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Bay Area Street Portraits: Sal

[Editor's Note:  This series comes to us from Charlotte Buchen of StreetsblogSF and chronicles residents in the Bay Area and the role transportation plays in their lives.  This is the second in the series.]

Sal Bednarz believes in creating community, so when he opened a new café in his beloved neighborhood in Oakland, he gave it bike-friendly features. But Sal’s not trying to make a statement – he just thinks bike parking should come standard.

[music]
Sal: [0:17] I opened a cafe four blocks from my house, and I did that because I thought it was really important to build something that really is about my neighborhood. [0:30] I don't think that anything I am doing is all that revolutionary, but a lot of other people seem to think it is. You know, I think that it should be normal that there should be bike parking.

[0:46] I am Sal. I live in Oakland, in a really great neighborhood full of interesting people. It is the people in this town that I really, really love. A lot of creative people; a lot of just strange people. I felt like I really fit in for the first time in my life.

[1:10] I spent a lot of time in coffee shops for the first... I don't know how many years I lived here, like a lot of time. I met most of the people that I am still connected to today. I met them in places like that. As you know, there was this huge dot com boom.

[1:25] The local economy that sort of fostered those interactions completely dissolved.

[1:32] Large chains came in and replaced the local mom and pops. I was considering leaving, but I didn't really want to leave. I wanted to make it better.

[1:45] People pay a lot of attention to the bike features of the cafe. I think that is a symptom of bikes not being well integrated into the world that we live today. One of the things that I really like about cycling is that it slows us down a little bit and it makes us see the landscape in a different way.

[2:06] One of my favorite things to do is ride my bike through the city at night, in the dark. Everything is lit up inside, and it is dark outside. It is when you can see into everybody's little worlds.

[2:32] Since I opened the cafe, most of my cycling these days is riding around on the extra cycle, running errands and picking things up. We need to find ways to integrate bicycles into the world in sort of a normal way. Have bike lanes, have safe streets to ride on, have accessible ways to park, and use them.

[3:06] The cafe is really important to me, as just a sort of gathering place for this neighborhood, and bicycles aside. I want people to come there and feel comfortable, and be able to get a nice bite to eat, and a good cup of coffee and just relax...

[3:22] The blood oranges are really sweet right now, because it is their late season, so it has got a little kick to it. Do you like that? Do you guys want to try some orange juice?

Woman 1: [3:30] Oh sure! This is orange juice?
Sal: [3:31] I have really great customers, and they are from this neighborhood, and that is exactly what I wanted.


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  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/atom Adam Hartzell

    I just heard an interview on the ABC (Australain Broadcasting Corporation) show FUTURETENSE about Sal's reasons for the slogan, 'not just another wifi shack'. Apparently he has laptop-free days to get people away from their hyper-self-focus to encourage conversation and community at his cafe. And now I know he's bike-friendly too! Sounds like an awesome cafe.

    Another great piece! Keep these coming!

  • Mac Hart

    I really enjoyed watching this video. Quality content and camera work/editing. Way cool.

  • Jim

    Actual is a great cafe, but Sal's desire to see it as an old school cafe isn't fully realized, unfortunately. Not due to his efforts; while I was there on a packed weekday its entire contents were silent, transfixed on their imacs. When I spoke it felt like the entire cafe glared at me for doing so.
    Charlotte--love your films!

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    Great film!  You can find me in Actual cafe at least twice a week ... staring at my laptop on a weekday and not staring on a weekend.  A lot of people make their living while staring into laptops I'm afraid, so there's probably no way to get around it.  I actually think the reason Actual attracts the laptop crowd on weekdays is _because_ of the neighborhood.  If you go to my neighborhood and visit Metro Cafe you will see dozens of customers but only one or two working, and Metro doesn't make any particular effort to ward off the wifi crowd.  It's just demographics.

  • http://www.aiesec.org/colombia Luis M.

    Very nice film.
    Nice "Comunist Party" T-shirt. your cafe looks like an indoor metal-horse parking!!!