Oakland Slow Streets Enters Phase 2: Expanding Safe Travel Access to Needed COVID-19 Services, Strengthening Engagement in Less-Used Corridors, Maintaining Program Throughout Shelter-in-Place

Posted: September 25th, 2020 10:50 AM

Last Updated: September 25th, 2020 10:53 AM

Example photo of Slow Streets: Essential Places installation

The City of Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT) announced today the release of an Interim Findings Report that takes a deep dive into the program’s successes and challenges with the two goals of: 1) evaluating and stabilizing the Slow Streets Program for the duration of the pandemic; and 2) gleaning insights to inform post-pandemic planning that advances safe and more livable streets that support healthy, thriving communities and a more equitable Oakland.

With a few months of Oakland Slow Streets in the ground, the City of Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT) has taken a step back to critically evaluate how the program is working. To date Oakland Slow Streets has installed 21.4 miles of Slow Streets Corridors and 15 Slow Streets Essential Places safety improvements, with priority given to addressing Oakland's inequitable distribution of resources and the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on Oakland's Latinx and Black communities.

“I am so proud of the hard work of OakDOT staff and community leaders, particularly in East Oakland, have provided to re-purpose our roadways to create Oakland’s Slow Streets,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said. “I’m grateful that these innovative and tireless public servants and community leaders have expanded Slow Streets, to Flex Streets for businesses, and Essential Places helping ensure safer access to the services our residents need most during this pandemic. Oakland is being recognized as a national model for how to partner with community to bring joy to our streets and build community - even during times of unprecedented challenges.”

“COVID-19 has presented challenges for Oakland communities across the board, and part of government’s job is to adapt to these challenges and prioritize serving those who are disproportionately affected,” OakDOT Director Ryan Russo said. “I am proud of the City staff who have been pushing the envelope with innovative new approaches to creating safer streets that support residents’ physical and mental health during COVID-19, and working to ensure these changes are designed in dialogue with communities government has long underserved. By bringing staff expertise and neighbors’ perspectives into ongoing collaboration, we can continue honing our work to meet our communities’ needs and live up to our values of equity, safety, sustainability and trust.”

The report includes a summary of how Slow Streets Corridors and Essential Places Program has adapted since it was launched in April to meet the needs of communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, particularly Deep East Oakland, and to address issues including deeper and more inclusive engagement, design and maintenance issues, and communications.

Among the key findings of the report:

  • Oakland Slow Streets created space for physical activity without impeding essential street functions.
  • Oakland Slow Streets received significant levels of positive support.
  • Support and use of Oakland Slow Streets varied by demographic and geographic group, with the highest levels of support from higher income, White, and North Oakland residents. Essential workers and Deep East Oakland residents shared that the program was not meeting their needs and felt the program conflicted with public health messaging. Oakland Slow Streets communications are not reaching enough Oaklanders.
  • Traffic safety is a more important transportation issue during COVID-19 than creating space for physical activity for many Oaklanders, especially those in -priority neighborhoods where telecommuting isn’t as prevalent.
  • Cones and barricades are not sustainable materials for implementing partial street closures for the duration of the pandemic due to maintenance and replacement materials costs.

The report also makes recommendations for continuing the program through Shelter-In-Place and beyond:

  • Evaluate existing Slow Street Corridors and make context-specific changes depending on feedback from the neighborhood
  • Continue the Slow Streets Corridors and Essential Places Program through the end of the Shelter-In-Place order
  • Channel the enthusiasm for Slow Streets into equitable and sustainable programs like pop-up Slow Streets and neighborhood-level traffic calming

OakDOT will refine and begin to advance these recommendations this Fall.

As noted previously, while the program overall continues to receive overwhelming support among the 950+ survey respondents thus far, those responding to these 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. Oakland Slow Streets staff developed the Survey Results Dashboard to provide transparency and accountability, and to support the ongoing work by the City and its community partners to seek participation and input from underrepresented Oaklanders.

Oakland Slow Streets launched on April 11 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, 21.2 miles of “soft closures” have been installed on 21 routes to support physical activity, physical distancing, and traffic safety in response to COVID-19.

The Slow Streets: Essential Places effort was launched on May 22 and installs temporary traffic safety improvements 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 – intended to immediately reduce the risk of traffic crashes. To date, 15 locations across the City have received installations, and the materials have been upgraded from cones to more durable posts to further enhance safety.

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 to read the Interim Findings Report, please visit: https://www.staging.oaklandca.gov/projects/oakland-slow-streets

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