Imagine our neighborhoods not bordered by roads and corralled by speeding vehicles spewing exhaust … but by crowds of pedestrians and bicycle lanes. Instead of being confined to narrow sidewalks, being allowed to venture beyond them and utilize the abundant pavement for activities other than commuting. Imagine neighborhood restaurants, shops and galleries brimming with patrons, giving them the vital exposure they need to thrive and help build community infrastructure.
This Saturday, our communities will finally get a taste of this. Love our Neighborhood Day, the first cross-border “open streets” event of its kind in Emeryville & North Oakland will be held from 11am to 3pm. The normally trafficked State Route 123 San Pablo Avenue will be closed to cars from 55th through 65th and create a walkable, bikeable loop with Doyle street in Emeryville. Two miles of roads for residents to stroll, mingle, play, dance and enjoy free health and community-oriented events on our city streets.
The East Bay Renaissance is being driven by a handful of dedicated, passionate neighborhood groups and community organizers and the Golden Gate Neighborhood in one of the benefactors of this. It’s hard to quantify how far the strip of San Pablo along the Oakland/Emeryville Border has come in such a short time but the “epicenter” is clearly focused around Sal Bednarz’s Actual Café. Neighbors have unified around reestablishing their neighborhood identity and the strip is now dotted with local establishments and unique Art Galleries like Compound, Grease Diner, Pallet Space, The Collection Agency and Ogaard Textile Work. Additions like TCHO Chocolates and “The Higby” housing project to the North and The forthcoming Wolfhound Bar to the South promise to help extend this thriving segment and make this area even more walkable and safer.
Bednarz first initiated the conversation when he approached Oaklavía Love our Lake Day organizers WOBO (Walk Oakland Bike Oakland) about bringing a similar event to North Oakland to complement the neighborhood’s yearlong Second Saturdays events and to spotlight on an oft-overlooked community where the Emeryville-Oakland city boundaries blur. “I hope this event will become an annual neighborhood tradition” Bednarz commented “and that we’ll be able to grow it each year, and even incorporate Berkeley, our other neighbor city, into the celebration.” WOBO Board President Chris Hwang notes that her organization “produces events like Love Our Neighborhood Day to allow the public to experience health and movement that may be ordinarily constrained by the sense of danger or lack of safety.”
WOBO, a volunteer-run pedestrian & bicycle advocacy group, along with the Emeryville Community Services, SPAGGIA (San Pablo Area Golden Gate Improvement Association) and the City of Oakland have teamed up to help coordinate and provide resources for the event. They are also getting support from the private sector including community-minded businesses like Clif Bar, Kaiser, Sysco, Revolights, McLaughlin Coffee, 21st Amendment Brewery, New Belgium Brewery, Bureau 510, Rotten City Pizza, Acme Bread Company, and Ashby Lumber.
The short film “Rise of Open Streets” captures the spirit and ambition of these events:
[vimeo id=”78886448″ width=”620″ height=”360″]
The inception of the open streets initiative originated in Bogotá, Colombia with the event “Ciclovía” (Which means “cycleway” in Spanish) and has since proliferated all over the world from Tokyo to Kiev. Since 2010, WOBO has been coordinating the event “Oaklavia” which annually brings over 4,000 people into the heart of Oakland to experience the city’s best natural and architectural assets, outdoor activities and arts in some of the city’s most well-loved and unique streets and neighborhoods. “This will be a tremendous opportunity to showcase the importance of walkable neighborhoods as well as celebrate the richness of residents, merchants and community organizations in North Oakland” noted Oakland’s District 1 Councilman Dan Kalb.
The ultimate goal of the event is to bring awareness of local establishments and promote bicycle and pedestrian safety but also subtly expose the vast municipal resources we dedicate toward our automobile infrastructure. An important byproduct of this event though, is to facilitating coordination between our cities and communities. Two cities tied together by border that don’t always necessarily work together and have different blueprints for prosperity, but hopefully safe, walkable, bikeable streets is something both can agree on.
It should be noted that this is NOT a street fair and not intended as a space to sell products, services and other commercial activity. No alcohol beverages will be served or allowed. The event is intended to be family friendly and Doyle-Hollis park will be designated as a “Kids Fun Zone”. Food Truck vendors that have commited to the event include Doc’s of the Bay, Ebbett’s Good to Go, The Grilled Cheese Guy, Tina Tamale, Beulah’s Bean Truck & Fist of Flour Pizza.
A guided historical walk curated by KALA Art Institute and Oakland Urban Paths will begin at 10am. At 1pm, a short ceremony including Mayors of both cities will take place on the sound stage that will be powered by Rock The Bike pedal-powered generators at the 64th St./San Pablo corner. An after-party will cap off the day from 3- 7 pm at Destiny Arts Center.
WOBO is still looking for volunteers and sponsors for the event (Volunteers for the event will be given this free T-shirt!). Businesses along the route are being encouraged to engage the public by setting up booths or tables on the sidewalks. Event inquiries can be submitted through this online form or by calling 510-550-4802. Updated event information will be posted on their Facebook fan page and Twitter.