A bicyclist, pedestrian, and drivers on Telegraph Avenue between West Grand and 27th Street in Oakland. Credit: Amir Aziz

More than a dozen pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers were hit and killed on Oakland’s streets this summer, and many Oakland voters are fed up. We’ve been reporting on Oakland’s high-injury corridors, most dangerous intersections, and problems with traffic enforcement for over a year, and we often hear from residents that these issues are top of mind.

To find out where Oakland’s mayoral candidates stand on road safety, we conducted in-depth interviews, researched their public statements, and dug into the records of those who’ve previously held elected office. We looked for specifics on how they’d go about improving street safety, like using law enforcement, fixing pavement, or redesigning lanes. Our findings are summarized below and, while not comprehensive, we believe they offer a fair representation of the views of each mayoral hopeful. The candidates are presented in alphabetical order by last name.

What power does Oakland’s mayor have to fix streets?

Before diving into the candidates’ records, we wanted to spell out what the mayor can and can’t do about Oakland’s streets. We reached out to former city planner Warren Logan, who until 2021 was the city’s policy director of mobility and interagency relations. 

Logan said the short answer is, “a lot.” But the most important, actionable thing the mayor can do to improve roads, he said, is direct the city administrator to either support or reject ideas pitched by OakDOT, Oakland’s transit department, and other city agencies. 

During her nearly eight years in office, Mayor Libby Schaaf has worked with OakDOT on improving the city’s high-injury corridors—the nearly 30 roadways with the highest number of violent collisions in the city, which are mostly in lower-income communities. According to Logan, the mayor played a role in making sure that OakDOT’s process for prioritizing improvement projects included an equity analysis.

This included the Oakland Equity Indicators Report, which makes it easier for city departments like OakDOT to consider racial and economic disparities to help guide their decisions. For example, fixing a poorly-paved street in East Oakland might be prioritized over fixing a street in Rockridge, since the cost of fixing a damaged vehicle for a resident in East Oakland is likely to be a bigger share of their income. 

The mayor can also lobby county, state, and federal officials to obtain money for infrastructure projects. Schaaf has supported OakDOT’s goal of creating more bike lanes in the city and applied for grants to help pay for them. In 2021, the city received a $14.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for traffic fixes on Broadway and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Most recently, Schaaf pitched the removal of the I-980 freeway to Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, who could help direct federal funds to make it happen.

Logan said it’s important that Oakland’s mayor has a good handle on how street design fits into the city’s larger goals.

A case in point, said Logan, is the Seventh Street connection project that aims to improve downtown access for pedestrians, bicyclists, and bus riders from West Oakland. The original plan called for simple improvements for bicyclists, but the mayor and OakDOT suspected they could get more funding for the project if it were larger in scope, with improvements aimed at drivers, pedestrians, and local businesses alike, including things like new sidewalk lighting and crosswalks. 

In the end, the city received over $14 million from the state to get the project off the ground. “The department heads, along with the mayor, were able to craft this elegant solution to meet multiple needs at once,” said Logan.

The Candidates

Ignacio De La Fuente

Oakland mayoral candidate Ignacio De La Fuente Credit: Amir Aziz

The former councilmember believes the city needs a strong police presence to enforce the law, including for traffic violations. 

“It’s not only the potholes,” he told The Oaklandside. “One of the challenges we see every single day is that people don’t respect the traffic laws, period. Especially not in Oakland, where a red light doesn’t mean anything anymore. We are not enforcing any rules on the roads, which is why it’s getting worse and worse…These things have become normal.”

He has also supported policies meant to prevent and deter hazardous driving. In 2011, he advocated for a curfew to restrict anyone under the age of 20 from driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a parent or another adult, for one year after receiving their license. The curfew was mainly aimed at reducing gun violence, but it ran up against opposition and was ultimately not approved. 

That same year, De La Fuente was pulled over for speeding by CHP officers on I-880. He failed a field sobriety test and was arrested, but the district attorney did not file charges. 

In 2005, De La Fuente worked with then-councilmember Jean Quan on a $15 million plan to calm traffic with improved crosswalks, sidewalks, and signs at the intersections of Foothill Boulevard and Fruitvale Avenue, and International Boulevard and Fruitvale Avenue. 

“I think it’s going to be an incredible improvement for mothers who take their children to school and for seniors who have to cross the streets,” De La Fuente said at the time. De La Fuente also rode on a bike with Quan to celebrate new bike lanes approved by the Public Works Committee near E. 12th Street. 

In 2001, according to local bike advocates at Bike East Bay, councilmembers De La Fuente and Larry Reid turned down an opportunity to build a seven-mile bikeway along parts of Foothill  Boulevard and Bancroft Avenue from Lake Merritt to San Leandro. The project would later be reassessed by a regional planning consultant, and it is now in the process of being completed over the next decade. 

De La Fuente was on the City Council when it approved the Bus Rapid Transit line through East Oakland. At the time, there was concern that removing parking to create the bus-dedicated lane would harm small businesses. De La Fuente argued at a July 2012 meeting that the completed BRT line would help provide the Fruitvale district with an “economic infusion.” Today, some residents say the project has made International Boulevard more dangerous and needs to be reassessed. 

Gregory Hodge

Oakland mayoral candidate Gregory Hodge. Credit: Amir Aziz

A former OUSD board member, Hodge has worked with several Oakland-based organizations that deal with the plight of people living near dangerous streets, particularly children around schools. As the executive director at Safe Passages, a community nonprofit working with families experiencing poverty, he worked with local leaders to develop programs around traffic calming and implemented protection strategies such as “walking buses”—groups of parents and students who walk together to school to make themselves more visible to drivers. 

Hodge also worked with the city in a consulting capacity on its Downtown Oakland Specific Plan, a sweeping economic development plan that includes a focus on improved transportation. The plan has been used by the city to seek state and federal funds to improve street infrastructure through new designs and construction. 

Hodge supports Oakland’s continued investment in streets through the $850 million infrastructure bond, Measure U. But he is concerned that much of this money could be used on the Howard Terminal project for the benefit of the Oakland A’s.

“We’re getting up here now to a price tag upwards of $320 million for infrastructure alone, in and around Howard Terminal, just to make that development go,” he said of the ballpark plan. “[People are] saying, why aren’t we spending that kind of [money] on filling potholes and creating more bike lanes?”

The 62-year-old noted that community members are increasingly taking it upon themselves to improve their streets rather than wait for OakDOT to do it for them. Some cities, he said, have programs to train residents on filling potholes and making other improvements to facilitate traffic calming. 

“It’s the kind of program that I think Oakland could use because we already see people every week doing street repairs and cleaning up illegal dumping. There is definitely an energy in Oakland to do some of that sort of self-help, self-directed work.”

Tyron Jordan

Mayoral candidate Tyron Jordan. Credit: Courtesy of Tyron Jordan

For the last 16 years, the 58-year-old Oakland resident and paralegal has been commuting by BART to his job in San Francisco for the California Attorney General’s office. That’s why, he said in his Seamless questionnaire, he believes that improving the efficiency and affordability of the city’s public transit systems is key to lowering emissions and encouraging low-income communities to take them. 

Jordan also believes good behavior or technology that can save the environment should be rewarded through subsidies. Low-income people should have subsidized rides, and companies that use clean energy, including electric, solar, and hydro, should receive tax incentives in Oakland. 

In an interview with The Oaklandside, Jordan said he has jogged Oakland streets and called them “horrible” and “dangerous to drive and ride on.” In that same interview, he noted there were still a lot of potholes in the city even after millions of dollars from Measure KK have been used in the last few years. More people need to get hired to be able to continue to do that job and understand the department has been severely short-staffed. 

As with Riemann and Hodge, Jordan is worried that hundreds of millions in infrastructure money will likely be spent on and around the Oakland A’s stadium. The project is a luxe real estate ploy, he told the Real Property site, and the money being spent on it “should be used for more important things; like tackling the homelessness crisis, infrastructure, etc.” 

And while many people in Oakland are split between believing that there should be more biking lanes and more road fixes, Jordan says the priority in Oakland should be to fix both, even if he would prefer people ride bikes. 

 “If it was up to me, everyone would be riding a bike in order to help save the environment,” he told The Oaklandside.

Treva Reid

District 7 Oakland City Councilmember Treva Reid. Credit: Amir Aziz

The former PG&E representative and California Waste Solutions lobbyist was elected nearly two years ago to represent District 7 after her father, former councilmember Larry Reid, retired from the post. District 7 stretches from the middle and upper-class Toler and Sequoyah Heights neighborhoods to the East Oakland flatlands, where residents face a number of infrastructure issues. 

During the council’s 2021-23 city budget discussions, Reid supported a “targeted traffic-safety and violence-prevention program,” improved 911 response times, traffic-calming measures, and sideshow deterrents. She also supported using some of the city’s federal relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to restore traffic and sideshow enforcement. 

With other councilmembers, Reid has voted to fund street redesign and construction projects using money from local ballot initiatives like Measure KK, which was passed by Oakland voters in 2016 and provides hundreds of millions for repairs to sidewalks, streets, and parks. Like Taylor, Reid has cited a lack of equity in how the city prioritizes infrastructure projects and safety improvements like speed bumps, street re-paving, and traffic lights.

Last year, Reid’s office hosted a public Zoom meeting to discuss traffic issues, where the councilmember expressed support for families impacted by traffic violence. When then-transportation director Ryan Russo brought up the tragedy of OUSD parent Mieshia Singleton, who lost her life crossing the street at Bancroft and 98th avenues, Reid said the East Oakland community “still feels the pain of that loss” and expressed her desire to increase “pedestrian and traffic safety measures” and “disrupt this culture of reckless senseless driving.”

During the same meeting, residents complained about dangerous conditions and deaths in the Fruitvale District following street changes that were part of the Bus Rapid Transit project. An AC Transit staffer said it was “obviously a dangerous situation” that “needs to be addressed.” Reid acknowledged the problem and said she would look into it.

In her answers to the Seamless Bay Area questionnaire, Reid said she believes the quickest way to reduce toxic vehicle emissions is “improving the reliability, accessibility, and safety of our public transit options.” If elected mayor, she said she would establish a transportation working group made up of local and state leaders to “address the gaps in service,” identify state and federal grants for infrastructure projects, and take on regional public safety issues that intersect with transportation and mobility, such as homeless encampments on shared easements.

Reid believes the main cause of traffic violence in Oakland is poor traffic law enforcement and a “lack of mitigating measures” in streets, such as speed bumps and corner bulb-outs, which make pedestrian crosswalks shorter. As mayor, she would invest more in the city’s 311 program to speed up response times for fixing potholes and other hazards. 

Reid has also said the city should invest more in bike rental programs and rideshares, especially for low-income residents. She would support a flat rate on all public transit, including BART, for low-income riders. She would also support “any legislation” that brings about a new Transbay BART line crossing from the East Bay to San Francisco.

John Reimann

John Reimann (right) at a protest in Frank Ogawa Plaza. Credit: Courtesy of John Reimann

The retired carpenter and socialist candidate has been at the forefront of citizen protests against the proposed A’s stadium at Howard Terminal, which will greatly affect the city’s streets. 

During a public press conference last month where U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Mayor Schaaf, and U.S. Representative Barbara Lee lauded a new federal grant for improved transportation infrastructure in the downtown area, Reimann loudly interrupted the proceedings and criticized the city’s plan, which he believes will benefit the wealthy owner of the A’s baseball team more than it will Oakland residents.

Reimann did not provide written answers to the Seamless coalition’s questions about transportation issues. But in an interview with The Oaklandside, he said the city should invest in filling potholes, make public transit free, and increase the number of bike lanes in the city. He said bike advocates and people who rely mostly on cars have a shared interest in making roads safer and should work together.

He also said the city should invest in a robust public transit system that can compete with or complement county and regional systems like AC Transit and BART. 

As for Oakland’s reckless driving problem, Reimann pointed to E. 18th Street, 14th Avenue, E. 22nd Street, and E. 24th, near his home, as among the streets he knows are dangerous and that should be prioritized for a redesign. But the streets themselves, he said, are only part of the problem.

“People go whizzing up and down them like they’re on their way to a fire. None of these things are just technical problems. It gets into a whole issue of the mass psychology of millions of people, including tens of thousands here in Oakland,” he said. 

Seneca Scott

Seneca Scott speaking at a mayoral candidates forum at Laney College. Credit: Amir Aziz

The Oakland neighborhood organizer and small-business owner is running on a law-and-order platform that includes raising the number of police officers in Oakland from roughly 680 to 900. He thinks police can and should do more to enforce traffic laws around the city without engaging in racial profiling or other harmful practices. 

His campaign website states that Oakland shouldn’t “criminalize poverty through traffic stops for violations.”

Like many of the other candidates, Scott believes OPD should confiscate the vehicles of dangerous drivers. “I will advocate that we do that every single time,” he told The Oaklandside. “We’ll send a clear message that you’re not going to be driving like a crazy person through the streets of Oakland.”

He also supports increased use of technology to enforce traffic laws, including license-plate-scanning cameras. Scott told The Oaklandside that he was a member of a neighborhood group that used cameras to gather evidence of unsafe drivers on 8th Street, and then shared the video with OakDOT to advocate for street improvements there.

Scott said he’d also like to see more enforcement from California Highway Patrol on Oakland’s roads, and that the Coliseum property could possibly be used one day to safely stage sideshows, the raucous night parties featuring stunt driving.

Scott, who does not own a car, said he’s personally felt the impact of Oakland’s unsafe roadways, and it’s an issue he’s passionate about. “I use a bike and public transportation more than Uber now,” he said, “because I don’t want to get hit.”

Loren Taylor

District 6 Councilmember Loren Taylor. Credit: Amir Aziz

The 45-year-old former biotech engineer is in his fourth year representing District 6 on the City Council. From his council campaign until now, Taylor has accused the city of having a double standard when it comes to administering public services to Black and Latinx residents in East Oakland.

At a council meeting last January on business redistricting and repaving, Taylor said the city has shown “a bias towards [investing in] prominent, well-sourced and thriving corridors like Lakeshore and Rockridge,” which are mostly white. “East Oakland corridors usually don’t get prioritization but have just as much speeding and traffic challenges for pedestrians,” he said. 

Taylor has criticized OakDOT for attempting to waive requirements to hire Black contractors for its many construction jobs.

The councilmember has also advocated for more enforcement of existing traffic laws through ticketing and additional cameras to crack down on drivers who speed and run red lights.

“The lack of enforcement is the elephant in the room,” he said at the January council meeting. “It doesn’t matter how low the speed limit is if we don’t have a traffic enforcement unit within OPD to actually hold people accountable to go at the speed limit.” 

The Oakland Police Department shut down its traffic units throughout most of the pandemic, citing recruiting challenges, although OPD Chief LeRonne Armstrong recently announced that one of the department’s traffic squads had been brought back. 

Earlier this year, The Oaklandside used information provided by OPD to determine that there are only about 35 patrol officers out in the city at any given time.

During his campaign in 2018, Taylor supported the idea of employing civilians instead of police officers to issue traffic citations. No councilmember to date has brought forward legislation to do this, although Councilmember Dan Kalb told The Oaklandside last year he had been trying to build a coalition around the idea.

During work on the 2021-2023 city budget, Taylor, alongside councilmembers Sheng Thao and Treva Reid (who are also both running for mayor), added funding for parks, workforce development, and traffic enforcement, including sideshow prevention. This included money for re-striping streets in the Laurel District, traffic safety improvements at high-risk intersections on Foothill Boulevard, and $150,000 for traffic-calming measures throughout East Oakland. 

Taylor told The Oaklandside that as mayor he would pursue public-private partnerships as one way to bring added revenue to the city. He was supportive of Mayor Schaaf’s partnership with Lyft, in which the rideshare company put up funding for greater bicycle access, free public transit passes, and monthly rideshares for low-income Oaklanders, in partnership with local nonprofits.

“It’s more expensive to be poor than to be wealthy,” said Taylor. “And transportation is one of the biggest expenses for low-income people.” 

In his response to a candidate questionnaire for Seamless Bay Area, a grassroots transit policy group, Taylor wrote that he and his family struggle with “finding easy access to public transportation that is convenient and accessible,” forcing him to drive to work and family functions. In the same interview, Taylor said he would continue to implement the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, improve OakDOT staffing levels, and expand Oakland’s Universal Basic Mobility pilot program, which gives very-low-income people pre-paid passes to ride buses and BART. 

Taylor also supports putting a Bus Rapid Transit lane on San Pablo Avenue. BRT has gotten a rocky reception in East Oakland, where some residents have said the dedicated bus lanes and boarding islands in the middle of International Boulevard have made the corridor less safe.

Sheng Thao

Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao. Credit: Amir Aziz

During her time on the City Council representing District 4, Thao has co-sponsored or supported several pieces of legislation to improve city streets. She serves on the council’s Public Works Committee and the Alameda County Transportation Commission, the local government coordinating group that helps make decisions on big regional infrastructure and transit projects.

Thao has taken a stand on traffic and transportation issues on social media. When one resident posted a data analysis on Twitter showing that hundreds of applications for neighborhood speed bumps in Oakland hadn’t been completed, Thao commented that the delay was due to understaffing at OakDOT.

Thao supports Measure T, a progressive business tax measure, in part because it would raise about $20 million each year that could be used to fill positions at OakDOT and other departments. 

In 2021, Thao and District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo set up a committee to examine why the city didn’t have enough school crossing guards to keep students safe.

When Oakland resident Dimtry Putilov was killed on 14th Street while bicycling with his two sons, Thao called for an accelerated schedule to improve street conditions. “The death on 14th Street was entirely preventable and speaks to the urgent need for projects like this,” Thao wrote in a tweet. “Nobody should fear for their lives while walking, biking, or driving on our streets.”

Some Oakland residents blamed Putilov’s death on the city’s decision to slow down construction of a new protected bike lane on 14th Street after the Oakland Fire Department expressed concerns that the road would become too narrow for their vehicles. Thao alluded to this tension when she wrote in her response to the Seamless questionnaire that city departments “need to work together to streamline projects that serve our emergency services but don’t compromise safety.”

The 37-year-old former chief of staff for Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan is an advocate for building protected bike lanes on high-injury streets. During a contentious summer 2021 City Council meeting looking into the viability of the Telegraph Avenue bike lanes, local business owners complained that the lanes would reduce vehicle parking. Thao noted that customers also ride bikes, and deserve safe access to the area’s stores. 

“It’s about helping people who are less privileged, like people who don’t have cars, [who] might use their bikes or ride AC Transit, who are majority Black or brown and seniors,” she said. “For me, it’s about targeting and uplifting the less privileged.”

Thao also said she’s heard from East Oakland residents who feel the city doesn’t equitably invest in their neighborhoods.

“I know that many East Oakland residents have felt their voice has not been heard,” she said at a press conference in September announcing new funding for East Oakland parks. “I am determined to bring more investments into parks, open space…safe streets, and more to our communities most impacted by decades of underinvestment.”

In her answers to the Seamless questionnaire, Thao wrote that she has poor access to public transit and almost always uses a car. She connected the mass reliance on vehicles in Oakland to toxic emissions, greenhouse gasses, and other environmental harms that disproportionately impact Black, brown, and Asian residents.

Thao has indicated her support for a regional organization that could help coordinate the Bay Area’s 27 transit agencies.

When asked which were the most important streets that need traffic-calming infrastructure, Thao said 35th Avenue, High Street, and Fruitvale Avenue should be prioritized for improvements.  

Alyssa Victory

Oakland mayoral candidate Allyssa Victory Villanueva Credit: Amir Aziz

During her interview with The Oaklandside, Victory said she approves of much of what the transportation department has been doing in recent years to improve Oakland’s streets, but that more investment in infrastructure is still needed. 

Victory, who lives in the San Antonio neighborhood, said simply leaving her home by car every day is a challenge due to the poor quality of the surrounding streets. “Part of the problem is that maybe not enough elected officials even live in these parts of the city and understand how serious it is,” she said.

During her campaign for mayor, Victory has sought out people’s thoughts on traffic and transit issues, and shared her own on social media. During a ride on AC Transit earlier this year, she spoke to several residents about the differences between Oakland and San Francisco’s public transit options and posted about the interaction on Facebook. In another post, she shared her opinion that despite some new bike lanes around Oakland, overall bike infrastructure still seemed “nonexistent.”

“Deep east Oakland goes from disappearing painted bike lanes on potholed streets to nothing. These include main streets and those connecting to public transit like [E. 14th Street],” she wrote.

Victory has promised that if she is elected, she will work with local organizations like the Scraper Bike Team and Bike East Bay to expand “bike-safe infrastructure and greenways” and that she will work with councilmembers to implement policies and spend infrastructure dollars in an equitable way.

Victory expressed support for transit workers who protested at Oakland’s City Hall last year to demand hazard pay, after working through the pandemic without financial guarantees. 

“I did not have a license until I was 22 and no car until I was 27. I depended on transit to get to work and school and still ride weekly for this campaign,” Victory said on Facebook. “My family members are ATU members. I will always show up for our transit workers because they keep our City moving.”

Victory told The Oaklandside that she would explore the idea of making some roads in Oakland entirely car-free, to improve conditions for pedestrians and public transit. “There are some streets that should be taken out of commission, to be honest,” she said. “We have a very car-focused city. We also have a lot of public transit but sometimes, even buses struggle to get around.”

Victory said the Slow Streets program, a pandemic-era initiative in which OakDOT closed some roads to through-vehicle traffic, did not work in East Oakland. On some streets, she said, residents would just move the temporary plastic signs to the side and continue driving on the roads. Most East Oakland residents The Oaklandside interviewed about Slow Streets said the city didn’t do enough outreach to learn about their needs. 

“Those were missed opportunities to really assess, comprehensively, whether there are unsafe streets in such disrepair that maybe they need to be shut down,” Victory said. 

As mayor, Victory would also advocate for the creation of “safe zones, drop-off zones, or protected crosswalks around every school.”

Jose Fermoso covers road safety, transportation, and public health for The Oaklandside. His previous work covering tech and culture has appeared in publications including The Guardian, The New York Times, and One Zero. Jose was born and raised in Oakland and is the host and creator of the El Progreso podcast, a new show featuring in-depth narrative stories and interviews about and from the perspective of the Latinx community.