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.


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.

Broadway-Jackson, Shoreline Drive Heat Up Transportation Commission June 27

Several proposed projects–the Broadway-Jackson Interchange, Webster Street Smart Corridor signal project, and bike lanes along Shoreline Drive–plus Bicycle Facility Design Guidelines for the city are on tap at Wednesday’s special Transportation Commission (TC) meeting at Alameda’s City Hall. The agenda, staff reports, and presentations for the 7:00 PM meeting are here.

Please attend the meeting and speak your mind.

The Broadway-Jackson Interchange (BJI, Item 4F) is last on the agenda but it is the biggest and most controversial project before the TC Wednesday. Alameda’s Public Works Department staff have pushed for major changes in Oaklandespecially Chinatown—in order to relieve congestion in and around the Webster and Posey Tubes but Chinatown residents don’t want traffic clogging and isolating their neighborhood.

I am no fan of the current routes to I-880 in Oakland but I am not yet convinced the latest proposal is any better.) The proposed BJI is in the Transportation Expenditure Plan and it would be partially funded if the “new Measure B” Alameda County transportation sales tax measure passes in November.

  • Do you like Alameda County’s  Transportation Expenditure Plan?
  • What do you think of the latest Broadway-Jackson Interchange proposal?
  • How would you reduce the congestion in Chinatown, Oakland, and the tubes? Tell us in the comments.

The Webster Street SMART Corridor project (Item 4E) would synchronize the signals along Webster Street during commute hours, add a new signal at Pacific and Webster, restore the long-missing Central Avenue crosswalk, and improve emergency response times and traffic diversion after collisions in the tubes.

Buses will receive priority at all signals and syncing the signals will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as 15 per cent by decreasing congestion and idling at lights, according to the staff report. Local residents gave it mixed reviews at a Community Meeting May 22 at the College of Alameda:  some worry that drivers will be less likely to stop at local businesses. (Speed limits will stay the same, according to Supervising Civil Engineer Obaid Khan of Public Works.)

The proposed Shoreline Drive/Westline Drive Bike Lanes Project is TC Item 4C Wednesday night. At a community meeting May 10, about 100 residents were evenly divided for and against it. Local residents (including cyclists, joggers, beach and park users, and commuters) disagreed over bike lanes, car parking on the beach side of Shoreline, and other points. Bike lanes on Shoreline were among cyclists’ top 10 projects in the original 1999 version of the  2010 Bicycle Master Plan Update.

A second community meeting on the options for Shoreline Drive will be held at 7 PM this Thursday, June 28, at  Lum Elementary School ,1801 Sandcreek Way, at Otis Drive.

Revised Bicycle Facility Design Guidelines (Item 4D) will come back before the TC for approval and referral to the City Council for adoption. (These guidelines detail the specifications for future bike facilities.)

Contact Obaid Khan, Supervising Civil Engineer (510-747-7938 or if you have comments or questions about these projects. You can also mail him comments:

Obaid Khan, Supervising Civil Engineer

Public Works Department

950 West Mall Square, Room 110

Alameda, CA, 94501-7575

All written or emailed comments received before the meeting will become part of the official public record.

AC Transit Wants You!

AC Transit is seeking volunteers to represent the transit agency on the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), which makes recommendations to the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC). The CAC serves as a liaison between the ACTC and local communities and businesses in Alameda County. There is currently one vacancy on the CAC.

Applicants must regularly use AC Transit bus service and reside within Alameda County . For more info about the CAC and ACTCvisit their website or see  AC Transit’s info on the vacancy. .

Submit your completed application form by this Friday, June 29. to Linda Nemeroff, AC Transit District Secretary, 1600 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA 94612 or by email to This appointment is subject to approval by the ACTC.