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Posts from the "Walk Oakland Bike Oakland" Category

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Oakland Planning Director Cuts Off Latham Square Pilot, Lets Cars Back In

Photo: Laura McCamy

The crowning achievement for Oakland’s new planning and building director so far might be ensuring that cars are being driven through the Latham Square pilot plaza once again.

The Latham Square pilot was supposed to last for six months, but after just six weeks, the widely-lauded, one-block plaza at the foot of Telegraph Avenue is no longer car-free. “The pilot program of having the pedestrian-only area was cut short and one southbound lane was reopened to cars without any warning to pedestrians,” said Jonathan Bair, board president of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland. The current configuration leaves some reclaimed pedestrian space in the middle of the street, but it is no longer connected to the sidewalk. Now the City Council will consider whether to keep it that way.

Rachel Flynn became Oakland's planning and building director in March. Photo: SF Business Times

Oakland Planning and Building Director Rachel Flynn told Streetsblog the car-free pilot had been given enough time, and that “there’s only so many people that are going to come into Oakland at this time.”

“If all you’re doing is blocking off the vehicles but not increasing the bikes and pedestrians, are you achieving your goal?” said Flynn. When asked for data on Latham Square’s use, she said, “We don’t know how to measure pedestrian and bicycle activity.”

“It’s not like we’ve seen hundreds of new bikes there, while we’ve seen hundreds of vehicles not going to this area.”

Flynn came to Oakland in March, having previously worked at a planning firm based in Abu Dhabi, following a stint as planning director of Richmond, Virginia, in 2011.

Oakland Planning staff will present a proposal to the City Council later this month for a permanent plaza design that includes two-way car traffic on Telegraph. The plan, which has not been released to the public yet, would expand the current sidewalk space from 2,500 to 9,000 square feet, but leave Latham Square bisected by lanes of motor traffic.

When it was proposed, the pilot plaza project was touted as an effort to emulate the success of on-street plaza projects implemented in New York City and San Francisco.

“The purpose of the plaza is to establish safer traffic patterns,” said Sarah Filley of Popuphood, which curates vending spots on Latham Square. “By opening up both of the traffic lanes, you’re not prototyping anything. You’ve just added a nicer median.”

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With Help From Mayor Quan, Oaklavia Returns With a Bang

When Walk Oakland Bike Oakland hosted the city’s first Ciclovia-style event in downtown Oakland in 2010, onerous city fees meant plans for a second Oaklavia that year proved too ambitious for the small organization. “We thought we wouldn’t be able to do it again,” said Jonathan Bair, WOBO’s Board President.

Three years later, the city brought Oaklavia back, closing the streets around Lake Merritt to cars yesterday and opening them up for people. This time, organizers estimate 10,000 to 15,000 people turned out, compared to the 4,000 at the 2010 event.

Key to the event’s success this year, advocates said, was the newfound support from Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. Since she took office in 2011, Quan has championed open streets events as well recently-completed renovations at Lake Merritt. To celebrate the lake improvements, yesterday’s Oaklavia was tied with a festival called Love Our Lake Day.

“This was the transformative moment for Oakland,” said East Bay Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Renee Rivera, who invited Quan to visit Sunday Streets in the Mission in June of 2012. ”Mayor Quan came back from that event with a clear understanding of why Sunday Streets would be great for Oakland and an appreciation for the work and investment it takes to make it happen,” she said.

Quan told Streetsblog that Oaklavia “is part of my overall economic development plan,” and promised another Oaklavia in Fruitvale this fall. “I want to do these bicycle/walking events in different parts of the city and introduce people to different neighborhoods,” she said.

On the wide streets circling Lake Merritt, yesterday’s Oaklavia seemed akin to the Sunday Streets events held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Walkers mostly chose to stroll on the new pathway near the water, while the roads provided lots of room for bicyclists to move freely. The route was longer than that of the first Oaklavia — 3.3 miles vs. 2.4 miles – and acres of adjacent grassy areas and pathways gave room for people to spread out.

Skaters, bicyclists, and walkers came from Chinatown, East Oakland, and Grand Lake, and from as far as San Francisco and San Mateo. But the ethnic diversity on the streets gave the event a definitively Oakland feel.

If there was any shortcoming, it was the fact that only one side of the roadway was closed to traffic, which may have kept some people on the sidewalk, said WOBO board member Chris Hwang. “To not have [the street] fully closed is a shame,” she said.

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East Bay’s Record-Breaking Bike to Work Day: Ten Mayors, 17,000 People

In Oakland, Mayor Jean Quan and Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente arrive to work by bike. Photos: Ruth Miller

Bike to Work Day in the East Bay broke records once again yesterday, with ten mayors, dozens of council members, and over 17,000 participants riding — an overall 22 percent increase across the East Bay. The record-breaking number of elected officials riding in included the mayors of Albany, Berkeley, Piedmont, Dublin, Fremont, Emeryville, Hayward, Richmond, and Union City.

Piedmont Mayor John Chaing and Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka at the festivities in Oakland.

“It’s great to see so many of our local elected officials out riding on Bike to Work Day and setting an example,” said Renee Rivera, executive director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC). “They understand the benefits of bike commuting, and they’ve directed city resources to help make bicycling viable as an everyday means of transportation.”

The largest ridership increase was seen in Pleasanton at 40 percent more than last year, followed by Alameda at 29 percent and Emeryville at 17 percent. In Berkeley, more bicycles than cars passed by lower Sproul Plaza for the first time yesterday morning, according to the EBBC. “This a doubling of bike mode share at Cal,” the EBBC wrote on its website, noting that Berkeley has the country’s fourth-highest bike mode share at 8 percent, according to the American Commute Survey.

Oakland has the eighth-largest Bike to Work Day in the United States, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking. The free pancake breakfast in front of Oakland City Hall yesterday drew over 600 people who were greeted with free valet bicycle parking and tote bags before mingling and enjoying breakfast in the sunshine.

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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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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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East Bay Regional Parks Gets $10 Million TIGER Grant for Bike and Ped Trails

Image: East Bay Parks District

The purple lines are the new trails that will be built. Image: East Bay Regional Park District. Click to enlarge.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced $600 million dollars in TIGER II grants today and the only project in Northern California to make the cut was the East Bay Regional Park District’s proposal to fill in seven key gaps on the 200-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail system that runs across Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

“We’re really happy,” said Jim Townsend, the trails development program manager for the park district. “We think that this is going to go a long way toward advancing bicycling and walking as legitimate transportation modes, not only in the region but nationwide.”

The district’s Green Transportation Initiative will get $10.2 million from U.S. DOT for gap closures along the Bay Trail in Hercules, Berkeley, Albany, Union City and Martinez. It will help to build out the East Bay Greenway in Oakland, extend the Iron Horse Trail in Pleasanton and Dublin through the Hacienda Business Park and a planned transit-oriented development, and reconnect Brentwood and Antioch along the Mokelumne Trail in eastern Contra Costa County, a path that was severed by the new Highway 4 bypass.  All the trails will feature Class I separated bike paths.

In its application [pdf], the district pointed out that Alamada and Contra Costa counties are home to some of the most congested roads and highways in the country. With the East Bay’s population expected to double over the next three decades, filling in the missing links along these trails will make it easier for people to bike or walk to work or school in areas where the infrastructure has kept them stuck in their cars.

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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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Statistics Alone Paint an Incomplete Picture of Women and Bicycles

"I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can't get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood."  -- Susan B. Anthony, 1896.

According to the statistics, there is a dramatic imbalance in bike riding along gender lines, with men using the bicycle as a primary means of transportation at a rate more than double that for women. 

Data from the 2008 US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found that 2.7 percent of San Francisco's population commutes to work by bike. The survey reports that 3.7 percent of men ride to work, while only 1.6 percent of women do. A 2009 study in Scientific American found that men's cycling trips surpass women's by at least 2:1. In the competitive arena, 87 percent of competitive cyclists are male, according to 2009's active member demographic conducted by USA Cycling. 

These bicycle commute numbers also skew pretty far from commute rates by other modes. As noted in a Transportation Research Board survey by Susan Handy, a professor of environmental science at the University of California, Davis, "82 percent of the bicycle commuters were men and 21 percent were students, compared to 54 percent and 11 percent of all commuters, respectively." 

So what do these numbers mean about bicycling in the Bay Area?

Many researchers, including Handy, believe the presence of women on bicycles is an important indicator of how bike-friendly a city is. Research shows the better a city's bike infrastructure, the more commuters there are, including more women, seniors, riders with special needs and children. 

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