Crossing the Bay Bridge is no big deal for motorists who commute to work. But crossing the Bay Bridge was just a fantasy for San Francisco and Oakland cyclists. The only choices for pedestrians and cyclists were to take a ferry or a BART car. In September 2013, pedestrians and bicyclists were given the opportunity to cross the eastern span of the bridge thanks to a new bike path. However, construction continues and there is a plan to extend the bike path an additional two miles.
The western portion of the Bay Bridge bike path could be complete by the end of the year, but it’s possible that construction may continue into 2016. Contractors must remove a portion of the original bridge, in order to expand the bike path 2.2 miles from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island.
The current path is 15.5 feet wide. There are three access points along the path: one in Emeryville, another in Oakland and a third at the Bay Bridge toll plaza. The bike path – which is named after Alex Zuckermann, founder of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition – is only open during specific hours. It will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. until September 1. From September 2-30, the hours will be 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The path will then be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. until March 13.
Safety is important, which is why the bike path is currently monitored by California Highway Patrol officers on bicycles. There is a 15 mph speed limit on the path. Pedestrians have the right of the way, so bicyclists must yield to them at all times. Bicycles are the only wheeled vehicles allowed on the path; skates, skateboards and scooters are not allowed.
The bike path expansion is a huge win for bicycling advocates. Cities across the nation are focusing on ways to become more bike-friendly. This Bay Bridge bike path is an excellent example of how cities can benefit by focusing on the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists. It reduces traffic and allows residents to get across town safely without the need for a motor vehicle. Walking and bicycling is not only good for the environment, but for one’s health as well.