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Live from Oakland: Mayor de Blasio is Wrong About Bay Area City’s Open Streets Success

9:45 PM EDT on April 14, 2020

These are the barricades that Oakland’s Department of Public Works put up — which Mayor de Blasio claimed were not put up. Photo: Roger Rudick

Streetsblog SF has been covering Oakland's plan to close 74 miles of roadway to thru car traffic and open them up to pedestrians and cyclists who are trying to get around and recreate responsibly during the COVID-19 crisis. Here's what we were told by the site's editor, Roger Rudick on Tuesday.

Mayor de Blasio wrongly characterized — and perhaps flat-out lied about — Oakland's experiment with opening scores of miles of roadway for pedestrians, which features barricades to alert drivers that they cannot enter.

"I asked the NYPD and Department of Transportation to analyze the Oakland plan [and] as I understand it, they said that streets were closed off, but they didn't put up any barricades," the mayor said on Tuesday.

Pictures tell a different story — and Streetsblog San Francisco's Roger Rudick published plenty.

"Oakland followed the principle of 'keep it simple, stupid' and closed streets using a few signs," Rudick reported.

This is the intersection of Shafter and 42nd streets in Oakland. Photo: Roger Rudick
This is the intersection of Shafter and 42nd streets in Oakland. Photo: Roger Rudick

Rudick's report also emphasized that Oakland's play streets are being overseen and implemented by the city's Department of Public Works, not its police department.

One resident's video showed no need for police to enforce social distancing rules. The public can abide by them without threats.

Parts of Oakland (which has a neighborhood called Brooklyn, for Pete's sake!) are just as dense as residential neighborhoods in New York, dispelling another of Mayor de Blasio's myths about the program.

New York can't do anything like what Oakland's Mayor Libby Schaaf has done, de Blasio said on Tuesday, because "adamantly ... we are just profoundly different than those other cities." Last week, the mayor had presaged his own team's evaluation, saying, "Oakland is obviously, a big American city, but it's not New York City. It has nowhere near the population or the density we have." (De Blasio's experiment with 1.5 miles of car-free streets ended in just 11 days.)

By the time Oakland's plan fully rolls out, the city of half a million people will have 74 miles of space for socially responsible recreation and travel. Mileage like that will certainly come in handy if they mayor is forced to close beaches this summer, as the NY Post reported on Tuesday.

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