Celebrating the Opening of Yerba Buena Island Vista Point to Bikes

And the Weekday Opening of the Oakland Bay Bridge Eastern Span People Path

Renee Rivera, Executive Director of Bike East Bay, at the podium before the ribbon cutting for Yerba Buena Island Vista Point. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Renee Rivera, Executive Director of Bike East Bay, at the podium before the ribbon cutting for Yerba Buena Island Vista Point. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Some eighty cycling advocates, lawmakers, and transportation notables assembled this morning for a ride across the eastern span of the Oakland Bay Bridge, which as of today is open seven days a week. Destination: Yerba Buena Island Vista Point, a new park that offers a resting spot with expansive views for pedestrians and cyclists coming from Oakland.

The ride started at the Sawtooth Building, also known as IERBY, for Interurban Electric Railway Bridge Yard Shop. That building, now a museum featuring photos of the construction of the new Bay Bridge, was once a maintenance facility for the old Key Car system–Oakland’s municipal railway, destroyed in the bad old days of freeway construction. “This is a symbol of the evolution of transportation,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf. She mourned the loss of the Key Cars, but said that Oakland is bringing back a “Complete Streets philosophy, to create a better city.” She used the opportunity to introduce Ryan Russo, Oakland’s incoming head of the new Department of Transportation.

Janette Sadik-Khan, Matt Nichols and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Janette Sadik-Khan, Matt Nichols, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Russo, as many Streetsblog readers are probably aware, was Deputy Commissioner for New York’s Department of Transportation. “I was drawn here by the passion people have for making the city better,” said Russo, who officially starts on Monday.

Advocates and others in the Sawtooth building before the start of the ride. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Advocates and others in the Sawtooth building before the start of the ride. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

“We’re really excited to see multiple premiers,” said Matt Nichols, Oakland’s Policy Director for Infrastructure and Transportation, referring to the building, the full-time opening of the bridge path, and the new Vista Point.

Riders headed up the ramp approaching the bridge from the east side. Photo: Streetsblog/Curry
Riders headed up the ramp approaching the bridge from the east side. Photo: Streetsblog/Curry

The ride started at nine, with Mayor Schaaf taking an early lead. There was a good mix of road cyclists–many in spandex–and a few people in business attire, such as Russo and Schaaf, and Sadik-Khan, who helped Oakland form its Department of Transportation.

Incoming DOT head Ryan Russo fueling up for the ride. Photo Streetsblog/Rudick
Incoming DOT head Ryan Russo fueling up for the ride. Photo Streetsblog/Rudick

The ride was wonderful, with the sun shining and the weather a perfect 70 degrees. Most people seemed to be riding their own bikes, but a few were trying out electric bikes and share bikes, including the general manager of Bay Area Bike Share, who rode a Ford share bike up to the Vista Point. She explained that the share bikes, although similar to Motivate bikes in New York and other cities, is geared to be a little more forgiving of the Bay Area’s hills.

Emily Stapleton Bay Area Bike Share rode a Ford bike up to the Vista Point. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Emily Stapleton of Bay Area Bike Share rode a Ford bike up to the Vista Point. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Once at the top, dignitaries from San Francisco, Oakland, and Caltrans, and advocates from both cities, gave speeches and ceremoniously cut a ribbon, backed by a beautiful backdrop with the Bay, the bridge, and the Oakland Port.

RibbonCutsmall
Photographers crowded close to get a shot of the ribbon cutting. Among the celebrants were San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim, new Oakland DOT Director Ryan Russo, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, SF County Transportation Authority Director Tilly Chang, and Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi. Photo: Streetsblog/Curry

“I feel so energized after hopping off my bike,” said Schaaf in her remarks. “I am proof that you don’t need to wear spandex, and that helmets do not mess up your hair.”

True enough–although she did use an electric-assist bike. “That’s why I’m not sweaty,” she added.

“If we can take one car out of the 240,000 that cross every day off this bridge, that’s a good thing,” Bijan Sartipi, head of Caltrans for Oakland. But, he said, this is just the halfway point. The “people path” along the bridge is a great new recreational facility, and will provide a commute option between the East Bay and Treasure Island. But to realize its full potential, the path needs to be continued all the way to San Francisco–and Sartipi twice pledged to see the project through.

“Just look around! This is an incredible dream that has become a reality,” said Janice Li, Advocacy Director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “But this project is only half complete.” Li said some 10,000 people are expected to bike across once the link goes all the way to San Francisco.

The ride back to the East Bay offered spectacular views. Photo: Streetsblog/Curry
The ride back to the East Bay offered spectacular views. Photo: Streetsblog/Curry

On the ride to Treasure Island to catch a city bus back to San Francisco, the view of the other skyline and the western span of the bridge was indeed tantalizing. How long will it take to get a bike path all the way to downtown San Francisco? Most of the dignitaries made the point that if the eastern span can get its bike path, so can the western–it’s just going to take time and advocacy.

Bike East Bay advocate Ian McDonald caffeinates for the ride. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Bike East Bay advocate Ian McDonald caffeinates for the ride. Behind him is the Sawtooth Building and its displays about the bridge construction. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

But that’s not to say that the bridge is incomplete now. Ian McDonald, a volunteer with Bike East Bay, is already looking forward to biking to his cooking school class on Treasure Island. “I had to drive before, so this will be one less car on the road,” he pointed out. And, of course, thousands of residents and tourists alike will delight at the views from Yerba Buena Island Vista Point.

So short term and long term, it’s a win. “More bikes, more buses, safer streets make a better city and a better world,” concluded Sadik-Khan.

Halfway there. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Halfway there. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
  • gb52

    What a beautiful day for a celebration. Good job everyone, it looks great.

  • SFnative74

    “Most of the dignitaries made the point that if the eastern span can get its bike path, so can the western–it’s just going to take time and advocacy.”

    …and $300,000,000+

  • Dexter Wong

    Key System was always a private company (not part of Oakland city government or Alameda county).

  • p_chazz

    I suggest there be a tax on bicycles and all bicycle related gear–helmets, gloves, air pumps, spandex suits, etc., to be spent on bicycle-related improvements. After all, the gas tax was just increased. When bicyclists have some skin in the game, people will start taking them seriously and not just out for a free ride.

  • Flatlander

    As you know, and have been told countless times on streetsblog before, most road-related improvements, including nearly everything on local streets, is funded through taxes that everyone pays, not the gas tax. And if we built infrastructure only to the standard the bicyclists needed, then everything would be much, much cheaper.

  • SFnative74

    “I suggest there be a tax on bicycles and all bicycle related gear….”

    There is…it’s called a sales tax, which helps pay for many local transportation projects. There is also the property tax, which help pay for projects. And given most cyclists own a car and pay those fees, and that the externalities associated with bicycling compared to driving are magnitudes lower, people who use bikes pay more than their fair share today.

  • basenjibrian

    Autosexuals are always blind and deaf to anything that contradicts their favorite memes.

  • 94110

    “Li said some 10,000 people are expected to bike across once the link goes all the way to San Francisco.”

    Ten thousand total? Per year? (Which would work out to only 30 per day.) Or ten thousand daily? Monthly?

  • curiousKulak

    Not really the best commute option. Its about 8 mi from downtown to downtown, and there’s a steep grade and high winds. For me, that would be about an hours’ ride + wherever I need to get. Still, compared to BARTs limited schedule, it would be a great alt for early AM or weekend journey.

  • Drew Levitt

    Concise and precise – very nice.

    It’s a shame we’ve all had so many opportunities to hone our rebuttals of the same tired straw-man arguments, brought up again and again.

    Should we start calling them “zombie arguments” or “dead-horse arguments,” I wonder?

  • Drew Levitt

    That’s a projection of daily utilization: http://www.sfbike.org/news/completing-the-bay-bridge-people-path/ It’s a bit hard to believe, as even the Williamsburg Bridge in NYC (distance 1.4 miles) saw only 7,560 daily bike riders in 2016: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/east-river-bridge-counts-24hrs-1980-2016.pdf

    I couldn’t readily find info on the number of people who walk across the Williamsburg Bridge, but it’s not uncommon. By contrast, I expect few people would walk across the Bay Bridge for anything but recreation or exercise. Crossing the bridge alone (six miles) would take two hours, plus any distance on either side.

    This is one of those projects that I would personally love to see come to fruition – I live in Oakland and work in SF and would actually bike to work via the Bay Bridge if I could – but whose cost/benefit ratio seems dubious at best. Local funds would be put to much better use providing more bike/ped infrastructure on surface streets, and even dedicated Caltrans money would be better spent on safety investments along and beneath state routes.

    (See? Even the most ardent active transportation advocates have our limits!)

  • Flatlander

    The thing is, it’s not typically money that stops good surface street bike projects, it’s the political will, including impacts to other modes, so it doesn’t seem appropriate to compare the path with what you could achieve for the same amount of money on street. Plus, on-street projects always end up being ridiculously expensive in the end, so be sure you’re comparing the actual price tag of streetscaie projects rather than what they should theoretically cost.

    Second, this is a different question than providing better bike facilities on bike routes. At present, it is literally impossible to bike from the East Bay to San Francisco. Imagine if a freeway just ended and there was no alternate route. Would it really be fair to compare that freeway gap closure with several freeway widening projects on other routes? I think not.

  • xplosneer

    “externalities associated with bicycling compared to driving are magnitudes lower,”

    Even negative, when compared with no activity at all.

    Well said.

  • p_chazz

    Actually I don’t drive a car. I just think that people would take bicycles as a form of transit more seriously if they generated a dedicated revenue stream. Think of it as seed money.

  • p_chazz

    I don’t disagree with the arguments. I think this is a matter of appearances. If people saw that bicyclists generated a revenue stream for transportation projects, they would be taken more seriously.

  • basenjibrian

    All right. Yet many cyclists in many communities are the desperately poor…the homeless, drunks, addicts.
    This revenue stream would be generated from those less able to pay it.
    Which is the way we seem to be going as a nation overall, but I don’t have to like it. Plus, what Flatlander says.

  • p_chazz

    The desperately poor aren’t the ones buying $5000 Cannondale Supersix EVO Hi-MOD Dura Ace 2 bikes, $250 racing suits and $85 helmets. The bicycling community is largely white and affluent, so I don’t think paying a bicycle excise tax would hurt them.

  • basenjibrian

    Not in my working class suburb. Far more poor people riding around town than hobbyists (like myself…and I am not talking about myself).
    Besides, there are sales taxes (for local purchases at least) paid on all of those things.
    We don’t demand soccer moms pay extra taxes for all the investment in local soccer fields (now, I admit that some of the organized leagues do pay substantial fees, but that varies). I had to listen to an hour of entitled oldsters complain that they, as non residents, should NOT have to pay for use of the local senior center just…because. So…your prescription would need to be applied universally, not just to cyclists.
    And, while we are at it, drivers in no way pay for all of the costs of the National Automobile Slum. Heck, I think drivers (and I am one) should get hit with a massive gas tax increase to pay for a big percentage of the “Defense” budget! 🙂

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