Lots of bikes

Oakland’s Bicycle Plan

By Jerry Barclay

Bike riders before rental bikes

When I was a kid growing up in San Bruno I loved riding bikes.  It started with a tricycle.  Then a two- wheeler with the mandatory training wheels.  My family moved from the flatlands to a new development in the hills when I was six.  The long steep hills put bike riding on hold for a while.  I lobbied for a 10-speed bike and was finally rewarded.  At first, I had to push it up the hills, but started making progress peddling up with practice and physical maturity.  It was wonderful!  So much fun.  Such freedom!  Such exhilaration flying down those hills!  Friends and I rode all the time including across the Golden Gate bridge from San Bruno.  My bike moved to Berkeley with me when I started at Cal in the Fall of 1970, and it was my only form of transportation for the next couple of years.  A summer job at the produce market in San Francisco required a car, and after the second theft of my bike, times changed.

1970s Earth Day Poster
“Earth day, 1970s” by umseas is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

In 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, there were few, if any, bike routes in the Bay Area.  Bicycle advocates began organizing and worked hard to establish recognition of the value and importance of bicycles as transportation, not just recreation.  Berkeley, Palo Alto, and San Francisco led the way in the Bay Area introducing bike lanes in City environments.  But the bicycle movement was also happening across the country.  Bike advocates and coalitions have gained great influence in transportation policy making – from the federal government to local municipalities.  By example, The League of American Bicyclists, with roots back to 1880, claims 200,000 members and supporters, and actively lobbies federal and state agencies to fund infrastructure improvements and various programs promoting bike safety and education across the country.  Congress has approved several billion dollars in funding for bike infrastructure and related programs over the last several years.  As part of the evolution of bicycle advocacy and policies “Equity” has become an important consideration within the vision or mission statements of several national bicycle organizations, local coalitions, and municipal transportation agencies.

The original City of Oakland Bike Plan was created in 2007. On July 11, 2019, the City of Oakland Department of Transportation (OakDOT) announced the City Council approval and adoption of the 2019 Oakland Bike Plan – “Let’s Bike Oakland” – “a partnership with the community that used new outreach and engagement strategies to develop a plan reflective of all Oaklanders.” This Plan presented a major upgrade and milestone.  It is an impressive plan and document – thorough, very well-produced, and a substantial 152 pages. For a shorter read, see the press release.

Bike plan cover

The Plan’s Vision statement:  “Oakland will be a bicycle-friendly city where bicycling provides affordable, safe, and healthy mobility for all Oaklanders.  New projects and programs will work to enhance existing communities and their mobility needs”

A key objective of the Plan is to focus on disadvantaged groups:

  • People of color
  • Women
  • People of no- and low-income
  • People with limited English proficiency
  • People with disabilities
  • Children and seniors
  • Single parents
  • People who don’t own cars or do not drive

With this in mind the Plan highlights four “Goals”:

  1.  Access:  “Support increased access to neighborhood destinations such as grocery stores, libraries, schools, recreation centers, bus stops, and BART.  Improving access is embedded in Plan.”
  2. Health & Safety:  “Empower Oaklanders to live a more active lifestyle by providing a network of safe and comfortable bikeways for everyone to enjoy.”
  3. Affordability:  “Work to reduce the burden of household transportation costs.”
  4. Collaboration:  “foster an increased role for the community in the planning process and improve trust that the City will fulfill its promises.”

The Plan documents significant community outreach and involvement.  With input from the City Council, OakDOT contracted with five “Community Partners” organizations who “work with Oakland adults and youth, particularly communities of color within East and West Oakland.”  According to the Plan:  3,644 people were engaged in person via “mobile workshops” and community events; 576 OakDOT staff hours were invested within the community; over 2,300 comments were received regarding “bike plan web maps” providing input as to where respondents ride bikes and where they want to bike more safely; and at the time of publication there were 1,351 subscribers to the Oakland Bike Plan mailing list.  Obviously, that is a lot of time and resource investment, as reflected in the final product.

Included within Next Steps/ Principles of Community Collaboration for implementation of the Plan, the plan states, “Identify and contact existing residents, employees, business and property owners, neighbors, and other stakeholders.”  In the creation and context of the entire Plan, however, business stakeholder input seems to have been given significantly less consideration.

Bicycle advocacy and supportive policies are now thoroughly integrated in the City of Oakland’s governing and administration.  OakDOT has a Bicycle and Pedestrian Program (its website identifies eight staff members) that publishes a biannual Bike Oakland Newsletter, which reports progress implementing Oakland’s Bike Plan.  The Program’s staff also provide support to the City’s Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC), whose purpose is to “advise City Council and City of Oakland staff on bicyclist and pedestrian-specific policies, projects, and programs, and to advocate for safe, effective and equitable bicycle and pedestrian projects and programs throughout Oakland.”  Its nine members are appointed by the City Council for 3-year terms.  BPAC has several committees and serves as a liaison to several City departments and commissions.  It meets on the 3rd Thursday of the month from 6-8 pm in City Hall, Hearing Room 4, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza (open to the public).

Bicycle advocates are passionate about their vision and collective mission for bicycle travel as an alternative to vehicular travel.  Their efforts have resulted in demonstrative success.  However, as bike route expansions and upgrades penetrate business corridors, such as Grand Avenue, conflicts with business owners – and their customers – are becoming contentious issues as reported in this and other publications within the Bay Area.  The Oakland 2019 Bike Plan identifies Grand Avenue as a “Visionary Priority Project.”  In the Plan, Lakeshore Avenue is shown to receive similar treatments as are proposed for Grand Avenue. 

The question is, will our community and its small businesses be able to identify and support solutions with OakDOT that will be reasonably acceptable to all conflicting stakeholder interests?

By jerry barclay

Jerry Barclay headshot

Jerry Barclay is a graduate in architecture from UC Berkeley. After a long career in construction and real estate development – which included the redevelopment of Old Oakland, construction of Stern Grove, and a management role for the Christ the Light Cathedra – he is now happily retired from Intuit where he oversaw the company’s expansion of its HQ and global workplaces. Jerry served as the Chair of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee for the Grand Lake Farmers Market for fourteen years.  He and his wife Caryn have lived in the Grand Lake Neighborhood since 1983.



4 responses to “Oakland’s Bicycle Plan”

  1. […] separated bike lanes, which would decrease parking and vehicle lanes (see articles in the April and May SPN editions for further […]

  2. Jerry Barclay Avatar
    Jerry Barclay

    You may have meant to say OakDOT, not Oaklandside. The plan is the City of Oakland’s Bike Plan 2019.

  3. Roland Ernest Lazzarotto Avatar
    Roland Ernest Lazzarotto

    My life has paralled Jerry Barclay’s in many ways. Started at CAL in 1970 in architecture. Had a bike stolen in Berkeley. Practiced architecture for 50 years and moved to the Grand Lake area in 1985.
    Plan to attend the Thursday city meetings.
    I hope that future bike transit improvements don’t have as much negative impact as the Grand Avenue changes have had.

  4. Daniel erwin Avatar
    Daniel erwin

    I hadn’t heard of this plan from Oaklandside, thank you so much for sharing! Looking forward to seeing what happens when we start encouraging residents to bike – how much will it take to get that self-reinforcing cycle of investment and support for bikes?

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