Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced Thursday that the city will be closing 10 percent of its roadways to vehicle traffic during the coronavirus lockdown in order to create more social-distancing space for people trying to stay fit and active. It's an emergency measure called “"Oakland Slow Streets," and will involve some 74 miles of streets — with enforcement efforts to be determined.
"Because of the reduction in car traffic we will be closing off a number of streets, so that bicyclists and pedestrians can spread out and exercise and take in fresh air safely," Schaaf said Thursday evening during a virtual town hall, per the East Bay Times. The move comes as the East Bay Regional Parks District has had to periodically close its parking lots due to overcrowding in the first weeks of the lockdown — though the district has vowed to keep the parks open.
The map below shows the city's existing and proposed bike routes, with the new ones in purple dots.
The Oakland Slow Streets project was led by City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, and the city's Department of Transportation helped create the plan, as the Chronicle reports.
As Alex McBride, the city’s chief resilience officer, explains the East Bay Times, parks make up about 11 percent of the land in Oakland, but streets and sidewalks make up 20 to 30 percent. "We’ve decided to take advantage of that resource,” he said, so that Oakland residents can have "more space to walk, bike and run safely through their own neighborhoods."
Update: Kaplan tweeted that roads aren't actually being completely closed, traffic is just being "restricted" on certain roads.
Thanks to everyone working on this. And, to clarify - roads are NOT being closed. The proposal is for slower streets, with limited motor vehicle traffic, and expanded space for pedestrians and people using wheelchairs and bicycles, to be able to get around with safe distancing. https://t.co/ZnnrFgLGxM— Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland Council President (@Kaplan4Oakland) April 10, 2020
A more detailed announcement about the plan is expected today, and it remains unclear how the measure will be policed.
This is by far the biggest traffic-quelling effort of its kind by a city during this pandemic, though Minneapolis and Denver have each closed around 10 miles of their streets in similar fashion.
Will San Francisco follow suit? According to the Chronicle, the city has rebuffed calls to close John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park over fears that it would lead to large gatherings of people. But if a wider-spread shutdown of streets occurred, maybe that would be less of a fear?