Bay Area neighborhoods were forever changed… or reduced to nothing by the introduction of freeways crisscrossing Oakland.
The Cypress Street Viaduct in Oakland was opened on June 11, 1957, becoming the first double-decker freeway to run in California. But it was far from the only highway carving through the Bay Area city at the time.
Construction of Alameda County’s various freeways began almost two decades before the Cypress Street Viaduct debuted; these types of wide roads began cutting through Oakland as early as the late 1930s. As of 2022, ten highway segments now lattice Alameda County — which, collectively, see over million-and-a-half vehicles pass over them a day during peak traffic conditions.
The Bay Area city that has the densest crisscrossing of interstates? Oakland. 100 percent.
Freeways are inherently dangerous. Alameda County saw more than 80 freeway shootings in 2020 — one of which claimed the life of an innocent toddler last year. Several people have already died during highway collisions in Oakland this year. Not surprisingly: The vast majority of the county’s severe motor vehicle injuries that are recorded annually happen on local highways. And in California, itself, traffic deaths have surged by nearly 11% in 2021 when compared to 2020, which, as the San Francisco Chronicle notes is “mirroring a grim upward trend observed nationwide.”
These massive roadways, too, are environmentally lethal. They’re urbanistic eyesores. They’re literal makers and markers of gentrification. They have no place in our modern cities. (There are numerous peer-reviewed traffic studies conducted by leading academics that support the idea of reimagining our cities without freeways is the right thing — for humanity, for Mother Nature, and for urban accessibility.)
Oakland CA 1938 to 1984
“The automobile has disrupted and virtually exploded the city fully as much as would an atomic bomb could its force be spent gradually.” -Harland Bartholomew,* 1949
Animation from segregation_by_design on Instagram pic.twitter.com/A7G9bo2OzM
— Peter Reid ⚡⚛️ (@peterkinvara) November 25, 2021
And it’s these very concrete corridors that have managed to cut through Oakland’s “living tissue” since the early 1900s.
“Watch the living tissue of #Oakland California disappeared before the living death of freeways and surface parking,” writes author Taras Grescoe in a tweet that includes a 50-second timelapse, which was made by Segregation_by_Design 2021, showing the inundation of freeways into Oakland over the span of nearly a century. Originally shared by the Cycling Professor — a Twitter account dedicated to “bringing science on cycling to practice & back” — the short video displays just how a network of highways has slashed through, up, and over many Oakland communities, beginning as early as 1938.
Take specific note of how erecting some freeways decimated — in some instances even completely erased — local housing supply, as well as created pedestrian accessibility issues in neighborhoods like West Oakland.
When videos like these showing concretely the community and ecological implications of freeway construction in major metropolitans, it’s hard to dissuade arguments that glow favorably in support of car-free corridors.
***If you’re having problems viewing the tweet that contains the timelapse on this website, you can find the timelapse here.
Feature image: Courtesy of Flickr via ACTransit.org