The Department of Transportation (OakDOT) is transitioning the Slow Streets – Essential Places Program in response to the ongoing and changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. OakDOT is redirecting staff efforts toward longer-term improvements for pedestrian safety at essential services, traffic calming on neighborhood streets, and neighbors' use of streets as community space. OakDOT removed temporary Slow Streets and Essential Places materials, including the temporary street and lane closures, in late January/early February 2022.
Members of the public may continue to submit comments on the Slow Streets Essential Places Program to the City of Oakland 311.
Phase 3 of Slow Streets - Essential Places is advancing three strategies:
- Expand Essential Places by prioritizing pedestrian safety improvements at essential services that our residents, particularly the most vulnerable, rely on. Use temporary materials for rapid installation and continue systematically upgrading these locations to permanent treatments (like concrete pedestrian safety islands).
- Implement permanent Slow Streets through the City’s Capital Improvement Program, the Five Year Paving Plan, and the planning-to-date for Neighborhood Bike Routes (also known as bike boulevards). Develop a network of Slow Streets that serves pedestrians, bicyclists, and micro-mobility users, and advances these streets as community resources. Proactively address nearby residents’ concerns for diverted traffic through planning, outreach, and context-sensitive design.
- Support neighbors’ use of streets as community space by advancing opportunities for Pop-up Slow Streets. OakDOT is participating in developing proposed improvements to the special events permit process in support of neighborhood block parties. OakDOT envisions "Pop-Up Slow Streets" as a way for residents to use their streets as community space by experimenting with temporary street closures.
At the outset of the pandemic, from April to July 2020, OakDOT closed 21 miles of neighborhood streets in support of shelter-in-place and made pedestrian safety improvements at 15 locations providing essential services – health clinics, food distribution hubs, testing sites, and grocery stores. This was followed by an evaluation period and the understanding in late 2020 that the pandemic would define a significant portion of 2021. To improve the sustainability of the program, OakDOT made adjustments at specific locations and moved towards more durable materials. More adjustments were made in response to increased traffic in summer 2021 with the California reopening and children returning to school. Simultaneously, the use of Slow Streets decreased with the end of shelter-in-place and with the reopening of parks, schools, and commercial establishments. In 2022 OakDOT will advance the three strategies described above in ongoing pursuit of the joy and refuge that Slow Streets brought to people and families in the early months of the pandemic, and institutionalizing lessons learned as we continue to innovate and adapt to meet the needs of Oaklanders.
The City of Oakland Slow Streets Program was launched in April 2020 as part of the City’s Covid-19 response. It was intended to support safe physical activity and alleviate overcrowding in parks and on trails by discouraging through traffic on certain local streets.
Phase 1 - Implementation: The program was rolled out over a period of three months. “Soft closure” barriers were installed to support the use of over 21 street miles throughout the city for physically distant walking, wheelchair rolling, jogging, and biking.
Another phase of the program, Slow Streets: Essential Places, was launched in May 2020, which installed intersection improvements at 15 locations to support residents’ safe access to essential services such as grocery stores, food distribution sites, and Covid-19 test sites. The City then worked to improve the design and materials used at these locations to provide better protection for pedestrians.
In fall of 2020, the City received a grant from Smart Growth America to work with artist Jonathan Brumfield to pilot a solution for more aesthetically pleasing, sturdy Oakland Slow Streets barricades that better reflect East Oakland culture and still support safe distancing while traveling and exercising during the pandemic. Brumfield, in partnership with East Oakland residents, built a set of four barricade planters and a set of corresponding culturally-relevant signage.
Phase 2 - Program Evaluation and Context Specific Changes: Beginning in October 2020, OakDOT made location-specific changes in recognition that Slow Streets corridors were not working the same in every neighborhood. One corridor was evaluated and modified based on feedback from the neighborhood group that OakDOT had partnered with to implement the Slow Street. For some other corridors, surveys were sent to every resident/business to solicit feedback on that specific corridor. The resulting modifications included Slow Streets signage and barricades being upgraded to more durable materials and the installation of additional treatments at major cross-streets. With the reopening of schools in summer 2021, OakDOT removed some Slow Streets barricades at specific school locations in response to requests from those schools and to allow for AC Transit to resume its school bus routes. Additionally, OakDOT replaced barricades and signs with more durable materials in spot locations to reduce the overall maintenance needed to sustain the program. A summary of modifications is available here.