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With advocacy attention focused on saving the J.F.K. Promenade in Golden Gate Park, it's possible to overlook some other important measures in the Bay Area on the November ballot. Bike East Bay's Dave Campbell is one of many advocates working hard to make sure Oakland residents vote "yes" on Measure U, which will issue bonds to raise $850 million, including almost $300 million to continue repaving and repairing Oakland streets.

In addition to Bike East Bay, the measure is endorsed by SPUR, Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, and a host of other orgs familiar to Streetsblog readers. It's also endorsed by the entire Oakland city council and the mayor.

U would, in effect, be an extension of Oakland's Measure KK, which passed in 2016. This allowed Oakland to hire workers, purchase paving machines, and acquire the raw materials to smooth out its famously cracked and broken streets. "Imagine walking, biking, and even driving around Oakland without hitting potholes or broken sidewalks on every other block," Bike East Bay said in 2016. And that's started to really have a visible effect on the streets, as seen in the lead image.

Of course, like KK was, Measure U is about more than streets. From the campaign website:

Affordable housing activists, bike and pedestrian advocates, fire safety organizers, library boosters, and hundreds of Oaklanders have come together to build Measure U. We’ve found a way to raise funds by extending current bonds without raising taxes.

Here is what Measure U will do:• Provide housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness• Create housing for working families so that essential workers like grocery store clerks, bus drivers, childcare providers, teachers and others can live in safe, decent housing in Oakland and stay ahead• Eliminate potholes and repave streets, improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists• Upgrade libraries, parks, recreation centers and other facilities across Oakland

Measure U will do this equitably—by prioritizing the neighborhoods in Oakland with the most need.

A motorist taking the corner at West and MacArthur at a protected intersection partially funded by KK. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
A motorist taking the corner at West and MacArthur at a protected intersection partially funded by KK. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Streetsblog joins this endorsement, with one small caveat: in many cases, but certainly not all, Oakland has repaved streets without adding any safety improvements for cyclists. Potholes can be deadly for cyclists and must be fixed. But it only helps so much to have smoother pavement if cyclists continue to have to struggle around cars and trucks parked in unprotected bike lanes.

But Campbell says U, while still not perfect, is a vast improvement over KK and other past measures. "We got some language into the ballot measure to ensure more street safety projects are included in repaving. The language is pretty darned good." He's referring to section 3, which includes the instruction that crews "must implement City of Oakland pedestrian and bicycle safety plans" whenever repaving is done.

Therefore, passing Measure U is an important and necessary step in the ongoing struggle to make Oakland's streets safe. U is a general obligation bond and will require two-thirds to pass.

Streetsblog San Francisco urges its Oakland readers to vote “yes” on U.

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