Oakland officials Saturday rolled out a pilot program to give residents in some neighborhoods more room for social distancing when going out for a walk, bike ride or jog.

The program called Oakland Slow Streets will eventually close 74 miles of streets, or about 10 percent of streets in Oakland, to through traffic. The pilot program kicked off Saturday with closure of four street segments.

Mayor Libby Schaaf said at a Friday news conference that the program will provide more space for residents to maintain 6-foot distances from each other during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Schaaf said:

“Oakland Slow Streets is trying to send a message that we want Oaklanders to recreate in a socially distanced manner, a physically distanced manner. By opening up our streets to bikes, joggers, pedestrians, we are giving Oaklanders more room to spread out safely.”

Ryan Russo, director of the Oakland Department of Transportation, said residents have recently been stepping off curbs and walking into streets in order to maintain safe distance from passersby.

Russo said:

“Drivers need to know that people are in the streets where they don’t normally expect them.”

Officials said the road closures will be focused on streets where neighborhood bike routes exist or are planned until the emergency order is lifted.

City of Oakland Oakland Slow Streets program map effective Saturday, April 11, 2020.

A similar road traffic closure on John F. Kennedy Drive in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park has been called for long before the pandemic struck. Advocates see an even more urgent need for the road closure now that residents are living under The City’s emergency order.

San Francisco officials have said they have no plans to close streets, whether residential or inside Golden Gate Park.

While The City’s shelter order does allow residents to go out for essential items and to go out for walks or jogs, Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Public Health Department, said Friday:

“While certainly we understand and I want to encourage people to get out and to exercise and to get some fresh air. We want to also make sure crowds do not congregate in areas.”

More information about Oakland’s Slow Streets project can be found on the city’s website.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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