Alameda’s Invisible Non-Smoking Ordinance: Walking on Park, Webster Sidewalks Still Toxic

Nine months after Alameda’s Secondhand Smoke Ordinance took effect on January 2, 2012, nonsmokers (90% of the population) and people with asthma or lung disease should find the Park and Webster Street commercial districts and our shopping centers smoke-free and safe for working lungs, right?

Not yet.

The ordinance—still functionally unimplemented— is almost invisible. 

With no official city signs posted and very few in businesses, smokers still light up every day on commercial district sidewalks, at bus stops, and at street fairs—completely unaware of Alameda’s no-smoking ordinance–violating a law they do not even know exists.

Linda Hudson, my wife and business partner since 1988, has chronic asthma and serious allergies, including tobacco. The presence or absence of tobacco smoke determines where we can safely dine and shop without compromising her health—or mine. For Linda, going out is safer now: At least now I can watch a baseball game at a sports bar and not have to worry about tobacco smoke.”

Since January, Linda and I have encountered smokers most of the times we have been on the Park Street business district sidewalks. Many are visitors who are completely unaware of Alameda’s “invisible” ordinance. Some are local employees.

A few smokers are deliberately violating the ordinance. (They say they do not care about people with compromised breathing when I ask.) Last week I encountered 5 smokers in three blocks on Park inside of 20 minutes: three were “protesting” the law.

Clearly, the ordinance has not yet been adequately implemented–by either business district association or by the city. Only a few individual businesses display “No Smoking” signs and there are no city signs on any of Alameda’s business district streets or sidewalks. Amazingly enough, none were required–except in outdoor areas where firms like Peet’s or Starbuck’s serve food or drinks.

Despite overwhelming public support before and after the ordinance passed–no one is promoting our (supposedly) smoke-free commercial areas to the 90% of customers who do not smoke. Why?

Terri Wright, Senior Management Analyst with the City of Alameda, and co-author of the ordinance, said, “Public signs were not part of the ordinance…the city was hoping to implement it ‘organically’ by building a consensus for implementing social change.” The business associations have declined or not responded to city offers to install public signs—even when funded by grant money. (Wright has heard a lot from “vocal non-smoking libertarians,” as well as smokers.)

A few signs-“prototypes”-went up Monday.

But Wright and the city are also responding to complaints from nonsmokers. On Monday, September 24, the city posted a  few “prototypye” signs on Park to see what looked acceptable. It’s a start…Police Chief Mike Noonan told me his officers are enforcing the smoking ordinance when violations are reported but they cannot always respond in time to catch violators, given reduced patrol resources and other priorities.

Installing prominent no-smoking public and business signage in our “C-designated”commercial districts is long overdue. Smoking is illegal on all commercial district and shopping center sidewalks and within “20 feet of doors, windows, and other openings into enclosed areas” of businesses. Puffing is illegal in ticket lines; also at bus stops, street fairs, and concerts, and in any “public walkway or hall areas that connect retail or professional establishments” in shopping centers.

Here are the key link if you want to take action:

Look for more signage—it’s available for free to the business associations from the city— at Alameda’s upcoming Webster Street’s Neptune Beach  Community Celebration October 6-7 and the Classic Car Show on Park October 13.  City-approved signs and informational flyers are here. 

If you see violators, let them know about the ordinance. If they do not stop smoking, call the Alameda Police Department at 510-337-8340 — from a safe place.

Or contact Serena Chen of the local American Lung Association:

Serena Chen | Regional Advocacy Director
American Lung Association in California
424 Pendleton Way
Oakland, CA 94621
Phone: 510.982.3191
Fax: 510.638.8984 |

Prominent public signage and enforcement of the no-smoking ban are long overdue. Lungs should be safe in Alameda’s commercial districts—something Mayor Gilmore and our City Council promised us in 2011. Park Street, Webster Street, and our shopping centers should not be toxic zones for walkers, shoppers, diners, people with asthma or lung disease, and children.

Don’t make us hold our breath.


First-Ever Parklet on Park Street: International PARK(ing) Day 2012 in Alameda

Did you see Alameda’s first-ever “parklet”  in front of Tucker’s Ice Cream on Park Street Friday?

 The parklet–the first one in an Alameda business district–was designed to  reclaim and repurpose some asphalt for the 12 hours of International PARK(ing) Day(IPD) on Friday, September 21.

And it worked.

You can see more photos here of the two-parking-space project, which BikeAlameda board member, new media instructor, and mom Donna Eyestone initiated last year. Alameda parent, Planning Board Vice-president, and architect David Burton, designed the parklet. Burton is also the Chair of  Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda (CASA).

Planning Board member, dad, and former Transportation Commission Chair John Knox White  and many others helped out. Local materials were donated by BikeAlameda, CASA, The Reuse People, Urban Island Home Furnishings, and  Ploughshares Nursery at Alameda Point,

 The biggest star of the show, however, was Ruby, one of  Donna Eyestone’s Rhode Island Reds, proudly representing the famous Alameda Backyard Chickens. (They were featured in   BikeAlameda’s May 6 Alameda Backyard Chicken Coops Tour.) 

 While I was there Friday afternoon most of the pedestrians walking past the parklet stopped, asked about it, sat on the bench, enjoyed coffee or ice cream, admired the plants–or discussed Ruby, Donna’s “best-behaved” chicken-in-residence.

The parklet literally enlivened Park Street, adding something pleasant and unexpected that created connections–a community. Prominent and active Alamedans and city staffers stopped by, a family watched the goings-on from the open-air window seating at Tucker’s, and John Knox White shared the photo he took  from the parklet at about 10:15 Friday morning of the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s flyover,

International PARK(ing) Day (IPD) began in San Francisco in 2005, when Rebar,an interdisciplinary studio working at the intersection of art, design and ecology,” took over a downtown parking space for just two hours–the limit on the parking meter. Photos of the event went viral across the web and International PARK(ing) Day was born. Rebar creates projects that inspire people to reimagine the environment and our place in it,“and  is a major player and resource for the Park(ing) Day movement, even publishing a PARK(ing) Day Manual, in which Rebar asks:

“What is the range of possibilities for creativity in a space usually dedicated to the storage of a private vehicle?”

Rebar provides a bit of an answer:

“Motivated by the desire to activate the metered parking space as a site for creative experimentation, political and cultural expression, and unscripted social interaction, Rebar offers PARK(ing) Day as a prototype for open-source urban design, accessible to all… thousands of people around the globe—working independently of Rebar but guided by common core principles—have created hundreds of “PARK” installations and formed an annual international event.

Urban inhabitants worldwide recognize the need for new approaches to making the urban landscape, and realize that converting small segments of the automobile infrastructure—even temporarily—can alter the character of the city.”

Take a look across the bay at this year’s San Francisco PARK(ing) Day. Check out “Our Favorites from Today’s PARK(ing) Day Extravaganza,” from Or check out Brisbane, Australia’s wildly successful five-year history with PARK(ing) Day. You can also see how transformed Howard Street into a block-long parklet during Dreamforce X all week long at San Francsco’s Moscone Center. too. 

 In 2011, 975 parks were created to celebrate PARK(ing) Day in 162 cities spanning 35 countries on 6 continents. (The  City of Alameda could not approve Donna Eyestone’s last-minute permit application quickly enough for an Alameda IPD event last year.)

This year was better: the City of Alameda approved Donna Eyestone’s permit to create something different in two parking spaces in front of Tucker’s Ice Cream, Alameda’s iconic ice cream parlor and social hub.

Donna, her chicken, and a host of supporters challenged the auto-dominated uses of Park Street Friday, re-imagining what can be done with a basic asphalt-covered urban space.

How can we re-imagine Alameda’s urban spaces and ways of moving?

What creative changes have you helped bring about?

(Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.)

Look for more about bicycling, walking,  BART, AC Transit, driving, and transportation issues in this space, coming soon.

If you have news, questions, tips, or comments about any aspect of local transportation, contact us or leave a comment.

Read more about Alameda Street Smarts here.

The Farmer’s Market-Shopping by Bicycle

For almost 15 years I have been shopping by bicycle at the Alameda Farmer’s Market almost every Tuesday, rain or shine.

Home with produce: strawberries, scones, flowers, and more, July 17, 2012.

I discovered Alameda’s weekly farmer’s market just after we moved to Alameda in 1997. It was smaller then and  at the Taylor and Webster parking lot, but it soon became our primary food source, especially for fresh produce.

Here’s how I do it. (You can, too.)

I shop the Tuesday Farmer’s Market by bicycle, using canvas shopping bags, recycling food containers (plastic berry trays, half-flat strawberry boxes), and washing and reusing plastic produce bags, too. Riding my bike is easier than driving (no parking hassles) and makes shopping simpler: my bike is centrally located inside the market.

After locking my bike with a Kryptonite New York U-lock, I often stop in at Wescafe first with my travel mug for a cup of tasty (and necessary) caffeine first–a tip for the household’s designated shopper. Then I load up on tasty fruits, vegetables, and baked goods, canvas shopping bag and Timbuk2 Messenger Bag (size L) on my shoulder.

Beckmann’s Bakery: resistance is futile, especially to their pies.

I make several rounds of the market–on foot–to see what’s good and decide on the menus. I  load heavier, denser items (oranges, celery, potatoes, scones) in the Jandd grocery bag panniers up front first, balancing the weight evenly side-to-side. I usually buy and load more delicate and/or cold items (berries, stone fruits, tomatoes, flowers, fish, frozen enchiladas) after later  passes around the market, stopping occasionally to unload my shoulder bag into the panniers. (Frequent consultation via mobile phone ensures domestic satisfaction with my results.:-)

Depending on Linda’s preferences, what we need, and how the produce-based menu develops, I make my purchases, socialize, and enjoy the live music: I always see friends, neighbors, colleagues, great bikes, and wonderful kids.

If I fill up both front and rear panniers (some call them saddle bags) on my 1970s Peugeot  UO-18 “mixte” town bike, we eat really well for a week. The 1.8-mile trip from our mid-island apartment takes about 12 minutes each way. (It’s almost easier coming home loaded with food: there’s always a tailwind.)

My “shopping rig” (front and rear racks with panniers) is decked out with brightly colored and reflective gear. I always wear my high-visibility helmet, gloves, and safety vest, of course. And I always take the lane when necessary (on Encinal, Central, Eighth) and “ride the paint” at the left-hand edge of bike lanes to avoid the 5-foot-wide door zone next to all parked cars.

Taking the left lane after a left turn, ready to turn into our driveway. Lots of hi-viz gear ensures I can be seen day, night, or fog.

The year-round Alameda Farmer’s Markets are on Tuesdays and Saturdays, rain or shine, 9 AM to 1 PM, at Webster and Haight.


BART’S Bike Pilot Project begins next Friday, August 3. For the 5 Fridays in August there will be no bike blackouts: bikes will be allowed on all BART trains and on all BART station platforms. (I wrote about it here.)

Here’s more from the East Bay Bicycle Coalition on the BART pilot in August.