Tag Archives: east bay bicycle coalition

Bay Area Cyclists: An Afterthought

By Dominic Lucchesi

Disclaimer:  The following is an admittedly emotional and reactionary rant.  Sorry for all the doom and gloom, but I had to vent.  I swear, I’ll be back to my usual, chipper self in the morning.  Continue reading at your own peril.

The news that a cyclist was struck and killed by a truck at 6th and Folsom in San Francisco this morning really hit me in the gut.

I have been working on my bicycle in the Bay Area for roughly six years now (yes, I get paid to ride my bike).  Four of those years was spent riding primarily in San Francisco.  I’ve spent the last two as a worker-owner at Pedal Express, a small bicycle courier company operating in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville.

I do not own a car.  This means that even when I’m not working, I am riding my bike.  To the store to pick up groceries; to the bar to grab drinks with the homies; even riding to visit my family in East Oakland and San Leandro.  What this experience has provided me with is a unique, street-level view of life in the Bay Area.

I notice little changes in the streetscape that others may not see.  I can tell when I’m leaving Emeryville and entering Oakland by the drop in quality of the street pavement.  For years and months I waited in agony while construction crews worked to complete a short section of the Bay Trail at the Berkeley Marina.  I’ve seen potholes come and go and then come back again…

At the same time, I’ve watched the bicycle infrastructure grow in San Francisco, greatly exceeding anything that we have in the East Bay (colored pavement, protected bike lanes, bike traffic signals, etc).

And if San Francisco represents the most bike-friendly city in the Bay, what does that make Berkeley or Oakland?  While SF is busy transforming Market Street, efforts to add safe bike lanes on Tunnel Rd are in serious jeopardy because the neighbors don’t want to give up a few on-street parking spots.  On 40th St, attempts to add bike lanes were nixed in favor of adding little sharrows and a green strip of paint DOWN THE MIDDLE OF A TRAVEL LANE.  And nobody really seems to know about it.

Despite all the hype and political sweet talk, I can’t help but feel that cyclists are a complete afterthought both locally and nationally.  Me and all of my bike-riding friends are one right turn away from being struck from existence.   And if that happens, regardless of the circumstances, the internet will be buzzing with comments like this:

From my experience commuting to work on a bike is that many riders I see need a basic bike safety course. They appear to create hazards where one shouldn’t exist usually out of impatience.

Ugh.  I swear, it’s almost enough to make a guy give up the bike messenger biz in favor of a desk job and a nice, safe, gas-guzzling Hummer.

There were an estimated 10,000 - 15,000 visitors in attendance

Oaklavía @ Love Our Lake Day 2013

By Dominic@pedalexpress.com

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.

So, you can understand my excitement when I heard rumors about the return of Oaklavía.  Around beautiful Lake Merritt no less, and this time with the support of Mayor Jean Quan.

Oaklavía #2 went down this past Sunday, June 9th, as part of Love Our Lake Day.  Needless to say, I had a great time.  Pedal Express was there with camera in tow.  This is what we saw: