OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The latest installation of bike sharing racks at a BART station in Oakland has set off a major pushback because of its location – directly in front of a memorial display for victims of the 1991 Oakland firestorm.
City contractors installed the blue Ford Go bicycle racks on Thursday at the Rockridge BART station. The racks partially block the view of a mural made out of 2,300 tiles dedicated to the 25 people killed and the thousands of survivors of the fire in the Oakland hills.
Some neighbors called it disrespectful. Rockridge Community Planning Chairman Stuart Flashman calls it bad planning and insensitive.
“It would be like putting a bike share station in front the Vietnam War memorial in Washington, D.C.,” said Flashman.
For passers-by, it’s now hard to make out what’s behind the bike sharing station. Neighbors want people to be able to see that memorial, which marks a big part of Oakland’s history.
Retired Oakland Public Works Director Brooke Levin, who spearheaded the art installation shortly after the firestorm, says the location of the racks is disrespectful to the memorial.
“People were upset and angry,” said Levin. “I thought they needed a healing opportunity.”
The distance from the mural wall to the bikes is about seven feet. Neighbors say it’s not about accessibility to the memorial, it’s about the visual obstruction to what’s supposed to be a peaceful memorial.
“It’s just taking away from this amazing cultural resource,” said Levin.
“You want to be able to step back and see the totality of it, and now you can’t,” said Flashman.
Following repeated complaints, the City of Oakland now plans to move the bike racks to another part of the BART station, saying it didn’t mean to diminish the value of the mural.
“If you’re going to drop something into a community, you need to talk to them first,” said Flashman.
It could take the city and its contractors a couple of more months to relocate the racks.