I joined the Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) Board of Directors in January 2009. At the time, countries across the nation were embracing the “open-street” event known as Ciclovía, pioneered years ago in Bogotá, Columbia.
Across the Bay, San Francisco had launched it’s own car-free streets event, Sunday Streets. With so many scenic locales and vibrant neighborhoods, organizers within local bicycle/pedestrian advocacy circles began to wonder: When would Oakland join the burgeoning Open-Streets Movement?
I remember early WOBO meetings in which we discussed making this kind of event a reality. We pulled out maps and excitedly traced out the route that our imaginary event would follow. And that’s basically as far as it went until a year or so later. By then, we had Executive Director, Kassie Rohrbach and organizer extraordinaire, Karen Hester to help bring what would would eventually be called Oaklavía to life.
The hurdles WOBO faced were many. An event like this had never happened in Oakland before. Countless hours were spent organizing Oaklavía, with virtually no help from the City itself. The cost of the event quickly skyrocketed and attempts at fundraising were escalated. (I remember timidly asking my employer at the time, City CarShare, for a donation. I was overjoyed when they graciously agreed!)
Along the way, many things changed from the original plan. At the beginning, there were two events planned: an Oaklavía in Downtown Oakland in the Summer, followed by another in the fall, this time in the Fruitvale District. (We even had posters printed and distributed promoting both events.) As the price tag continued to grow, we were forced to scrap the Fruitvale event and focus solely on Downtown Oakland if this thing had any chance in hell of happening.
On June 27th, 2010, Oaklavía did happen and it was a great success. Thousands filled the streets to walk, ride, skate and dance. Reclusive friends emerged from their San Francisco cocoons to hang out with me in Downtown Oakland for a change. It was beautiful. That being said, I never thought it would happen again.