Mayor Libby Schaaf believes that improving Oakland's transportation system is critical to ensuring that residents are safe, happy, and healthy. She’s been a vocal advocate for alternative modes of transit and appointed Oakland’s first-ever policy director for transportation and infrastructure – a plan that won her endorsement from bike advocates when she was behind in the campaign polls. "The political will is there," Schaaf explains. "It's up to us in government to get our internal act together so that we can actually implement what everybody wants us to do." Schaaf’s leadership team is investing in the big-picture planning that’s needed to leverage existing transportation funding, coordinate safety upgrades to coincide with scheduled repaving and road maintenance, and minimize bureaucracy from getting in the way of its transformation to a bike-friendlier city.
Cities that have paved the path so far – like Portland, New York, and Long Beach – have top leaders who are willing to take risks to advance a strong policy vision for making their streets safer for residents. Their mayors, city councils, and transportation directors are unafraid to take space away from cars ("road diets”) and experiment with creative (and often simple) solutions like " buffers”, "bike boxes", “parking-protected bike lanes”, and even “Vision Zero” policies (a stated goal of zero pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities). And these progressive bike policies are paying off. From cost-savings associated with bikeways versus roadways, to reduced health care costs resulting from the health benefits of biking, to revitalized retail corridors that come with new bike lanes and pedestrian plazas, these smart policies are providing an excellent return on investment. Congratulations to Oakland for its good work in getting on the (bike) Path to Positive.
How Oakland can become a world-class city for biking — and save lives, boost the economy, and improve the environment at the same time.
When Michael Schwartz turned around to see what was making the loud screeching noise, it was already too late. It was 9:20 p.m. on September 22, 2014, and Schwartz and his friend Sarah Fine were riding their bikes home on Lakeshore Avenue. The two cyclists were stopped in a designated bike lane near Foothill Boulevard waiting for the light to change when Schwartz saw a speeding black Acura crash into a motorcycle to his left.
"They were still accelerating and heading right to me," he recalled. "And there was this moment of, 'I am going to get hit.'"
Fine added: "I turned around and saw this mass hurtling toward us."
A split-second later, the Acura narrowly missed Fine but crashed straight into Schwartz, throwing him off his bike and onto the hood of the vehicle, which carried him 75 feet through the intersection. He then went flying off of the car, landing hard on the pavement before the Acura sped off into the night. The hit-and-run driver, it turned out, had fled a police traffic stop minutes earlier and had sideswiped another car, according to an Oakland Police Department report. Schwartz, who was rushed to Highland Hospital, suffered a fractured shoulder, a torn ACL, and serious tissue and nerve damage in his left leg and foot. Photos taken after the collision showed his face covered in cuts and bruises. His bike was bent out of shape.
Schwartz, a 36-year-old Cleveland Heights resident, was unable to walk on his own for a month and had to take medical leave from his job as a senior transportation planner for the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. There, one of his responsibilities is planning street projects aimed at protecting cyclists and pedestrians and preventing the kind of collision that he suffered. In the months leading up to the crash, he had brought his passion for transportation planning to the East Bay where he co-founded Transport Oakland, a policy group that advocates for safer and more bike-friendly streets.
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