Thousands Play in the Streets as Oaklavia Transforms Downtown Oakland

Oaklavia transformed a swath of downtown Oakland to a vibrant streetscape Sunday, in its first ever ciclovia-style event, with café seating in the streets, yoga classes, dancers, musicians, food carts and games. More than two thirds of the estimated 3,000 – 4,000 people who turned out to experience the joy of car-free streets were people who rode their bicycles. 

WalkOaklandBikeOakland (WOBO), the organizer, called the event a success, and said businesses and elected leaders were thrilled, and the community response was overwhelmingly positive.

"My favorite quote was a woman who said ‘This is a better Oakland,’" said Kassie Rohrbach, WOBO’s Executive Director. "WOBO is making Oakland a better place to walk and bike and that quote really captured exactly what we hoped folks would feel from the day."

One of the most popular spots on the route was Washington Street between 8th and 9th in Old Oakland. A parklet, hosted by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC), featured astroturf, outdoor seating for nearby restaurants and shady benches. A fooz ball table got continuous play despite the fact that it wasn’t level. Musicians, gardeners, and bicycle tailors gravitated to the block, creating a lively street scene.

Restaurants that chose to open did a brisk business. Café 817 on Washington Street in Old Oakland is normally closed on Sunday. "We didn’t expect anything," Lillian, one of the owners, said as she prepared salads behind the counter. "It’s been great." She would be happy to see the event repeated and "we will be more ready for it next time."

And then there were the kids, so many kids. Little ones came in trailers, bike seats, bakfiets and on trail-a-bikes. Others scooted down the street on skuuts, tricycles, and scooters. Small people spun big hula hoops. The parking lot of Kinetic Arts was packed with bicycles as parents and kids poured in for circus arts performances and classes.

WOBO took the opportunity to stencil a temporary bike lane on Broadway. The organization’s
Bike
Broadway Campaign
seeks "a continuous and safe north-south bicycle
boulevard on Broadway." The success of Oaklavia in demonstrating the
vitality of safe streets for cyclists should help move that goal forward.

Cycles of Change and EBBC hosted a Kids Bike Rodeo. Bicycles of all sizes were provided, including small ones with pedals removed to help new riders practice balance. Little girls in ladybug wings and flowery dresses (they were on their way to a birthday party) navigated a course drawn in colorful chalk that looked like a kid-sized board game.

"My favorite thing was seeing the smiles on the kids faces," said Sophia, who worked with the organizers to coordinate the activities. "Just seeing them out with a safe place to play in the streets."

Jennifer West, Emeryville City Council member, came with her two daughters, ages 4 and 9. "The hula hooping and the kid’s bike rodeo were fantastic" for her children. "The kids got to see the street in a new way. We’re constantly yelling at them ‘Don’t go in the street!’ Today, the street was the place to be."

Rohrbach hopes to organize two Oaklavia events next year, including one in the Fruitvale District, and is coordinating with the EBBC and Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition to plan one that connects Berkeley and Oakland on Telegraph. In addition, Rohrbach may work with San Francisco’s Sunday Streets coordinator, Susan King, to hold an event on Treasure Island.

"There’s a lot of conversations about not only doing more in Oakland, but collaborating across cities in the Bay Area and bringing folks together from around the Bay," said Rohrbach.

  • I do think Gay Pride across the bay pulled in otherwise-interested riders, but still–the first Oaklavia really showed Oakland’s promise. I’ll be back for any encore.

  • CBrinkman

    It was a wonderful day over in Oakland. I love that the merchants see the benefit – kudos to the organizers. I’m sure that seeing everyone having so much fun made all the hard work worthwhile. As for the date conflicting with Pride, please remember how hard it is to find a summer weekend in the Bay Area that doesn’t conflict with something – most people have no idea how hard it is to schedule these programs. I think they did a great job.

    Hey WOBO – Who do we e-mail in Oakland City Hall to say how great it was?

  • i’d like to see an event connecting all the cities along Telegraph and what will become the bus/BRT corridor — so people can take a few pictures and some day be able to reminisce about what it was like to be able to ride your bike in the East Bay.

  • BRT (and bike lanes) along Telegraph is all but dead, now that Berkeley City Council voted against participating in the BRT project. To go ahead with a Sunday Streets event now on Telegraph would be a sick joke.

  • Oaktownjen

    Let the mayor and the city council members know how much you loved Oaklavia! All other cities that have put on Ciclovias have had far more city involvement and financial support (though kaplan’s office did help advocate on WOBO’s behalf to bring down the police costs).

  • Francesca Thomas

    I can’t believe I heard absolutely nothing regarding this event. I work in Downtown Oakland (12th & Broadway) so I am out and about in the area almost every day. I did not see one poster, one flyer, nothing on the news, nothing on the radio….would have loved to come out and support the event, but knew nothing of it. I became a fan of Oaklavia on FB and that is how I actually found out that this event had occurred 🙁

  • mlyn

    With a route of this length and streets so broad, it might be nice to have bicycle rodeos/education at two locations instead of one. It’s hard to choose between events and people come at different times. There was a delightful Chinese traditional folk music group on Washington St that should be commended as well. It had to compete with loud dj music around the corner which would have been better placed closer to Broadway and 10th. On 7th St, it was anemic except for La Boriquena. As Jefferson Square Park is slated to include a dog park this year, next time, it might be advisable to invite dog-related organizations with free dog food samples and paraphernalia and water bowls. I was delighted at all the dog owners walking their dogs since the Oakland Parks Dept denies leashed dogs entry to Oakland parks.

    As far as one poster stating she never saw a flyer or a poster, City Center does not allow posters, nor did Peet’s Coffee, nor did the Marriott Hotel . . . There were posters at Old Oakland merchants, and flyers in some restaurants, flyers left in BART . . . If you want it better advertised, join WOBO, which funded it, and had to curtail the original route in order to afford it. Then volunteer to pass out flyers.