, but not removing a vehicle lane.

“I think it will be a total trainwreck otherwise,” she said.

Madeline Law, president of Park Plaza neighborhood council, which represents an area located just west of Carlson, said the roadway should be constructed like Cutting Boulevard, which has both four lanes and bike lanes.

Garland Ellis, from the Annex neighborhood, warned the impacts of increased congestion to emergency vehicles.

“Every morning at 8 a.m., I go down Carlson Boulevard coming from Central Richmond toward El Cerrito. Two lanes, solid traffic, not moving at all hardly from Bayview to I-80,” Ellis said. “You go from Bayview around the corner back toward S. 47, it’s backed up halfway there. If you have a wreck on [Interstate Highway] 80, it goes back further.”

Jerry Yoshida, a resident of the Annex neighborhood, said the project doesn’t make sense as few people in the neighborhood near Carlson ride bicycles.

But project supporters say that’s part of the project’s purpose: to encourage more cycling and public transit use.

Using data from 2007, RBPAC reported that S. 23rd Street saw double the number of vehicles per day than Carlson: 17,400 vehicles versus up to 9,100.

“There is not enough traffic on this street to cause issues once the improvements go in,” a transit advocate told council.

Dave Campbell, advocacy director with Bike East Bay, said the substantial state grant the project received proves Carlson’s need.

“It’s a good project for walking, and it’s also good for connecting neighborhoods and schools to transit; good for bicycles and good for safety for the residents there,” Campbell said.



  1. I use Carlson regularly at all times of day and there is never anything close to what reasonable people would call traffic congestion. What does exist is a lot of drivers acting like homicidal maniacs.

    Even if this project somehow managed to create gridlock on Carlson it would be far better than the insanity that exists there now. Can’t happen soon enough.

    John | Sep 15th, 2016
  2. Pretty much agree with you John although it can get congested at I-80. I’m not aware of what they have in mind at that point but perhaps there is a clever way to smooth it out there with some turn lanes or what have you. Barrett Ave gets congested now with the lane reduction but certainly it is a great improvement and worthwhile trade over the previous arrangement which had regular collisions due to the speeding. I have to believe the trade off on Carlson will be very worth it as well. Speeding and uncourteous drivers are a very real problem in Richmond no doubt.

    Richmond Resident | Sep 15th, 2016
  3. If I’m reading the article correctly then they are planning to leave 2 lanes in each direction between Bayview and 80 so there shouldn’t be any affect on traffic at the junction with 80.

    I agree about Barrett. Both it and 23rd Street are much better now with 1 lane each way. Any the congestion on both, even at rush hour, is pretty minor compared to almost anywhere else in the bay area. The worst thing about both streets now are the yahoos that do 60 mph down the center turn lane. Hopefully the city can put in median islands at some point to put a stop to that.

    John | Sep 16th, 2016
  4. You’re correct. I missed that part about leaving 4 lanes at I-80. Good points all around John. Especially about the clowns who treat the turn lane like a passing lane. Just last night I watched an idiot blow through a red light at the intersection of Carlson and S. 37th doing about 40 -50 mph. A common occurrence along Carlson that is a fact. Count me in on this project also.

    Richmond Resident | Sep 16th, 2016
  5. This may make this street safer for bicyclists and pedestrians but all of the side streets in the surrounding neighborhoods will have worse traffic. Those who wish to speed will move to the side streets and endanger those who live in the neighborhood. See what So 23rd St, Barrett Ave, and Harbor Way have done to the neighborhood! Roosevelt is now more traveled at higher rates of speed because of the road diet done to Barrett Ave. Please learn for the previous mistakes already done!

    Jan Mignone | Sep 16th, 2016
  6. Can’t wait for these improvements. There are so many gaps in bike infrastructure in Richmond (why is the wonderful Bay Trail so difficult to get to?), and this will help tremendously. Traffic calming measures are desperately needed all over the city.

    erin | Sep 16th, 2016
  7. I find it very interesting that none of the opposition ever attended any of the open public conductivity planning meetings three years ago. I attended all of them. At these meetings many connecting , bike lanes, and walkable corridors were discussed , options were presented, and public input requested. Carlson options were presented, but no one was there to voice any concerns. I could not speak for Carlson because I rarely use that corridor and didn’t know the issues. I and my neighbors were able to voice our concerns about our area and choose the option best suitable for our area, which addressed our concerts.

    It is unfortunate that Richmond does not adequately inform residents of plans until after the facts. I usually find out about important issues retaining to Richmond from sources outside of Richmond.

    tired of the incompetence | Sep 21st, 2016

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.