The “Oaklavia” celebration was modeled after Sunday Streets events that have become a fixture in nearby San Francisco; and while Oakland’s was the first in three years, planners expect many more to come.
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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.
Unlike previous months, Mayor Gavin Newsom even chimed in this week with accolades, urging people to get out and enjoy streets opened up to people and closed to car traffic.
“Sunday Streets has become a great way for families from all over the Bay Area to enjoy our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Newsom. “It has also become a national model for creating a safe, fun, car-free place for people to get out and get active.”
This Sunday's event will also see a special hockey demonstration by the San Jose Sharks at Harrison St. between 18th and 19th Streets, and a free noontime circus performance by Circus Bella in the O’Connell High School lot Harrison at 20th.
For program information, go to sundystreetssf.com.
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.
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
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.
Oaklavia is a project of WalkOaklandBikeOakland
(WOBO). Founded in 2006, and claiming fewer than 300 paid members (but
more than 2000 followers on Facebook and Twitter), WOBO is like
Oakland: scrappy and creative with a kids-lets-put-on-a-show
"Those of us organizing Oaklavia have some very deep roots in Oakland and that Oakland outlook will make our event similar and different to San Francisco Sunday Streets," said Karen Hester, Oaklavia's coordinator. "We have emphasized our urban architecture and activities along the route, especially those that are associated with the creativity of artists and cultural workers in the East Bay."
Oaklavia organizers are also managing the event without breaking the bank.