It only took 24 years, but Caltrans finally completed and opened the new Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland to replace the one that partly collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
The new bridge includes a bike/pedestrian trail from Oakland to Treasure Island, a former military base that is about halfway to San Francisco. The trail doesn’t go all the way to Treasure Island yet — the old bridge is in the way — but by 2015 the connection to the island will be complete.
This weekend Sam and I rode our bikes down to the trail entrance in Emeryville and as far as you can bike on the bridge.
Us and about two zillion other people.
It was terrific!
We were among a cross-section of Bay Area humanity — middle-aged bike geeks on $5000 titanium frames and century-ride jerseys; little kids wobbling on their first two-wheeler; walkers, joggers and skaters; people of all ages, races and physical abilities. It was one of the warmest, sunniest days of the year and the views were beautiful.
The old bridge stood empty alongside the new one. It has been out of use for only about eleven days, but already it looks like a relic from another century — some dark, rusting remnant from a time of railroad barons and steel factories. In comparison, the new bridge looks like a shiny white iPod.
Heading to the bridge, I felt like a tourist in my own city in the best possible way — on an adventure, knowing I would experience something new and intriguing.
Of course, the question now comes up more loudly than ever: How can Caltrans build only half a bike trail? Even in 2015 when the trail is complete, it will stop at Treasure Island — a nice place to picnic but not to do much else. Shouldn’t the trail go all the way into San Francisco?
There would be engineering challenges in adding a bike/walk path to the remaining span of the old bridge between Treasure Island and San Francisco. But surely there is a technical solution. I suspect that people will love this new partial trail enough that they’ll start pressuring Caltrans to build the other half.
It would be a wonderful day trip… a great way to commute… Caltrans, are you listening?
Want to try the trail? You can find a map on the East Bay Bicycle Coalition web site. We entered the trail from Shellmound Street in Emeryville, across the street from Ikea. After biking as far on the bridge as we could go, we backtracked and exited the trail in the other direction, Maritime Street near the Port of Oakland. If you’d like to add to your excursion, it’s a quiet, flat ten-minute ride from the Maritime Street entrance to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park inside the Port of Oakland. (Take Maritime Street to 7th Street and turn right; follow signs for the park.) This is an undiscovered gem inside the industrial no-man’s-land of the port — green lawns, picnic tables, great views of SF, and often a lot of shorebirds. Take binoculars.