When the Dog Bites. When the Bee Stings.

These are a few of my favorite things: coffee, bikes, music, and the reclaiming of public space from the tyranny of the automobile. Imagine how delighted I was, then, to be able to take a picture of a coffee shop, a bike shop, a record shop, and a (temporary, alas) parklet installed on 40th Street in Oakland today as park of the annual Park(ing) Day takeover of curbside parking spots:

Coffee, Bikes, Music, Parklet.

I rode up to Berkeley today, so I swung by a few of these spots. I love the idea of Park(ing) Day, but I have to admit that seeing it in practice made me a bit sad. These parklets are sort of cute, but they were all surrounded today by the ugly, charmless streetscapes which pervade Oakland. Instead of being little oases of green, the seating areas in front of Subrosa (above) or Actual Cafe were unused at lunchtime until I plopped myself down and had my cappuccino or bagel or egg cream. Rather than giving me a small glimpse of how nice streets such as 40th or San Pablo could be someday, they just reminded me of how inhospitable to human beings those arterial streets are, and how dramatically they would need to change in order to feel like they were made for people instead of for cars.

Two other places I rode past which were supposedly participating in Park(ing) Day (Tip Top bikes in Temescal and Good Chemistry bakery on Grand) did not seem to have taken part after all, and Farley’s East on Grand, which looks like it had a great and well-used setup this morning, had moved everything up onto the sidewalk and given up the parking space to a car by the time I rode past in mid-afternoon. Given how low-density most parts of Oakland are, I have some real doubts about whether any amount of improved streetscaping or road diets or redevelopment or reclamation of public space will ever make it feel like a truly pedestrian-friendly city, except in small pockets here and there.

On a less pessimistic note, I was riding to Berkeley because I have wanted to check out Waterside Workshops in West Berkeley since I first heard about it a couple of months ago. It’s a non-profit which runs a boatbuilding workshop, a bike shop, and a cafe. They have local disadvantaged teens serve as interns, teaching them how to craft wooden boats, fix up old bikes for resale, and serve customers at the waterfront cafe. Obviously the main point is to instill good work habits, pride of workmanship, and collaborative and customer service skills, but who knows, boatbuilding and bike repair may end up being in demand if we start to run out of oil in the next few decades.

Waterside Workshops

It is very Berkeley, and very awesome. Sadly, it was also very closed today, due to a water outage caused by a nearby construction project. My visit will have to wait for another time, but I’ll probably take some photos and write about it more after I finally get to take a look around.

8 Responses to “When the Dog Bites. When the Bee Stings.”

  1. jabel says:

    Wooden Boat building seems to be something that will always be in demand.I know of several wooden boatyards in Maine that are doing quite well.

  2. Chris from Farley's East says:

    Sadly, the OPD did not support PARK(ing) Day. We (Farley’s East) were required to remove our parklet from the parking space. However, we were able to keep the sidewalk portion of the parklet intact. Maybe next year the city of Oakland can get onboard and actually support the event!

  3. dc says:

    Chris: Thanks for the explanation; I wondered if something like that had happened. I wish I’d come by earlier — it looks like it was good while it lasted!

  4. unique distance from isolation says:

    It seems to me that we’re starting to run out of oil now–with the price of a barrel remaining steadily at about 4 times its Clinton-era low and economic recovery stalled as a result, maybe those kids can build themselves some houseboats…

  5. We Fight Blight says:

    Props to Farley’s East for making the effort. Saw them rolling up the green–not the medicinal variety–and was disapointed that OPD was not supporting PARK(ing). Chief Batts, Captain Toribio we know you guys are doing a great job. This effort is part of taking back the streets and making Oakland more livable and safe. Let’s get the word to the Officers on the beat that PARK(ing) day is something to be supported and encouarged. Oakland PD has more important task than busting Farley’s East for taking over one parking spot on PARK(ing) day.

  6. Ken O says:

    Hey there! WW is awesome… when my bike had most of its parts stolen in SF a few years ago, I went here seeking a hard to find 22mm seat post. They had three, which I enjoyed, and free (if beat up) bike seats. I was smitten, and rode home with an actual seat vs standing up which is how I came there.

    Better luck tomorrow!

  7. Ken O says:

    WFB: Can’t believe that OPD took time out of their day to disapprove PARK-ing day. LAME LAME LAME.

    I’ll send some emails now…

  8. Lisa says:

    Right next door is the BORP bike house, which is a truly amazing resource for people with disabilities. It’s a lending library of adaptive bikes and trikes and tandems, built for disabled cyclists. When my partner was paralyzed he returned to cycling, thanks to BORP. And yesterday, he clocked four thousand miles! Not bad for a guy who struggles with the simple act of walking.

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