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Bike to Work Day 2009: Progress with a gift bag

Tomorrow is Bike to Work Day, of course. The local tradition started in Oakland, and to this day Oakland hosts the biggest Bike to Work Day event in the Bay Area. Bicyclists congregating on City Hall to listen to politicians give speeches may not seem all that encouraging when daily many cyclists are faced with a lack of bike lanes, bike parking, and bike accommodation at work and at home. A look at the context of Bike to Work Day in Oakland reveals challenges but also reasons to take pride in progress.

Obviously, ancient sidewalks and pothole-ridden streets are bad for bicyclists and pedestrians. There is still a crippling bike parking shortage in many parts of downtown, and major construction projects are unnecessarily impacting bike commuters. The Fox Theater isn’t following the new Bicycle Parking Ordinance, yet had the gall to ask the city for a subsidized parking lot on Telegraph Avenue, gaining the support of the Redevelopment Agency. Transportation planning is as much of a mess as it ever was.

But a lot has been accomplished in the last year. Oakland’s Bicycle Master Plan was passed in 2007 and is being implemented in a stuttering but cost-effective manner. Bike route signage will soon grace most thoroughfares. Pedestrian advocates were able to delay the Uptown parking lot in favor of public art (no thanks to the downtown councilmembers). Bike parking has finally come to Old Oakland and other parts of town. The Bicycle Parking Ordinance has been followed with pedestrian-friendly zoning and ground-floor design standards recommended for downtown by the Planning Commission, setting a precedent for the citywide zoning update. Dramatically increasing pedestrian and bicycle trips are not only apparent but now they are documented, setting the stage for greater government awareness of the need for, as it’s called now, complete streets.

Bike to Work Day may only be symbolic of the quest for better transportation options, but it’s fun! You can join a Pedal Pool, and bicycle with your Councilmember and neighbors to City Hall, where you’ll be greeted with a pancake breakfast and gift bag. If you’re biking to work somewhere else in the city, energizer stations will provide food, drink, and swag (a map is in today’s East Bay Express). The East Bay Bicycle Coalition will provide valet bicycle parking all day, and in the evening there’s a North Oakland Bike From Work Day party, sponsored by ULTRA, the EBBC, and Tip Top Bike Shop (starts at 5:30, on 49th St between Shattuck and Telegraph Avenues). It’s an opportunity to engage in an alternative commute in a more welcoming environment than usual, but as Becks points out, it’s also a chance to talk to your councilmembers about bike/ped issues, and even to stop by BART HQ to speak for a better East Oakland investment. If only every political event came with a gift bag!

Also, some interesting reading on bike/ped and transit issues:


NRDC Switchboard’s Justin Horner (former Oakland City Council aide) discusses the recent change in America’s driving habits.

StreetsFilms gives tips on locking a bicycle, and Streetsblog kicks of its national coverage with an update on progress toward a new Surface Transportation Act. Meanwhile, Transportation For America releases its priorities for greener, more equitable transportation policy.

Transbay Blog looks at newly-released BART rider survey data, and concludes that infill stations are a better investment than suburban extensions.

Tomorrow is also the big vote on the Oakland Airport Connector. Will BART borrow $150m, steal from its seismic improvement fund, and potentially bankrupt the Port of Oakland to build a flyover connector between the Coliseum BART station and Oakland Airport, with no stops at the hotels between, and a $12 roundtrip fare? Or will the BART Board choose a vastly cheaper option that would provide greater local service and free up funds for other transit improvements around the Coliseum and throughout the Bay Area? You’ve probably already read Becks’s blog, and TransForm’s report, but here’s a blog from the BART workers’ union.

Posted in actransit, airport, bart, california, citycouncil, downtown, oakland, transportation.