The goal of this project is to study the use and impacts of so-called “Slow Streets” – limiting vehicular traffic to create safer space for bicycle, pedestrian and recreational activities during the COVID-19 Pandemic – created through the City of Oakland’s 2020 Slow Streets initiative. Using a combination of on-site observations and passerby counts with live traffic speed data collected and mapped using geographic information system software, the study investigates how these streets are being used and what impacts they are having on traffic speeds on a daily basis. It looks for any differences that can be identified in these uses and impacts across the city, and considers the equity implications. A detailed analysis of the Oakland Slow Streets policy is also conducted using City of Oakland data. Based on the findings of the study, the researchers consider the long-term value of the Oakland Slow Streets initiative as a model for affordable rapid street safety improvements in California beyond the unique context of the pandemic.
San José State University
The study aims explicitly to inform future transportation decision making by considering the successes, challenges, and future usefulness of Oakland’s Slow Streets, including as scalable models. Following the data collection, researchers will analyze not only whether (and which) Oakland Slow Streets have been successful on their own terms, but consider the longer-term implications of any successes or limitations observed. This includes: (i) whether some of the existing Slow Streets, and/or the Slow Streets program in general, are engaging and moving enough people without negatively impacting streets nearby to justify continuing in a more permanent status; (ii) whether Slow Streets ought to be adjusted on a case by case basis for local success and equity; and(iii) whether the general approach to creating Oakland Slow Streets presents a feasible model for rapid, low-cost streetscape interventions in other situations as well. For instance, even a modest speed reduction could make a difference on high injury network corridors in Oakland. With the City of Oakland facing a projected budget shortfall of $62million, a low-cost route to safer streets may be fiscally advantageous as well. To this end, a budget estimating costs of analogous tactical streetscape improvements in different contexts will be produced and researchers will offer recommendations about the feasibility of extending the Slow Streets and/or replicating similar interventions in other contexts. As such, the project will benefit Californians by expanding our knowledge and understanding of innovative approaches to street safety and bike/pedestrian planning, including the impacts of Oakland’s well-known Slow Streets program. The research is of great interest and potential usefulness for the City of Oakland in particular (as demonstrated by the strong letters of support provided by city officials), and practitioners will be able to apply the findings to similar projects throughout the state and beyond.