This reality shaped lockdown orders last spring. While buildings where people could gather were shuttered, public health directives encouraged us “to engage in outdoor recreation activity,” such as walking, hiking and bicycling. Gyms and pools were closed. Sidewalks and trails remained open.
Oakland soon began closing selected multi-block segments of many streets to all non-neighborhood traffic so that strollers and bicyclists could move safely.
But even as what Oakland calls “slow streets” caught on nationally, there was resistance at home. While championing bicycles instead of cars might resonate in upscale neighborhoods like Rockridge, where residents working from home might want to stretch their legs at the end of the day, activists in largely Black neighborhoods bridled at what they saw as top-down assumptions of how people should live. Service workers in hospitals and supermarkets complained of time-consuming commute detours amid so many other demands.
“It was a knee-jerk response to the pandemic — decisions were being made almost evangelically,” by city officials who saw restrictions on cars as an absolute good, suggested June Grant. The Oakland architect has pushed for decentralized control of planning and other government initiatives. “There needs to be more attention to how local people use local places.”
Oakland hasn’t added to the 21-mile network of “slow streets” since July. It also began to emphasize “essential places,” a more focused set of closures aimed at intersections in commercial areas or near hospitals, where neighborhood residents said they felt endangered when running errands on foot.
“It’s too easy to listen to voices that reflect your own experiences,” admitted Ryan Russo, director of Oakland’s Department of Transportation. “We need to stay in conversation with the community.”
Full Article from: sfchronicle.com