Success Story: Oaklavía

An interview with Chris Hwang and Jess Strange of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland.
Tell us about your Oaklavía and its audience.

Oaklavía is an open streets event founded in 2010 for Oakland residents to highlight livability and to experience the urban environment without cars. Roads are closed to cars temporarily so people can bike, dance and participate in activities along the route.

What was the inspiration for this event?

Oaklavía was inspired by Bogota’s Ciclovía. We heard a lot about it and thought Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) could produce it in 2010. Through Oaklavía, we captured the essence of people moving in a very urban environment without a private vehicle in just a few hours, something we can’t replicate in any other way.

Did you face any challenges in implementing this event and how did you overcome them?

We are a small non-profit doing a big program that other cities and government entities normally take-on; that was our biggest challenge. After the 2010 Oaklavía project, we learned we would need significant planning and city support to have it again. Fundraising is a major component because of the street closures and traffic diversions needed. It was not until 2013 that former Mayor Jean Quan approached us and provided staff to help fundraise and to elevate Oaklavía as a program priority. It made a huge difference and ultimately allowed us to spend more time on event logistics.

For others who may want to implement a similar project, what advice would you give them?

There are so many Open Streets projects across the country and around the world now. openstreetsproject.org is a great place to start. It offers guides on how to fundraise and plan routes in addition to templates, maps, and evaluation tools. Thinking long term, it’s also worthwhile to repeat these events to set the community’s expectations so they are familiar with the event and will support the ability to bring back more of them.

What is your long term vision?

The City of Oakland uses many metrics to measure its own success, but they don’t consider how safe and physically-active residents are. I’d like to see the City of Oakland use Oaklavía as a platform to push for more proposals like open streets. We have been building the technical knowledge and a strong core group of business supporters to produce a successful Oaklavía program. We hope to garner the ongoing commitment from the City of Oakland to support the production of Oaklavía, and to demonstrate the simplicity, beauty and power of walking and bicycling to improve the health and well-being of Oakland residents.