There’s a “culture shift” about bikes happening in the East Bay, Renee Rivera, the executive director of the advocacy group East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC), told a crowd gathered in Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall on Thursday to celebrate Bike to Work Day. More people are riding bikes and cities are committing more resources to improving bike accessibility—these changes are no more evident than on Bike to Work Day, she said.
“The city is really investing in better biking in Oakland, and that’s paying off with more people biking,” Rivera said, noting that the coalition has seen a 250 percent increase of people in the East Bay biking to work over the past four years. “Things are really shifting in the East Bay.”
Bike to Work Day is in its 19th year in the East Bay and is a statewide event to encourage people to use bikes to help improve their health and cut down on transportation-related pollution. On Thursday morning, the front of City Hall was crowded with bikes—EBBC had a free all-day bike valet parking station set up, and members were also doing safety check-ups on bikes. Dozens of people with bikes walked by booths from Oakland bike shops like Spoke Cyclery and Wheels of Justice, which were offering small repairs. Information booths were also set up by agencies like Caltrans, which was alerting bikers to a new path in Emeryville, and advocacy group Walk Oakland, Bike Oakland.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan rode in to downtown shortly after 8 am with a group that included Rivera. The group started their trip at the Eastmont Police Station at 7 am. The group had biked to Fruitvale BART station where they met up with Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (District 5) and then headed to City Hall. Quan said she started at Eastmont because as mayor, she wants to “figure out the bike lanes” of Oakland, noting she should probably begin her ride from North Oakland next year to learn about those lanes.
In her remarks to the group gathered on Thursday, Quan noted that the city completed the construction of its 100th mile of bike lanes this year, and the Oakland City Council approved the installation of? new bike lanes for East 12th Street near Lake Merritt. She also encouraged people to eliminate at least one car trip a week to help the city meet its gas emissions goal, part of its climate action plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse emissions 36 percent below the 2005 level by 2020. “Biking is the easiest way to do that,” she said.
Quan said there is more work to be done, including building more bike lanes and possibly having the city provide free loaner bikes at major transit stations or intersections that could be ridden and then dropped off at the next one. “We’ve been talking about locations where that could possibly be, particularly BART stations,” Quan said.
The 19th Street BART station will soon be getting a bike station, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (At-large) announced to the crowd. Kaplan said the city has secured a grant that will cover at least 80 percent of the cost to open the station, which will be housed in vacant retail space and where people will be able to valet park their bikes. Quan invited nonprofit bike companies or companies that sell bike products and would be interested in sharing the space to contact her office.
Kaplan said that the idea for the station came about because of Oakland’s “large and growing bicycle population” and was inspired by similar projects other cities, like Berkeley which has a staffed bike station downtown. Kaplan said she’s hoping the station will be opened by Bike to Work Day next year.
“It was growing to the point that in Uptown, there are actually more people looking to park bikes than there are places to put them,” Kaplan said. “And also, people want to leave their bike in a place where they know it will be safe.”
Christina Morales, who works for the city’s housing and community development office, was in line to get her bike checked out at the EBBC stand and then park it there for the rest of the day. Morales said she rides her bike to work regularly anyway, but was still excited to celebrate and promote biking.
“It’s a lot of fun—the camaraderie of people and their bicycles, getting out and getting some exercise and fresh air, and not polluting,” she said.