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Posts from the "Oakland" Category

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Oakland Officials and Advocates Celebrate 18 New Miles of Bikeways in 2011

There's nothing like the smell of fresh thermoplast in the morning. Photos: Ruth Miller

As city contractors stenciled new bike lanes last Friday at Oakland’s 25th and Webster Streets, a group of advocates, city staff, and elected officials celebrated the final project in Oakland’s busiest bicycling year to date.

“This year we put in 18.1 miles of new bike lanes and 292 new bike parking spots,” Council Member Libby Schaaf told the group.

Oakland Council Member Libby Schaaf, an early member of WOBO.

Oakland was recently recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a Bronze Bicycle-Friendly City and “named one of the 20 most bike-friendly cities in the country,” noted Mayor Jean Quan, and “we’re working to get into the top ten.”

On top of a major expansion of bikeways this year, Uptown Oakland will get its own bike station as soon as 2013 near the 19th Street BART station, announced Jason Overman of Council Member Rebecca Kaplan’s office, which recently won a $500,000 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Safe Routes to Transit program to create a space similar to the Downtown Berkeley bike station and host valet bike parking and repairs.

Over the next two weeks, crews will complete the bike lane along the one-way Webster Street south to 14th Street, and a complementary bike lane will be installed on the parallel Franklin Street in January. Combined, the pair will create a north-south corridor to Downtown Oakland.

Many of Oakland’s 2011 bike projects focused on completing the network of bike lanes and sharrows, including segments of major crosstown routes like Fruitvale, Lakeshore, Telegraph, and West Grand Avenues, as well as Foothill Boulevard and East 12th Street.

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Tomorrow: East Bay Advocates Call for Fixing Alameda Transit First

A coalition of East Bay advocates is urging supporters to speak up tomorrow morning and tell the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) to take advantage of a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to repair and restore a failing system and provide a cost-effective, equitable, and sustainable transportation future.”

Measure B, Alameda County’s largest source of transportation funding, is set to go to voters for re-authorization next November, and advocates say it’s crucial that the proposal prioritize investments in fixing transit and improving walking and bicycling conditions.

“The ACTC is preparing to ask voters in November 2012 to double the county’s current half-cent transportation sales tax to one cent, make the tax permanent, and approve a 30-year Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP),” states a press release from the Community Vision Coalition, comprised of members like the East Bay Bike Coalition (EBBC) and TransForm. “The TEP will determine the spending priorities for the first $7.8 billion generated by the new measure.”

Dave Campbell, the EBBC’s program director, says the measure as it’s currently being drafted puts expensive road and transit capital expansion projects ahead of the needs of the existing transit system, and a strong show of public support is needed tomorrow to convince the ACTC to invest the revenue more wisely.

“Our needs are to fix the potholes on the streets, get BART trains and AC Transit buses running on time, and make our streets safer for walking and bicycling,” said Campbell. “The ACTC has done public surveys, polling, and outreach, and consistently they’ve been told, ‘Fix the system first.’”

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Dangerous Street Designs Threaten Oakland’s Communities of Color, Seniors

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Pedestrian fatalities 2006-2010 (in black) from the CHP SWITRS database, 2010 race and ethnicity distribution from Eric Fisher (whites represented by red, black by blue, Asian by green, Hispanic by yellow)

With freeways and wide thoroughfares running through neighborhoods of color, the City of Oakland demonstrates many of the deadly trends discussed in Transportation for America’s new Dangerous by Design Report.

Across the country and locally, people of color make up a disproportionately large share of pedestrian deaths. Nationwide, the annual pedestrian fatality rate among African Americans is 2.39 deaths for every 100,000 people. Hispanics suffer a somewhat lower rate (1.97), while rates among Asians (1.45) and whites (1.38) are substantially lower.

As the map above illustrates, all of Oakland’s traffic fatalities during the last five years occurred in the flats, an area with a higher proportion of people of color than the relatively affluent hills. Less than three percent of pedestrian fatalities in the 2000s occurred in the hills (the most recent in 2005). You can see data for 2001-2009 on Transportation for America’s site.

Seniors are also disproportionately likely to die in a crosswalk. Nationally, people over 65 make up 22 percent of pedestrian fatalities but only 13 percent of the population. In Oakland, the risk inequality is more exaggerated: seniors account for 26 percent of pedestrian fatalities but only 11 percent of the population.

The higher mortality rate of seniors is partially attributed to older bodies’ difficulty recovering from serious injuries. Seniors are more susceptible to short crossing times and unprotected crosswalks, but several design elements that protect seniors, such as “count down” crossing signals and mid-street refuges, actually make streets safer for everyone.

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Scenes from Oakland’s Bike Away From Work Party

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A well-trained passenger arrives in Old Oakland.

Oakland’s official Bike to Work Day after-party kicked into high gear in Old Oakland last night. Over 600 people converged to dance, eat, drink, mingle, and just take in the atmosphere from the middle of the street.

“We saw people of all ages out enjoying bicycle carnival rides, great local food, and the company of our vibrant East Bay cycling community,” said Renee Rivera, executive director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC), which spearheaded the event. “I look forward to the event growing into an Oakland institution as more and more people bike everyday here in the East Bay.”

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Walk Oakland Bike Oakland executive director Kassie Rohrbach and EBBC executive director Renee Rivera draw raffle winners.

Raffle drawings and award presentations punctuated the ceremony.

The EBBC recognized this year’s Bike-Friendly Businesses, Clif Bar, Sun Light & Power, and Alta Planning & Design, for taking that extra step to motivate their employees to ride to work.

“I wish we could make 30 awards instead of three,” lamented Rivera. “So many businesses in the East Bay realize that cycling to work makes their employees healthier, happier, and more productive.”

Berkeley Assemblymember Nancy Skinner presented Alameda County’s Bike Commuter of the Year award to sixth grader Jason Hollick, already a successful cycling advocate among his friends and family.

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Record-breaking 10,000 People Biked to Work in Alameda County Today

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Gloria Bruce, WOBO board president, at the Rally for Bikeways

Bike to Work Day is underway in Alameda County, and this year’s riders already broke last year’s record by 12.3 percent.

The Cities of Emeryville and Berkeley saw the largest increases, with 15 and 14 percent increases respectively. At one point, a quarter of street traffic at Sproul Plaza in the heart of Downtown Berkeley was bicycles.

Even Oakland, with a mere eight percent increase, set a new city record for its Bike to Work Day turnout.

The East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC) organized 79 energizer stations throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The stations dotted major corridors and destinations, offering a place for cyclists to stock up on coffee, snacks, tote bags of coupons and maps, and information about local bicycle organizations. Several stations adopted themes to give their patrons an extra boost of energy and excitement on their commute.

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Oakland Hopes to Approve City’s First Parklet by September

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Photo: Actual Cafe's temporary parklet on PARK(ing) Day 2010 could be a real parklet by PARK(ing) Day 2011.

Just over one year after San Francisco’s first parklet was installed outside Mojo Cafe, East Bay streets are conspicuously lacking these popular islands of livable public space. That’s about to change.

This week, Oakland is expected to take the first step toward bringing parklets to the sunny side of the Bay, convening a special cross-department city task force on Thursday. Its mission is to draft a new ordinance that would allow Oakland to permit parklets as a unique type of encroachment.

“We had a lot of staff members who all thought it was a great idea, and they got together to figure out how to do it,” explained Eric Angstadt, deputy director of Oakland’s Planning and Zoning Division.

Representatives of several departments were invited, including Building Services, Planning, Parks and Recreation, and Police, but the heavy lifting, according to Angstadt, will likely come from the Community and Economic Development (CEDA) and Public Works agencies.

The group’s leadership intends to present a draft ordinance to the City Council before the council’s summer recess at the end of July. The Oakland City Council requires at least two months to “agendize” items, a deadline that is less than three weeks away. Angstadt is optimistic that the staff’s personal interest in seeing parklets come to Oakland will motivate the process to keep a brisk pace.

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AC Transit Riders Fight For Their Right to Ride, 55 Years After Montgomery

Colin Miller of Urban Habitat holds up gravestones in memory of bus lines that have been cut. Photo: Reginald James

Colin Miller of Urban Habitat holds up gravestones in memory of bus lines that have been cut. Photo: Reginald James

Editor’s note: This story is being re-published from Race, Poverty and the Environment, a magazine produced by the social and environmental justice non-profit, Urban Habitat.

Fifty-five years to the month after the start of the Montgomery bus boycott, people of color can sit wherever they want on the bus—when and if one arrives. Bus operators all over the country are slashing routes in response to deepening deficits. This loss of service denies people who depend on transit their civil rights in deep, daily, grinding, unmistakable ways.

Bus riders in Oakland and throughout western Alameda and Contra Costa Counties have lost nearly 15 percent of their AC Transit routes in 2010. Deeper cuts were forestalled by the drivers’ union, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 192, which refused to agree to a new contract unless the agency postponed further service reductions for at least three months. Now it looks like those cuts will be back on the table in January, and riders and drivers plan to protest at tomorrow’s AC Transit meeting.

“We are the heart throb of this city,” AC Transit driver Lorenzo Jacobs said, speaking at a May 2010 public hearing against the cuts. “When you start cutting service, you’re cutting opportunities out there for people who are doing whatever they’re doing in their lives. When you cut lines, you’re affecting people’s lives, their everyday lives,” he said.

The service cuts directly impact Oakland youth, who need AC Transit to get to school because the district doesn’t run yellow school buses; they hurt seniors and people with disabilities who can’t drive, and low-income families who can’t afford cars. Lack of mobility cuts off opportunities for work and education, enforces inequality and persistent segregation. African-Americans and Latinos are far less likely than whites to own cars. Nationally, around 62 percent of city bus riders are African American and Latino. Nearly 80 percent of AC Transit riders are people of color.

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StreetFilms 7 Comments

Streetfilms: Thousands Play in Oakland’s Streets at First-Ever ‘Oaklavia’

On Sunday, June 27th, downtown Oakland opened two miles of its streets to fun and activities—zumba dancing, circus arts, BMX bike competitions and performances from local musicians. Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) partnered with the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, Oaklandish, Oakland YMCA, Cycles of Change, and other civic organizations to create the East Bay's first “Sunday Streets” style event. Preparations are in the works for another Oaklavia in the near future. 

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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.

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The Nowtopian 9 Comments

Bridge the Gap!

bikes_small.jpgPhoto: Matthew Roth
As I climbed the steps out of the Lake Merritt BART station this morning I heard loud chanting. "Wow," I thought, "those bicyclists have really pulled out the troops!" But the demonstrators that greeted me across 8th Street in Oakland were pile drivers, iron workers, carpenters and other trades workers, chanting "Jobs for Oakland Now!" Not far from their boisterous demonstration in front of the main doors of the Joseph Brot Metro Center were a few cyclists showing their signs to passersby, "Bridge the Gap Now" "All the Way Across the Bay" and "Safety Path!" Across the street, Transform and Urban Habitat were also making their presence felt, opposing the Oakland Airport Connector that the building trades unionists were clamoring for.

Democracy in action, I suppose. Long-time bicycle advocates from the East Bay and San Francisco converged on this meeting, hoping to convince the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) to support using some of the new tolls ($5 on all bridges as of July 1, with $6 congestion pricing on the Bay Bridge during rush hour, and for the first time, a half-price toll for carpoolers) to fund a new west-span bicycle/pedestrian/maintenance/safety lane to make the bridge safer, and to finish the transbay route for bicyclists and pedestrians too, not just motorized vehicles. But that effort was bureaucratically sidetracked before this meeting even started.

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