Bike East Bay and Traffic Violence Rapid Response hold a vigil for 4-year-old Maia Correira, a child who died following a bike and car collision that happened on Aug 6 near Lake Merritt on Aug 7, 2023 in Oakland, Calif. Credit: Amir Aziz

Oakland is reportedly fast-tracking the construction of a cycle track on Lakeshore Avenue in response to pressure from road safety advocates. Plans for the protected bicycle lane come two months after four-year-old Maia Correia died from a head injury. 

Correia was riding on the back of her father’s bicycle when a man in a parked car opened his door, striking the bike and sending Correia and her father tumbling into the road. She suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage and passed away at Oakland’s UCSF Children’s Hospital, surrounded by shocked family members. 

A few weeks after her death, road safety advocacy groups and Correia’s family organized a vigil on Lakeshore. People called for protected lanes that would better separate cyclists from drivers and make dooring accidents impossible. 

Within days of the vigil, the city’s Department of Transportation, OakDOT, announced it would add signs along the road to remind drivers to watch out for cyclists when opening their doors. OakDOT also pledged to step up education efforts to make drivers more aware of bicyclists. Still, many residents wanted physical barriers on the busy street. 

In conversations with District 2 Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas, OakDOT staff said they plan to partner with the East Bay Municipal Utility District starting in the fall of 2024 to rebuild the roadway. The project is expected to be completed sometime in 2025, although the cost-sharing agreement between OakDOT and EBMUD detailing the exact dates and the project budget hasn’t yet been signed.

“OakDOT will be developing a project webpage over the coming weeks to outline plans for improvements to Lakeshore Avenue between E. 18th Street and El Embarcadero,” the department told Bas. Initial design concepts will be posted on a city website where people will be able to track the project’s progress.

According to Sheila McCracken, Maia’s aunt, OakDOT promised a 12-foot, two-way cycle track that will likely be directly connected to the sidewalk along Lake Merritt. A three-foot barrier of protective infrastructure such as concrete, bollards, or planters will likely be added next to the track, and car parking will be moved next to the vehicle lanes. The bike track on Lakeshore Avenue may look similar to the cycle track on Lakeside Drive, on the West side of Lake Merritt. 

An imperative to move quickly to fix a dangerous street

After last month’s vigil, Maia’s family met with District 2 Councilmember Bas at City Hall. Bas recommended the family talk directly with OakDOT staff and Mayor Sheng Thao to describe their needs and expectations around safer roadways. Thao and City Administrator Jestin Johnson also spoke to the family at their Oakland home. 

“It was good to hear directly from them. They are grieving incredibly and at the same time, they’re really committed to advocating to prevent that type of tragedy,” Bas said. 

After OakDOT said they would add caution signs to Lakeshore Avenue as a preventative measure, Bas said she asked the Mayor and OakDOT to consider implementing a physical roadway change faster. The road was scheduled to be repaved in 2027, and this could have included the addition of protected lanes, but the Correia family worried that waiting would result in more serious collisions. 

OakDOT then learned that EBMUD had plans in late 2024 to dig up and replace sewer pipes along Lakeshore. This will create an opportunity to add protected bike lanes at the same time. The project will show up on EBMUD’s “Construction in my neighborhood” map. 

“I know a lot of folks feel like Oakland doesn’t move quick enough on all of this. You know, we are still struggling with filling vacant positions [at OakDOT]. And there are a lot of competing priorities for traffic safety improvements,” Bas said in an interview. “I am just really heartened to hear that they took this very seriously and were very creative in moving the project forward by several years.”

The increased visibility and organization from street safety advocates combined with powerful personal stories from people who have been most impacted, said Bas, are making it more likely for road changes to occur. 

A desire to turn a tragedy into prevention

The Correia family has been active in street safety advocacy over the last month while dealing with the pain of their loss. McCracken said that just this week she attended a virtual meeting of the Families for Safe Streets program by WalkSF and went to an in-person vigil for Lupe Briones Mendez, who was killed in September on International Boulevard.

“It’s a terrible way to be thrown into the activism work, and it’s also overwhelming and scary,” McCracken said. “You’re going through this horrible time in your life, and then on top of it, you’re trying to figure out what to do to make sure this doesn’t happen to other people.” 

McCracken, who lives in Oakland, said it’s been comforting to speak to other families. 

The most difficult aspect of the grieving process has been the realization that as time passes, Maia feels “further away.” 

“My sister and I talk about her constantly,” said McCracken. “We always watch videos, and I have pictures of her up all over my apartment now.” 

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.