Coronavirus Impact: Oakland closing several streets to allow proper social distancing for joggers, cyclists

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ByEric Thomas KGO logo
Saturday, April 11, 2020
Coronavirus Impact: Oakland closing several streets to allow proper social distancing for joggers, cyclists
Fewer cars, more walkers, joggers and cyclists. It's all part of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's Slower Streets initiative to create more space to exercise, while keeping COVID-19 social distance

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders have left some neighborhood streets in Oakland nearly empty, and that has given Mayor Libby Schaaf an idea.

She says closing those streets to through-traffic would let residents walk, jog and bike, while practicing social distancing at the same time. The initiative is called Oakland Slow Streets.

RELATED: Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf discusses COVID-19, Oakland

The following closures are set to start Saturday, April 11:

  • 42nd Street between Broadway and Adeline
  • East 16th Street from Fruitvale to Foothill
  • West Street from West Grand to 14th Street
  • Arthur Street from Havenscourt Boulevard to 78th Avenue
  • Plymouth Street from 78th to 104th Avenue

Mayor Schaaf says it's to get people who've been sheltering in place for the past few weeks some fresh air and exercise.

"We want Oaklanders to recreate in a socially distant manner, a physically distant manner," she said.

RELATED: Oakland City leaders stepping up to help small businesses during COVID-19 crisis

On the surface this seems to run counter to what health officials are telling us - Stay indoors unless you need to go out to shop or for an emergency.

But, Schaaf says closing the streets to all but local automobile traffic will allow people to walk, run and ride in the road itself, not just on the sidewalk, and the extra room will allow people to keep the recommended six foot safe distance from each other.

"By opening up our streets to bikes, joggers, pedestrians we are giving Oaklanders more room to spread out safely" she said.

If the pilot project is successful, the city plans to expand the program to nearly 74 miles of residential streets.

Cyclist Adlai Leibe was on-board.

"I think it's a great idea. Anything to get people on bikes is a great idea" he said.

RELATED: Coronavirus: Free computers from Oakland group helps students sheltering in place

Cyclist Jon Ettinger added, "I think the idea of open streets in general is a fantastic one. In this day and age, I think the idea that we can help do social distancing as well makes it even bette.r"

Schaaf says less traffic means fewer accidents and fewer headaches for hospitals that are still preparing for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases.

But, Oakland's transportation director Ryan Russo reminds everyone that accidents are still possible because the streets will be closed to through traffic, not all traffic.

"Only drive on the street when you're going to your home or to deliver something on that block," Russo said.

We reached out to the Alameda County Health Department, which issued the shelter-in-place order, for their thoughts on the program, but haven't heard back.

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