In these restrictive days of shelter-in-place, it is difficult to find healthy and safe ways to enjoy the outdoors. Where do we go to get a breath of fresh air or some much needed exercise? Neighborhood sidewalks are too narrow to pass others at a safe distance, Lake Merritt is crowded with fellow Oaklanders looking for similar respite from the monotony of the indoors, and the East Bay Hills require both time and (for most of us) a motor vehicle to access. That’s why Transport Oakland is so excited about the City of Oakland’s Slow Streets initiative.
On April 11, 2020, after weeks of advocacy and organizing by Transport Oakland and our partners at Bike East Bay, Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, and TransForm, the Oakland Department of Transportation launched Oakland Slow Streets – an effort to create more space for people to walk and bike safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the Neighborhood Bicycle Route network established in Oakland’s 2019 Bike Plan, the City has designated 74 miles of residential streets (spanning every neighborhood) for people to walk, bike, scoot, or jog while maintaining sufficient space for physical distancing. On Slow Streets, local residents, emergency vehicles, and delivery drivers continue to have access while through-traffic is encouraged to take alternate routes.
While Slow Streets are an exciting addition to the Oakland streetscape, they won’t be successful without the support of advocates like you. If you live on a Slow Street you can volunteer to be a Block Monitor and take the lead on keeping your Slow Street in good repair. We also need volunteers to help roll out future Slow Streets throughout the city – an effort that usually commences on Saturdays at 12pm. OakDOT staff manages this effort, providing volunteers with materials and instructions while ensuring everyone maintains social distancing practices throughout their time in the field. If you are interested in volunteering at a future Slow Streets roll-out or becoming a block monitor, sign up with our partner Bike East Bay.
So far we like what we are seeing on the street! On the most successful Slow Streets, neighbors, friends, and families are biking, jogging, pushing strollers, walking dogs, scootering, rollerskating, skateboarding, and wheeling a safe distance from each other. The atmosphere is jovial, friendly, and peaceful. Neighbors wave to each other from across the street while children saunter by on their tricycles.
Other Slow Streets are a work in progress and will require creative thinking, flexible designs, and committed volunteers to become success stories. If you have had the opportunity to visit a Slow Street since the program was launched last week, take the OakDOT’s Slow Streets Survey to provide city staff with insights into what is working, what needs improvement, and what ideas you have to improve the Slow Streets you have visited. OakDOT wants to know if you have been happy with how the program has been rolled out thus far, if you’ve seen cones or barricades moved aside or knocked down along a street you’ve visited, or if you’d like to see the program come to your street.
As Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff recently said, “When we close our streets to cars, we open them up for amazing possibilities.” Oakland Slow Streets enable Oaklanders to experience these possibilities first hand. And with your support and help, we will ensure Slow Streets are successful across all Oakland neighborhoods. Help us bring a ray of sunshine to the gloomy days wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Help us bring Oakland Slow Streets to all!