Bay Bridge Bike Path Set to Open to Yerba Buena, Close Weekdays

Taking pictures at the end of the Alex Zuckermann Bike Path is a popular activity. All photos: Melanie Curry
Taking pictures at the end of the Alex Zuckermann Bike Path is a popular activity. All photos: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Update: Caltrans officially announced the opening of the island end of the path will happen at noon on Sunday [PDF]. The press release includes a map of the shuttle route, which will run every 30 minutes between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays. And here’s an explanatory video they made.

At long last, the Alex Zuckermann Bike Path on the Oakland Bay Bridge will reach Yerba Buena Island.

Although officials are holding off on making an announcement, the path from Oakland /Emeryville will soon touch down on Yerba Buena Island just near the east end of the freeway tunnel.

That is probably going to happen on Sunday, although there will be no official ribbon cutting or any celebration. At the touchdown, a vista point will offer a spot to rest and take in views that few people have the opportunity to enjoy, seeing as how most pass by there at fifty miles an hour or more. But San Francisco won’t be visible from that eastern edge of Yerba Buena Island and it won’t be simple to get down to Treasure Island.

After Sunday, the bridge path will be closed completely until November 5, because of the planned demolition of the old bridge’s piers. And thereafter, the entire path along the eastern span will only be open on weekends and holidays, “because of demolition activities on the old bridge,” according to Bob Haus, Caltrans spokesperson. “The bridge is just too close to the path.”

The weekday closures will continue until the old bridge is completely demolished, which could take a year or so.

Even though it’s been dubbed a “path to nowhere,” plenty of people find it worth riding and walking the path, and most days you can find people hanging out at the end of the path and taking selfies with the bridge behind them.

The connection to the island has been finished for several weeks, tantalizing people who reached the gate with a clear view of it heading west. That final bit was not open because the three agencies involved in planning for it—the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Caltrans, and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority—had not yet ironed out the details of getting people from the touchdown further on to the two islands.

It’s a tricky issue for a number of reasons. Road access around Yerba Buena Island to Treasure Island is via a narrow, steep, and winding road without space for bike lanes or sidewalks. As of Saturday, the off-ramp from the bridge will switch from the south side—a sharp left-hand turn off the freeway—to the north side. That will reduce some potential conflicts at the bike path’s touchdown point, and somewhat reduce traffic on the south side of the island. But the island route currently available to bikes will still be carrying traffic headed toward the on-ramp. Because there is no sidewalk or room to add one, those hardy souls who walk all the way to the end of the bridge won’t be able to go around the hill to get a view of the city.

The view from the path.
A view from the path.

But the agencies have devised a few temporary solutions until construction on the freeway ramps is completed. To begin with, they will run a shuttle to carry walkers and bikers from the viewpoint to Treasure Island.

If you’re in shape and used to riding a bike in traffic, you can ride your bike the whole way, but Randy Rentschler, Public Affairs Director for the MTC, warns that the route is not for everyone. “A family can go on an adventure on the bridge and get as far as the vista point overlook—that would be the destination,” he said. “If you’re a very experienced cyclist, going to Treasure Island is within your skill set, but there’s traffic to deal with, including a lot of tourist bus traffic.”

“You could easily get from the eastern span to Treasure Island,” he said, “but you’re not going to take your family, or a stroller.”

Note that there is no parking at the viewpoint, which has a tight turning radius for the shuttles. If you want to come from San Francisco to enjoy the bridge path, you’ll have to get yourself to Treasure Island—best on Muni Line 25, on which you can bring your bike. Then you can take the shuttle up to the landing point, or be prepared to ride up a fairly steep hill in traffic.

When the old bridge is finally and completely dismantled, the bridge path will be open 24 hours, seven days a week. That may happen within a year. Future plans—at least two years away—will widen Macalla Road on the north side of Yerba Buena Island and add a bike lane to it. Eventually, after construction on the freeway on- and off-ramps is complete, the plan is to make Macalla Road one way for vehicles, with a class 1 bike path and room for pedestrians.

And even further in the future, a connection across the island to a future bike lane on the remaining bridge span all the way to San Francisco is contemplated. But that will take a lot more planning and a whole lot more money.

The island has been tantalizingly close for months; this photo was taken in June.
The island has been tantalizingly close for months; this photo was taken in June.
  • thielges

    I don’t understand the reasoning for closing the bike path during the old bridge demolition. Aren’t people on the main roadway just 15 feet away that will remain open during demolition also vulnerable to whatever dangers the demolition creates?

  • Melanie Curry

    I have asked; the answers I’ve gotten amount to insistence on “safety.” Maybe it’s that belief that people in vehicles are basically encased in personal safety bubbles.

  • thielges

    Yes, that occurred to me too. But there might even be a greater hazard of a piece of debris smashes through someone’s windshield, triggering a pileup on the bridge? Also what about folks driving motorcycles or convertibles?

    My best guess is that ped/bike access to the path is considered expendable. So this becomes a hazard reduction measure, not hazard elimination.

    It would be nice if claims of “safety” were backed up with actual facts. Years ago the SJC airport denied a request to add bike racks because it created a danger of someone planting a bike loaded with explosives. That makes no sense when car parking is provided at the same location.

    It is almost as if “safety” is a trump card that can be played anytime an official doesn’t feel like accommodating bikes or pedestrians.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    “Because there is no sidewalk or room to add one, those hardy souls who walk all the way to the end of the bridge won’t be able to go around the hill to get a view of the city.”

    I’m pretty sure that the lack of a sidewalk means you just walk in the road. That’s what the hardy souls will be doing.

  • DrunkEngineer

    All the time, you find sidewalks closed off along construction sites, while letting automotive traffic go right by. If you ask public works why pedestrians should have to detour, they will say that it is too dangerous — even though it is just as dangerous for motorcycles and convertibles.

  • robert

    weren’t they running rolling stops for cars on the bridge when they were blasting the old bridge base ?

  • Elias Zamaria

    Yes. I hate this.

    An example of this is the CPMC hospital campus under construction at Geary and Van Ness. The sidewalks all around it on Geary, Franklin, and Post are closed to pedestrians. It has been like this since 2015 (I think), and it is supposed to stay like this until 2020.

    Try walking from the northeast corner of Post and Franklin to the southeast corner of Geary and Franklin, and you’ll have to cross Franklin twice instead of zero times. Does anyone have any actual evidence that this detour, with the risk of being hit by turning cars, is any safer than walking directly?

  • thielges

    That makes sense and is easy to implement without clogging bridge traffic. Just position a lateral string of CHPs across all lanes, turn the lights on, and slow to a stop until the detonation.

  • p_chazz

    According to the bridge’s website it’s a bicycle and pedestrian path. How typical of Streetsblog to overlook peds.

    http://baybridgeinfo.org/path

  • Prinzrob

    The latest I heard was that fumes from the bridge work were considered toxic, and because people on the path are moving slower and more likely to hang out then their potential exposure is higher than folks driving on the bridge. I don’t know if I buy that, but it does make a little more sense than the risk of physical danger caused by construction debris.

  • “**CLOSURE NOTICE: Today throughout March 2018, during the
    weekdays of Monday through Friday, the bike path on the Bay Bridge may
    be closed. This is to ensure public safety during torch cutting and
    other old bay bridge demolition activities. Check Twitter
    (@BayBridgeInfo) for the latest information. ** (See Bridge Path Calendar)”

    Looks like they’re not the only one forgetting about pedestrians (and pedestrian infrastructure).

  • Jimbo

    what a total waste of taxpayer money

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