Wednesday, August 16, 2006


You Are Invited!
We are in high gear now, planning for our upcoming installation at Pro Arts Gallery, a long-time Oakland non-profit arts institution. They have been promoting local artists' work since the 1970s. They are located in Jack London Square (550 Second Street, near Cost Plus). We are very excited that they will be hosting our exhibit, which will document all aspects of the WE Riders's adventures. Plus, we are very pleased to present video footage by Erin Stamos, who has joined nearly all of our rides this past summer. In addition, geographer Jason MacCannell will present a fascinating analysis of the nearly 200 surveys that we collected.

The show will run from Saturday, September 9 through Sunday, October 8. Some special events to note (all are FREE!):
  • On 9/14 from 6:30-8:00PM,, we will present an off-site performance at the Yerba Beuna Center for the Arts in San Francisco. This performance is part of the Sampling Oakland exhibit that's up right now. We will be sharing the stage that night with several other very interesting Oakland artists. This event is curated by Sarah Lockhart from 21 Grand.
  • We will give a presentation about our work on Saturday, 9/23 from 1-3PM at Pro Arts.
  • And finally, join us in celebrating the project at a First Friday closing event at Pro Arts on Friday, 10/6 from 6-8PM.
If you have missed the chance so far to participate in our Where is West Oakland / Where is East Oakland survey, this is your opportunity! We are eager to continue collecting input during the installation.

We are sorry to say that for now, our rides are over. But stay tuned for future events...

Monday, August 07, 2006


We have been tracking all of our rides with a Garmin GPS so that we have accurate information about where we have traveled in the city. Here is a collection of all of our rides. We have also posted each route as the final entry for each ride's journal. You'll notice that there are no route maps for rides #1, #2 and #6: that is because we only collected surveys during these rides and didn't travel about the city.

Once we learn how, we will download our GPS info onto Google maps; then our routes will be overlaid onto a Satellite image of the city. If anyone has this skill and would like to help us with this process, please email us at: Thanks!

Sunday, August 06, 2006


The Riders:

Saturday was the perfect day for our second and final group ride to West Oakland: once the early morning fog was wisped away, the air was cool and the sun was warm. When we arrived at City Hall at 10AM, there was already a small cluster of riders gathered. We were joined by a newly formed bike team comprised of lawyers who work in downtown Oakland, a father-son bike duo (James, at 4 years, was our youngest rider!), two women who brought their small dogs along to ride, a city cartographer, and several other Oakland folks. All together, a diverse dozen made up our West Oakland group. We were very pleased with the turnout.

Before we took off, we spoke with everyone about the project, had people fill out surveys and answered questions. Some had found out about the project from our flyers, others from various websites or word of mouth.

Most people expressed a similar reason for joining the ride: to get to know West Oakland better. One rider said he came “to learn more about the city where I work.” For many, West Oakland is an area beyond their direct experience. One woman who joined our ride recently moved to West Oakland and plans to start an after-school art program. She wanted to find out where the neighborhood kids hang out.

The Route:

Once again, we planned this ride as a ‘best of’ tour, sampling some of the places we most enjoyed visiting on our previous West Oakland rides. From downtown, we rode on 14th Street, making a stop at the Ebony Art Museum, then on to Mandela Parkway to see the newly developed median park, ending up at the Mandela Farmers’ Market. From there we toured some local farms and ended up at the Pretty Lady for a delicious home grown lunch.

At the Mandela Farmers' Market:

We hung out at the market for a little while; people enjoyed meeting the vendors and sampling some of the delicious and very locally grown (West Oakland) produce.

We had an interesting conversation with Reggie, who met the last time we were at the market. He told us that this area of West Oakland is known as “Low Bottom”: “This is West Oakland, but people in the neighborhood, call it Low Bottom. The Low Bottom, they stereotype it, you know, as an area where there’s violence and corruption. But it’s really not like that here. People think the Low Bottom is bad, but it’s a good place to live.” He has lived here for many years. Reggie also told us that “People don’t really know West Oakland ‘til they come to West Oakland.” You can’t know a place from the outside.

One guy at the market proudly showed us his rig: he had decked out his rickshaw with a full sound system. He told us how he would modify our rig so that we could always travel with tunes. We were very impressed!

Riding in the Hood:

After the Mandela Market, we made our way to City Slicker Farms on Center and Peralta Streets. First we detoured to an OBUGS butterfly garden. There we met a neighbor who has been involved with bringing sorely needed community services to West Oakland. She has started a medical clinic and also, more recently, she has initiated a nutrition program at corner liquor stores. She teaches them how to use a blender to make nutritious and healthy fruit smoothies—this is in an effort to bring healthy food into the neighborhood. While West Oakland has been redlined by supermarkets, there are liquor stores on nearly every corner.

Standing in front of this neighbor’s home was a piece of indigenous sculpture: a local artist has carved portraits out of neighborhood tree stumps.

City Slicker Farm:

People really enjoyed visiting City Slicker Farms: it was full of activity that afternoon. Lots of folks were shopping from the vegetable cart, some farmers were composting, and another was working with the bees. We spent time walking around the farm and talking with neighbors. This was also a good opportunity for riders in the group to talk to each other about their local neighborhood concerns and interests.

We also had the honor of giving this little girl her first ever ride on a bike!

Next Stop: The Pretty Lady

Most people peeled off from the group at this point. But the adventure wasn’t over yet! We stopped at the Pretty Lady for a well-deserved lunch. Over sandwiches and potato salad, we took the chance to get to know some of the riders better. One member of the group lives in a well-established co-housing building at the Swan’s Market. It was interesting to hear about her experiences living in downtown. She has opted for a carless lifestyle and it is challenging for her to satisfy her daily needs locally. While Brown’s goal has been to move folks on into to downtown, the area is really not able to fully accommodate a self-sufficient urban lifestyle. Hungering for a sense a local community, she was very taken with the Pretty Lady and decided that it would become her routine breakfast joint.

Low Bottom:

We decided to visit Lobot Gallery on our way home. Created in 2003, it is a relatively new artist-run space, named after the Low Bottom. We had an interesting discussion with one of the resident artists about the space, their mission and philosophy. One of their goals is to provide affordable studio space to local and international emerging artists. They are also striving to be a part of the local neighborhood by providing classes in music, performance and art for local kids. They also make sure that all of their events are locally publicized. While many artists are moving to West Oakland for the (relatively) cheap warehouse space, they have a reputation for separating themselves from the community. The folks at Lobot want to counter this tendency.

We were shown an artifact of one of their recent events: the barbeque bicycle. They told us they ride to the Korean supermarket on 25th and Telegraph, stoke up the grill, and by the time they arrive back at the studio, yum, yum, yum, the chow is done!

The End:

On our way home, we wove through an area of new infill condos (which seem to feed many people’s perception of the gentrification of West Oakland). Then we rode under an amazing maze of multi-tiered freeways---not a spot we would like to be when the next ‘big one’ comes along. We touched on a corner of Emeryville and then we headed back to our neighborhood via 45th Street. We weren’t sure when we were leaving West Oakland and entering East Oakland. Maybe, as one person we surveyed had commented, “It’s all a state of mind.”

GPS Route:

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


The Riders:
Uncertain as to who or how many people would show up for our first group ride, we were pleasantly surprised when three cyclists pulled up in front of City Hall at the same time we did. As we were talking, a few more people rode up. All tallied we had seven people on this ride; we were mighty pleased with the turn out (and we only knew one of the other riders!).

We talked to folks about the project, our plans for the ride and their reasons for wanting to come out with us. A few of the people on the ride were newly transplanted to Oakland and wanted to learn more about the city. Another rider lived in East Oakland, but she wanted to explore other areas in the region and learn about some new bike routes. In general, everyone was up for an adventure on this beautiful Sunday morning. We redesigned our survey form to better understand the impact of the ride on the group. We asked people to answer some questions before and after the ride. At the end of the ride, one member of the group remarked, “Wow, East Oakland is closer than I thought it was!”

Group Ride Route:

We thought of this ride as a 'best of' our East Oakland trips: we rode around Lake Merritt, up East 15th Street to the Sunday Fruitvale Farmers’ Market. The round-trip route was just over three flat miles. We rode at a leisurely pace, stopping along the way to point out some of our favorite houses and buildings. The group was very eager and interested; they all answered passers-by as they asked about our sign! Here are some photos of our ride from City Hall to the Fruitvale Farmers' Market:

We stopped at the half-way point to see how all of our riders were holding up. We took a short conversation break, and then continued on our way.

It was great to come across this small sidewalk garden full of beautiful flowering plants. The local community had decided to green up their sidewalk in a two block area. Within the plants were signs that said: "These flowers were planted to make these streets better for children who live & walk here. PLEASE PROTECT THEM."

Our friend Stew found us as we were riding along (he lives in East Oakland...) and joined us for part of the ride. He shared with us some bike stories; he rides from East Oakland to Palo Alto every day to teach. Before he had to leave us and ride back home, he filled out a survey:

The market was very busy on this Saturday morning. Our group riders walked around, explored the plazas and met with some of the vendors. We told them about our first experience at the Fruitvale Village Plaza, when the security guard told us to leave the plaza. This led to an interesting discussion about public space, or the lack of them, in the contemporary urban fabric. An architect/urban planner team called REbar is creating an excellent project in downtown SF about 'privately owned public spaces.'

We spoke with the guy selling hand-made crafts and clothing. He was very interested in our tandem bike; one of his children is blind, and he wants to find a way for them to bike ride together. A tandem would be the perfect solution! He described East Oakland as "sometimes hard core" and West Oakland as "a good place to live.'