5/22/20: Oakland Slow Streets Continues Adapting to Residents’ Needs, Launches First “Essential Places” Installation in East Oakland

Posted: May 22nd, 2020 8:08 AM

Last Updated: May 22nd, 2020 8:59 AM

Example photo of Slow Streets: Essential Places installation

Program is evolving to respond to community–identified transportation needs during COVID-19

Slow Streets: Essential Places to support residents’ safe access to essential services such as grocery stores, food distribution sites and COVID-19 test sites; additional improvements also underway

Oakland, CA – The City of Oakland announced today a new tool in the Oakland Slow Streets toolbox: Essential Places, where Slow Streets’ temporary traffic safety improvements will be installed to enable safer access for residents to the essential services in their neighborhood – including grocery stores, food distribution sites in public facilities, and COVID-19 test sites.

The first installation was unveiled Friday morning at the intersection of Bancroft and Avenal avenues, near a neighborhood grocery store. This intersection is along the City’s High Injury Network, just 6% of city streets that account for over 60% of severe and fatal traffic crashes. The improvements are intended to immediately reduce the risk of traffic crashes by installing traffic cones and signage to create a new median, and upgrading crosswalks and signage. In addition, the program signs also double as COVID-19 service signs, with messages about testing and other services.

“This adaptation to our Slow Streets program shows that we’re not only acting swiftly to meet urgent COVID-19 transportation and health needs of our highest risk communities, but we’re also listening and adjusting,” said Mayor Schaaf. “We’re not afraid to try new things and learn from both the positive feedback and the critiques.”

This new iteration of Slow Streets is driven by community feedback and advocacy, especially from East Oaklanders. While the Oakland Slow Streets program overall continues to receive overwhelming support among community survey respondents, those responding to surveys are more likely to be white, have high incomes and live in North Oakland. Data from Alameda County Public Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard indicates that East Oaklanders and people of color are more likely to suffer harm from this pandemic. The City of Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT) has prioritized collaborative meetings and discussions with community groups, especially those representing residents in East Oakland.

In these conversations, staff heard concerns focused on traffic safety and speeding, particularly in East Oakland, and set out to work on developing new strategies that address these pressing concerns to meet the transportation needs of our most vulnerable residents. The City is committed to iterating COVID-19-related transportation solutions quickly and nimbly to ensure we’re supporting residents during these challenging times.

“The voice of our East Oakland Community has been heard and is clearly reflected in the new approach,” said Councilmember Loren Taylor, who represents District 6, where Friday’s installation occurred. “I am appreciative of our city staff who listened to the specific needs of District 6 residents and created a thoughtful Slow Streets program that will help protect our residents and give them safer spaces to walk, bike, and enjoy their neighborhoods while sheltering in place and social distancing.”

"Safety is foundational to equity and our new Essential Places treatment is focused on slowing traffic on our larger streets, making sure those at most risk to COVID-19 and other negative health outcomes will feel less stress and be less at risk of being injured in a traffic collision while accessing essential services," said OakDOT Director Ryan Russo.

“The pandemic is revealing the vast inequities and divides in our country, including in Oakland," said John Jones III, Just Cities' Director of Community and Political Engagement. "The City's Slow Streets program, while well-intended, was having negative impacts in East Oakland neighborhoods. To OakDOT's credit, they authentically listened to East Oakland leaders like myself, and most of all, pivoted and changed their approach in East Oakland. We look forward to the potential of working with OakDOT to ensure that the Slow Streets program works for all of Oakland."

In addition to the unveiling of the new Slow Streets: Essential Places program, the City announced the following program updates intended to keep Oaklanders safe and healthy this holiday weekend:

  • Increasing the frequency of signage along existing Slow Streets corridors in East Oakland, including the Plymouth/Arthur and Brookdale corridors (this is also in response to feedback we heard from East Oaklanders)
  • A community meeting to be hosted on Tuesday night 5/26 to discuss opportunities for a comprehensive Slow Streets Corridor on Ney Avenue, addressing both traffic safety and personal safety in partnership with the City Councilmember's Office.
  • A new Slow Street installation to support physical distancing near Lake Merritt on Bellevue Ave (Perkins St to Grand Ave), Ellita Ave (Bellevue Ave to Grand Ave), and Staten Ave (Bellevue Ave to Grand Ave)
  • Interactive map to participate in suggesting new streets and inviting the public to share preferences regarding existing and proposed routes: http://arcg.is/184a99
  • Survey on Slow Streets Program: https://tinyurl.com/oaklandslowstreets (or contact OAK311 via phone)
  • Dashboard of Survey Responses: https://tinyurl.com/oaklandslowstreetssurveyresult

Next steps for the Slow Streets: Essential Places program

The City looks forward to hearing feedback on the first Slow Streets: Essential Places prototype to determine whether and how to expand this effort. Staff are evaluating future locations by identifying essential services (grocery stores, food distribution sites, and COVID-19 testing sites) that overlay with the City’s High Injury Network and the highest-priority neighborhoods according to equity indicators such as race and income. Staff will continue evaluating additional locations using these criteria and community feedback. In addition, the City is exploring other opportunities to share COVID-19 resources for these same communities that are in the greatest need for services.

The City launched the Oakland Slow Streets program on April 10 to support physically distant essential travel on foot, wheelchair, and bicycle. With over 20 miles of soft closures on 18 routes throughout the City, we’re encouraging using Slow Streets as a way of moving outside as we enter the three day Memorial Day weekend. We are also continuing to invite the public to inform the future of this program and transparently report back what we’re hearing:

Oakland Slow Streets is intended to promote physical distancing of at least 6 feet by creating new low-traffic, low speed streets and intersections to allow residents to safely pass one another and access essential services. Social gatherings on these streets are prohibited. The Alameda County Public Health Department recommends that residents wear face masks while in public. All users over 12 years old should wear or carry face masks and use them when within 6 feet of others, even when walking, jogging and bicycling. The City of Oakland will continue to monitor CDC guidance on outdoor recreation, transportation, and physical distancing, and will adjust this program as needed.

To provide general feedback about how this program can best serve your neighborhood, please contact OAK311 by dialing 311 or 510-615-5566, e-mailing OAK311@staging.oaklandca.gov, going online to 311.staging.oaklandca.gov, or using the free OAK311 mobile app for Apple and Android devices. You can also post on social media using the #OaklandSlowStreets hashtag.

For additional program information and the interactive location map, please visit: https://www.staging.oaklandca.gov/projects/oakland-slow-streets

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