Big bikes, small bikes, kid’s bikes and tall bikes — they were all out in force on Sunday. It was Oakland’s first Oaklavía—an event that closed down the Broadway corridor, from Grand Avenue to Jack London Square, to all cars. Bikes, pedestrians, unicyclists and rollerbladers cruised up and down the street checking out the booths and activities on the sidewalks.
Oaklavía was put together by Walk Oakland Bike Oakland which partnered with the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, Oaklandish, Oakland YMCA, Cycles of Change, and other Oakland organizations to create their version of San Francisco’s “Sunday Streets.” They hired a production crew and worked with the Oakland Police Department to come up with the best way to block off the streets. “I’m so excited, it’s like a dream come true,” said Kassie Rohrbach, the executive director of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, as she watched people coast up and down Broadway. “Everything just feels so colorful in the street.”
Among the activities lining the street were a “Kids Bike Town,” which helped little ones learn how to ride bikes better, bands playing everything from hip-hop to jazz to rock, bubble blowing machines, hula-hooping classes, food carts, bicycle advocacy organizations and even a Michael Jackson-style dance class where anyone could join in and learn the famous “Thriller” dance.
A few elected officials showed up, including Alameda county supervisor Nate Miley and board members from AC Transit and BART. “I came to get to see this in action in Oakland,” said Bob Franklin, vice-president of the BART Board of Directors. “It’s great to run free in the streets.” Oaklavía also had support from the Oakland City Council.
Oaklavía is modeled on Ciclovía, which is a yearly festival where people take to the streets in Bogotá, Columbia. Ciclovía began in 1976 and now cities all over the world—including Cleveland, El Paso, Miami, Melbourne, Australia and Mexico City—have followed suit making their own car-free recreation events in city streets. The overall goal of these events is multi-fold; it’s to get people outdoors, show people there’s an alternative to cars, to foster community and also showcase local businesses.
The entire event cost $30,000, which, according to Rohrbach, was done on a shoestring budget. “San Francisco did two ‘Sunday Streets’ their first year and then did nine this year,” she said. “We’re hoping we’ll have a similar growth rate.” She plans to have the next Oaklavía in Fruitvale, and then possibly another one that stretches from Oakland to Berkeley on Telegraph Avenue. “I can’t wait to do the next one,” she said.
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