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Oakland and San Francisco residents who want to cross the Bay on foot or bicycle have a date to look forward to: 2030.
That’s the year the Bay Bridge bike path is expected to open, connecting West Oakland to downtown San Francisco via Yerba Buena Island, according to Gavin Lohry, a planner for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Lohry gave an update on the status of the transbay bike path at Oakland’s Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission meeting last week.
The first part of the bike and foot path was completed 10 years ago with the opening of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge path, connecting Oakland to Yerba Buena Island. The next phase will involve connecting the existing eastern span bike path that ends at Vista Point on Yerba Buena Island to Treasure Island. Then the final phase involves connecting the paths on Yerba Buena and Treasure Islands to a bike path that will cross the western span of the Bay Bridge. The path on the western span hasn’t been designed yet, but it’s expected to be separated from vehicle lanes. While the total funding to complete the path by 2030 has not been secured, including an estimated $300-400 million needed for the West span, the MTC is confident it can come in over the next seven years.
The most important parts of the project are not actually situated on the bridge, Lohry said. Oakland and San Francisco have networks of bikeways currently under development, or already built, that allow people to get past heavy industrial areas to the bridge. These include West Oakland transit improvements like protected bike lanes on 7th Street and the Grand Avenue mobility plan.
“There is really a solid network of separated, protected bike lanes that are being designed in the East Bay and specifically in Oakland, on Treasure Island, and in San Francisco to allow people of all ages to comfortably bike around,” Lohry said.
The biggest development on Oakland’s side is called the West Oakland Link. Part of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Bay Trail project, the 1.1-mile West Oakland Link is a wide, dedicated bike and footpath that will connect the Bay Bridge Trail to West Oakland and the Port of Oakland. At the moment, anyone who wants to ride onto the bridge has to travel on dilapidated streets alongside heavy truck traffic while passing over train tracks. The West Oakland Link is expected to be completed by 2027.
The West Oakland Link will also help people more easily reach the recently-opened Judge John Sutter Park next to the bridge. At the moment, most people who want to visit this area do it by car.
The MTC predicts that over 8,000 people will be using the bridge bike and walking path when it is extended from Yerba Buena Island’s Vista Point to Treasure Island by 2027.
Recent improvements on Yerba Buena and Treasure Island
Over the last couple of years, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority has been improving the Yerba Buena Island bike path that connects the eastern end of the Bay Bridge, through Macalla Road to Treasure Island. It’s open on weekends and is expected to expand into the weekdays when the Southgate Road Realignment Project is completed in the next few months. This road is steep, though, and it is mostly used by serious bicyclists. Lohry told The Oaklandside that when he’s ridden on it, it’s felt dangerous to descend.
The path that will be safest for pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages is on the other side of Yerba Buena Island and will be built over the next few years.
The bike paths on Yerba Buena Island are being improved concurrently with San Francisco Ferry services. The trip from San Francisco’s Ferry Building to Treasure Island’s Ferry Terminal arrives every 45 minutes, but service is expected to improve to every 15 minutes over the next few years. More frequent ferries will also benefit the influx of residents moving into new high-rises. San Francisco’s 25-line SFMTA Muni bus can also take bike riders and pedestrians to and from the island.
The Oakland to San Francisco bikeway has been in the planning stages for a long time. In 2011, a state bill that would have helped fund a bridge pathway was killed. But when the new Bay Bridge opened ten years ago, local bike advocates stepped up their campaign to make it happen.
Meeting the 2030 completion date depends on continued funding from the state through the Active Transportation Program.
One potential downside to the bridge path is that bicyclists could be exposed to high levels of pollution from cars, which are still expected to cross the bridge in huge numbers—roughly 100,000 per day—far into the future.
Brian Beveridge, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project co-director, told The Oaklandside that his group has raised concerns about pedestrians and bicyclists’ health exposure to vehicle emissions on the West Oakland Link and the bridge.
“The question remains whether it’s better for people to fully avoid pollution or is it better to get out and exercise, [as on the bridge], despite some exposure,” said Beveridge. He added that his group is working with the MTC to put up “friendly” signs on the new pathways that warn people about the exposure to harmful particulate matter, including nitrogen oxides.