Photo: City of Oakland

With parks and playgrounds closing and too many drivers speeding through neighborhoods, Oakland launched the nation’s most extensive COVID-related street campaign to date: 74 miles of slow streets. Four Oakland streets were traffic calmed starting April 11 with simple half barriers and minimal signage, to slow traffic and allow people to safely bike, walk, and roll in their own neighborhoods. Because neighbors enjoyed the calm and extra distance more than others, more outreach is needed for this experiment to succeed as it expands. 

Both Berkeley and Emeryville are converting all traffic lights to recall, so you don’t have to touch the pedestrian push buttons. San Francisco has closed Twin Peaks Blvd and Great Highway to traffic. Your city has similar opportunities to provide safer outdoor space. One size doesn’t fit all, and your feedback on what could work for your neighborhood is crucial. Bike East Bay is already working with some cities.You can help by familiarizing yourself with options, connecting with your local advocacy leaders, and asking your city to take action.

We recognize city staff, like many of us, feel overtaxed during this time. Many have had to become disaster response personnel overnight, tackling jobs in a new way, from home, with family and children to manage, all while seeking to reduce the spread of and possible exposure to COVID-19. 

However, there are several, low-impact things that can be done to make neighborhood outdoor space more safe. Quick street interventions can provide an immediate benefit in tough times, while not overly burdening staff. Two of the quickest asks are for cities to: promote slow, responsible driving, and convert pedestrian push buttons to recall.

Additionally, cities can: 

  • Widen sidewalks with cones where pedestrians need more space to physically distance
  • Traffic calm neighborhood streets like Oakland
  • Change key traffic lights to flashing red to reduce speeding
  • Contact gig companies to stop incentivizing speedy deliveries and drop offs
  • Quick-build bike lanes so that when the crisis recedes, people have options and some who are able don’t have to drive 

What would work in your neighborhood? Please share with your local advocacy leaders and city council members, and copy: [email protected] – we are here to help.

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