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Bike Lane Remains a Bridge to Nowhere

Caltrans still has to figure out how bikers can get on and off the new eastern span

Cyclists fought hard for a bike lane on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

Now that the span is scheduled to open to cars at the end of 2013, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney says that the $100 million bike lane will open "a little bit" later owing to some engineering challenges. There are still several unanswered questions about how bikers will get on and off the bridge.

And once the bike lane is built from the toll plaza to Yerba Buena Island, there's no guarantee that it will ever be extended to San Francisco. 

“At this point, it’s quite remote,” said John Goodwin, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which is working on the project.  “There’s not an identified funding source for it.” 

A group is studying the possibility of extending the lane to San Francisco, and a report is due out this summer. But Goodwin said that a bike lane on the western span would cost more than $100 million – and there are a number of engineering challenges. 

In fact, Goodwin told The Bay Citizen, it might make more sense for bikers to get off at Yerba Buena Island and take a ferry to San Francisco. A ferry is planned as part of an ambitious development proposed for Treasure Island. 

“If a ferry service is established that’s probably going to be a more cost-effective way to do it,” said Goodwin. “That may be where the ultimate solution lies.” 

Jon Spangler, 59, an Alameda resident, said he would bike to San Francisco for his regular choir practice if he could. He said MTC should be able to find the money.

"The cost overruns are bigger than the cost of the the western span bike lane, so what are they bitching about?" Spangler said.

Although the bike lane on the eastern span is being built, final decisions on how to get cyclists on and off the bridge have not been made, Goodwin said.

On the Oakland side, there will be a separated lane that will go over railroad tracks, then under the MacArthur Maze and then will somehow make its way to the south side of Interstate 80 before getting onto the bridge. The lane will be on the left side of the eastbound section of the bridge, separated entirely from car traffic, as you head from Oakland to San Francisco and will be shared by bikers and pedestrians.

Goodwin said some of the challenges with planning the approach include making deals with the many land owners whose property the lane will cross and getting the lane all the way to the south side of the freeway. “There are a lot of proposals that have been put forth, including reconfiguring the West Grand interchange,” he said.

Arriving halfway across the bridge at Yerba Buena Island, there are still questions about where the bikers will exit the lane, Goodwin said. And if a lane is built all the way to San Francisco, bikers would have to get off and on the bridge at separate points on the island, because it would be too dangerous for bikers to cross the entrance and exit ramps for cars.

As thousands bike to work today, cyclists in the East Bay are hoping that some day they’ll be able to bike to work all the way across the Bay Bridge, said Dave Campbell of the East Bay Bike Coalition. Campbell has been pushing for the lane for years.

“More people are going to use this bridge than the Golden Gate Bridge,” said Campbell, “and that’s enormously popular.”

For now, cyclists hoping to bike at least part of the way from the East Bay to San Francisco have few options. The biker Spangler said that he would take BART from his home in the East Bay to his a cappella choir practice in San Francisco. But BART doesn't allow bikes on board during rush hour. Spangler said that it's a gamble taking AC Transit, since there are only two spots for bikes on the front of the bus.

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