OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The City of Oakland unveiled a new initiative Friday to close a number of streets to motorized vehicle traffic and designate them for pedestrians, bicyclists and wheelchair users.

The “Oakland Slow Streets” initiative will designate some 74 miles of neighborhood streets for pedestrian and bicycle traffic along with local vehicles only, beginning on Saturday.

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(Oakland DOT)

Mayor Libby Schaaf says the temporary ban on cars on some residential streets would open space for pedestrians to use the roadways for exercise during the coronavirus shelter-in-place order and social distancing requirements.

“We hope this Slow Streets movement will help give some joy, some recreation, some exercise to families throughout the city,” said Schaaf at a news conference Friday morning.

“When we close our streets to cars we open them up to amazing possibilities, and Oakland Slow Streets is trying to send a message that we want Oaklanders to recreate in a socially-distanced manner, a physically-distanced manner,” said Schaff. “And by opening up our streets to bikes, joggers, pedestrians we are giving Oaklanders to spread out safely.”

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Oakland Department of Transportation Director Ryan Russo said Friday cones and signs will be placed at strategic intersections along neighborhood corridors. “People all over Oakland are walking and biking in streets that normally they would not,” said Russo. “Drivers need to know that people are in streets where they don’t normally expect them.”

Russo added that streets will be closed to through traffic but drivers in those areas will still be able to get to and from their homes and delivery vehicles can still go there.

This program will start Saturday along the following four street segments:

  • West St: West Grand – 14th Street
  • Arthur St from Havenscourt Blvd – 78th Ave, connecting to Plymouth St from 78th– 104th Avenue
  • E 16th St: Foothill Blvd – Fruitvale Ave
  • 42nd St: Adeline – Broadway

City Councilman Noel Gallo said he welcomed the street closures which would reduce the chances of illegal sideshow activities. “There is no excuse for my neighbors to be participating in sideshows because all we’re doing is destroying the streets, creating more safety hazards,” said Gallo. “So I am asking for law enforcement to step up, not only enforce the sideshow activity, but the speed on the streets that’s occurring on a regular basis.”

The Oakland Police Department also announced on Friday announced it would step up patrols of areas known for sideshow activity, saying it would enforce the ban on mass gatherings on both participants and spectators.

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