OAKLAND — The city is expanding its “Slow Streets” program to include ways to make it safer for pedestrians to walk to essential services such as grocery stores.
Called Slow Streets: Essential Places, the campaign was launched Friday at Bancroft and Avenal avenues near the Shop Rite Supermarket in East Oakland.
At crash-prone intersections such as Bancroft and Avenal, Oakland is adding fluorescent signs alerting drivers to pedestrian crossings and repainting the crosswalks to make them more visible.
City workers installed traffic cones to create a new temporary median at Bancroft and Avenal. They also set up signs with information about coronavirus testing.
“What you are going to see over these next few weeks is an immediate, very cost-effective intervention to make a passage to these essential places safer,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff said during a Friday press conference at the intersection.
The intersection is among what traffic analysts call Oakland’s “High Injury Network,” where just 6 percent of city streets account for more than 60 percent of severe and fatal traffic crashes.
With less traffic during the shelter in place, the problem of speeding drivers has gotten worse. Community groups, especially in East Oakland, asked the city to focus its Slow Streets program on safety in addition to exercise.
“There was a concern that traffic was speeding with the lower traffic volumes so we listened to the community as we developed another rapid program under the Oakland Slow Streets umbrella,” said Ryan Russo, director of Oakland’s transportation department, at the conference.
Russo said that the city will be adding more intersections to the program, but did not say when or where.
Under the “Safe Streets” program, traffic cones and other barriers are used to prevent vehicles from entering areas, and sometimes parking spots are reconfigured to make it easier for walkers and cyclists to avoid close physical interaction.
“The voice of our East Oakland community has been heard and is clearly reflected in the new approach,” council member Loren Taylor, who represents the neighborhood, said in a release.
“I am appreciative of our city staff who listened to the specific needs of District 6 residents and created a thoughtful Slow Streets program that will help protect our residents and give them safer spaces to walk, bike, and enjoy their neighborhoods while sheltering in place and social distancing.”
Along with unveiling the Essential Places program Friday, the city announced more areas will be added to the Slow Streets program, including near Lake Merritt on Bellevue, Ellita and Staten avenues.
Oakland launched the program on April 10 as a way to curb traffic in some neighborhoods so that people could have more physical space as they walk and cycle. More than 20 miles on 18 routes are now part of the program.
The city is asking for residents’ comments about the program; people can contact OAK311 by dialing 311 or 510-615-5566, emailing OAK311@oaklandca.gov, going online to 311.oaklandca.gov or using the OAK311 mobile app for Apple and Android devices.
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Author: Peter Hegarty