We are excited to bring the California Bicycle Summit back to Oakland for many reasons. Oakland is a diverse city with a thriving bike culture, a vibrant arts scene, and rich history. Plus, we found a venue that embodies the art and aspiration that is the heart of Oakland. But mostly, we’re thrilled to introduce Oakland to more of you.
Oakland has a robust bike program, some terrific protected bike lanes, and one of the most vital bike advocacy groups in California (Bike East Bay). It also borders Berkeley, which has storied bicycle boulevards and one of the highest bike mode shares in California, and it’s an easy BART or ferry ride from San Francisco, which has its own rich bicycle culture.
Here is a sampling of trivia, history, and culture to savor on a visit to Oakland.
The art of biking
Oakland is home to many visual artists, including painters, muralists, Burning Man sculptors and builders, and a diverse music scene that includes homegrown genres (like hyphy). So it’s no surprise that the art and whimsy of the city found their way into Oakland bike culture.
The best-known Oakland bicycle icons are the Original Scraper Bike Team. The team uses colorful duct tape wrapped around bicycle spokes to create “art in motion,” and the group’s mission has expanded from creating homegrown bike culture to serving Oakland youth. And it all started with an irresistible music video.
Bike Party started in San Jose before spreading around the Bay, and the East Bay version is an explosion of music, lights, costumes, and — manners. Bike Party stops at all lights and makes sure no one is left behind. It’s a joyous parade of elaborately-lit bikes and speakers booming on bike trailers that’s both kid-friendly and a fun Friday night out.
More Bay Area bike facts:
- People for Bikes named Berkeley the best mid-sized city for bikes in the U.S.
- San Francisco political party, the Wigg Party, is named after one of the city’s most popular bike routes, The Wiggle.
- You can experience North America’s first wildlife refuge in the heart of Oakland at Lake Merritt via a gorgeous protected bikeway that encircles the lake.
- Bike East Bay advocates for better biking in 33 cities in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, working in communities that range from super bike-friendly to very car-centric.
Oakland is fondly called The Town or Oaktown, in contrast to San Francisco, often referred to as The City. Look for depictions of the iconic cranes that dominate the skyline at the Port of Oakland, visible from the freeway or nearby Jack London Square. Visit the Oaklandish flagship store at 1444 Broadway, just a few blocks from the Summit venue, for graphic tees and other locally made goodies that express the pride that locals feel in their community.
A rich history
As a majority BIPOC city, Oakland’s history includes booms and busts, decades of development followed by neglect and reinvention. For example, the Uptown Oakland neighborhood, where the Summit is centered, includes many glorious examples of art deco architecture that survived being torn down because of lack of investment and have now come to life again as art, music, and entertainment venues. The OakStop complex, where the breakout sessions will take place, is a great example of this: it’s in a historic building with an ornate facade that speaks to Oakland’s history while inside the coworking and event space walls are is filled with work by today’s local artists.
Uptown’s commercial spaces are being reimagined by local artists and entrepreneurs, leading to an eclectic mix of retail, art galleries, and eateries. That includes the Oakstop venue, where you can view the work of local artists in every meeting room. The art deco California Ballroom, where we’ll host the Summit plenary sessions, first opened in 1926 and joined a vibrant entertainment scene in Oakland, a prime tour stop for top Black performers because of The Town’s sizeable Black community. Explore the roots of that community at the African American Museum and Library, a short walk from the Summit venue.
Unlike San Francisco’s Chinatown, Oakland’s Chinatown is oriented toward the people who live there, not tourists. This vibrant neighborhood, just a short walk or bus ride from the Summit, once stretched to Jack London Square and the San Francisco Bay before it was cut in half by a freeway, a fate it shares with many Chinese communities in California. Of particular interest to active transit nerds: the beautifully decorated intersections where pedestrian scrambles serve the bustling, walkable community.
Oakland has also been an incubator for revolutionary political movements from the Black Panthers to Occupy Oakland. You can learn more about local and California history at the Oakland Museum of California, which offers a mix of art, history, science, and fascinating special exhibitions.
A foodie paradise
The Bay Area is known for its fabulous restaurants, and Oakland is no exception. A flourishing vegan community means that you can find vegan options on most menus, in addition to fantastic vegan restaurants. Meat lovers, don’t despair — Oakland has terrific dining options to please every palate. The Town is home to excellent Mexican, Thai, Burmese, Chinese, Japanese, and soul food eateries, just to name a few. Restaurants of almost every cuisine are a short walk, bike ride, or transit trip from the Summit. Here are a few of our favorites.
- Wise and Sons Jewish Deli, 1700 Franklin: If you’re missing the old country (i.e. New York), this fantastic deli is a must.
- The Punchdown, 1737 Broadway: You can enjoy the natural, sulfate-free wine selection in-house or buy bottles to go. The food is yummy too.
- Drakes Dealership, 2325 Broadway: Enjoy covid-safe dining in this lovely outdoor beer garden. Drakes has The. Best. Fries.
- Solely Vegan, 301 Broadway: You haven’t lived until you’ve had the red beans and rice at this Black- and woman-owned vegan soul food restaurant. It’s worth the walk.
- Agave Uptown, 2135 Franklin: The menu at this upscale Mexican restaurant has something for everyone. And don’t miss the Mescal.
- Shandong, 328 10th Street: This Chinatown fave is famous for its dumplings, but the extensive menu has something for everyone.
- Swan’s Market, 510 9th Street: Once a famous department store in Old Oakland, Swan’s Market is now home to a food court that is an incubator for innovative local chefs. Plus, there’s a farmer’s market on the street outside on Friday from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm.
This is just a tiny (and somewhat biased) sampling of the many fantastic restaurants within a short walk or bike ride of the Summit.
So much to love about Oakland
On first look, Oakland’s center can look rundown, a bit rough around the edges. But what you’re seeing is a city that’s in a constant process of reinventing itself. Today’s empty storefront will be tomorrow’s happening art gallery. When you scratch below the surface, you find a wellspring of energy and creativity, a community trying to figure out how to preserve diversity and embrace modernity without forgetting its roots.
And we haven’t even touched on many of The Town’s attractions: Lake Merritt, with its glorious separated bike path (join us on the bike tour to visit it); the Grand Lake Theater, famous for the political messages on its marquee; Jack London Square, home to fantastic restaurants and delightful bay views; and so much more.
We hope you can join us at the California Bicycle Summit, April 6-9, in Oakland. And we hope that, while you are here, you can take some time to appreciate some of Oakland’s fantastic architecture, culture, and cuisine.