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Oakland Has the Worst Roads in the United States

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Shitty public infrastructure is something that we in the Bay Area have gotten used to. Whether it’s concrete blocks falling from above on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge, large gaps in our public transportation network or power lines that regularly create fiery deathstorms; we’ve generally accepted that taxpayer funded projects in the Bay Area is where money goes to die. It’s not like the private sector is any better considering there’s a building in San Francisco, a city that is known for fucking earthquakes, sinking under its own weight. But nothing, and I mean nothing is consistently as shitty as the roads in Oakland.

But how bad is it?

Well, in 2018, according to TRIP, a Washington-based nonprofit, Oakland, California has the worst roads in the United States. Oakland is also one of America’s most expensive major cities to live in, so how did it get so bad?

Like most of the shitty things in American history, and especially Oakland’s history, racism and the history of redlining plays a role. While all of Oakland seems to suffer from poor road quality, the worst of the worst roads exist in East and Deep East Oakland, which are coincidentally the areas with the poorest and brownest residents. Shocker.

Viral TikTok star and person I rant to on the phone sometimes, Mr Barricade, did a video illustrating how poor design and improper drainage in historically redlined neighborhoods, if not created the problem, greatly exacerbated it.

Belief in the city’s ability to address the issue facing Oakland’s braille-like streets has gotten to the point where a group of concerned Oaklanders have banned together to fill potholes themselves. They even gave their civically minded crew a name that sounds like it’s straight out of the punk revival scene from the ‘90s: The Pothole Vigilantes. The Pothole Vigilantes became so popular in Oakland that they were even immortalized on a Twitter post by Mayor Libby Schaaf, “Of course #Oakland has pothole vigilantes — we’re a DIY town.”

Libby’s right. Oakland is a do-it-yourself type of town because you can’t rely on City Hall to do anything except for spar over funding for sports stadiums and pretend to care about the homicides that rarely ever occur near their homes in the Oakland Hills.

And for me, this battle for better roads is personal. Just a few weeks ago I was driving to Phnom Penh (which, by the way, is the best restaurant in Oakland) as I turned onto a side street off of 35th Avenue I hit a pothole that was so deep I could hear the metal on the bottom of my car loudly hit and scrape against the pavement below. I took a deep breath, parked my car and hoped for the best. After getting my food, about halfway back to my house, I noticed the check tire pressure light was on. I knew that pothole fucked my tire. I wish I was alone in this misfortune, but this is a common experience for the people of Oakland and it’s unacceptable.

Photo from The Pothole Vigilantes’ Instagram  

Oakland is a city that has to deal with nearly every burden associated with urban America. I love Oakland, but you can’t love something unless you’re able to look at it honestly, and if you can’t criticize Oakland, you don’t love it, you’re just pretending to love it so you can appear cool and edgy.

From the absurd cost of living, to the income inequality that feeds the city’s astronomically high crime rate– and the politicians who are always quick to say they care, but rarely do – the least you can ask for is roads that won’t pop your tires when you’re just trying to get some fucking Cambodian food.

Oh and Libby, that post telling the Pothole Vigilantes to let Oakland handle the pothole problem is from 2019, it’s 2021, and nothing has changed.

But it’s whatever.

Oakland’s a DIY town, right?

Because it’s forced to be.

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Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff is a San Francisco-based writer, editor and digital content creator known for Bay Area Memes, a local meme page that has amassed nearly 200k followers. His work has appeared in SFGATE, The Bold Italic and of course, His book of short stories, personal essays and poetry entitled Don't Drown on Dry Ground will be available early 2022.

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