Bay Bridge Bike Path to Nowhere: A New Perspective

Categories: bikes

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On Tuesday, the Alexander Zuckerman Bicycle Path opened along the new span of the Bay Bridge, giving cyclists a chance to ride on the world's longest bike pier. The new bike path to nowhere was feted with a massive group ride led by the East Bay Bike Coalition starting at the west Oakland BART and ending in Emeryville.

I went ahead and took the ride from the West Oakland BART, joining what appeared to be hundreds of cyclists pedaling slowly along the Port of Oakland, under the tangle of highways, and out onto the new span.

The event was a little like a titanic practical joke, convincing a large crew of cyclists to ride across half a bridge, but the message to Caltrans was clear: We will certainly use a bike path to get across the Bay.

Oh, and thanks for getting us half way there.

bikepier.jpg

And those who use the bridge wouldn't just be "bicycle die-hards" as NBC Bay Area called the attendees of Tuesday evening's ride. If the ride was any indication, everyone would use a bay spanning path. Tuesday night's event brought everyone out, including small children, lycra-clad roadies, malt-liquor swillers, scraper bike riders, guys on trikes with bike stereos and grills, hipsters on fixies, and your average working commuter. Really just about anyone who can nominally ride a bike came out for this ride. And much like the drivers who were excited about the new bridge, cyclists stopped to snap photos non-stop. As we rode up to gentle incline, I heard many cyclists gasp, commenting on the new perspective: "It's so beautiful," they'd say.

It really is a great view.

lookingbackbikepier.jpg

The world's longest bike pier hopefully won't be just a bike pier for long. Once the old eastern span is demolished, the path will be completed all the way to Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island. Until then, and probably even after that, the bike path across the bridge will be more a tourist or recreational attraction than a useful transportation option, and the cyclists pedaling next to me agreed.

When the path is completed to Treasure Island, there you'll be able to catch AC Transit to take you the rest of the way, but I can't see that as a very popular option, save maybe for late-night San Francisco-to-Oakland trips.

So why celebrate the opening of half a bridge? Well, you've got to start somewhere. The East Bay Bike Coalition sees this half of the bridge as a way to leverage support for the rest of the span. If it can be made clear that cyclists will make use of a bay-spanning bike path, it (hopefully) will be easier to raise the roughly $1 billion necessary for the upgrade on the western span. Now $1 billion should cover not only a bike/pedestrian path, but an identical maintenance path on the opposite side, for balance, and a new deck to help reduce weight. The deck would eventually have to be replaced anyway, due to wear, but in this case it will be replaced with lighter materials.

Building support for a bike/pedestrian path is important because this budget measure might face a popular vote. That might include a temporary bridge toll increase. If it comes down to a rate hike, bike coalitions will have to convince drivers that a new bike/pedestrian path will be worth it. It will, after all, help reduce congestion both on the BART and on the road by giving those who'd rather take the 4.5-mile bridge that option. If car traffic on the bridge was reduced significantly, it could also add up to plenty of other intangible and harder-to-quantify benefits: lower bridge and road maintenance costs, less city congestion, better air quality, less noise pollution ... who could argue with all that?

Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He's can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.




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15 comments
jabrtb
jabrtb

the new bridge sucks its a joke traffic is as bad as ever when you drive on it it makes you feel claustrophobic and drivers will always slow down when reaching the supported span what a waste.

Andrey Kislyuk
Andrey Kislyuk

I do want the bike path, but the plan for the Western span bike path is insane. There is no need to combine the path with a maintenance lane, no need to replace the deck, and no need to rebalance the bridge if the path is light enough. That plan is out of control, and the price tag makes no sense.

Nathan Morales
Nathan Morales

I live on the island, i have yet to venture on the path yet.

Rock Belt
Rock Belt

They could have easily kept it closed until 2015 when it will be complete but went ahead and let people on it for now.

Geoff Nino
Geoff Nino

so why are so may wanna be lance armstrong's suiting up in their superhero garb racing across half a bridge at break neck speed? slow down a$$clowns there is no place to race to!

Stevie Dee
Stevie Dee

Not able to get there from the SF side, so it's not useful as of yet. One day.

Alex Dierkx
Alex Dierkx

The pointless comment sure catches attention but building this bike path will eventually get you to Treasure Island and at some point in the future, could get you all the way across. Some people just like to complain about everything.

Bram de Martelaere
Bram de Martelaere

For some reason I thought the full path wasnt even in consideration. Stoked it is.

Nicholson Valderrama
Nicholson Valderrama

Yea pointless if you're a lazy ass. I mean get out and ride, jog, speed walk or do something other than complain about it.

Robert Penman
Robert Penman

Umm...you realize there's another bridge in the way and that when it comes down you will be able to go all the way across?

Stan James
Stan James

Yeah...whats the point if you can't cycle all the way across!?

Dave Dalton
Dave Dalton

Lame lame i mean its worst that going to the toll booth...

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