A new raised protected bike lane is open on Walnut Avenue in Fremont, and it’s a beauty. Extending more than a mile from Paseo Padre Parkway to Mission Boulevard, the state-of-the-art bike lane features bus boarding areas, bike counters, and not one but four fully protected intersections. With direct access to the BART station, Walnut Avenue is setting a new standard for bikeways that are safe and accessible for riders of all ages and abilities.
Since adopting a Vision Zero policy in 2016, the City of Fremont has been working to implement both quick-build safety improvements as well as fully engineered infrastructure projects like the Walnut Avenue bikeway. While they have made great progress installing new bikeways quickly and at low cost, Walnut Ave. is the first project to rebuild multiple intersections. The raised and protected intersection design removes dangerous high-speed free right turn lanes, and will be a game-changing model for bike and pedestrian safety in our region.
As Public Works Director Hans Larsen explains, “the Walnut Bikeway Project was funded in large part by a grant from the Alameda County Transportation Commission with the intention to be a demonstration for other communities to experience and learn from. This is a great service to Bay Area civil engineers, and it avoids them having to justify a travel tour to Copenhagen or Amsterdam — they can now come to Fremont instead!” Bike East Bay is working to make sure local designers are learning from each other, facilitating field visits and opportunities to learn more about Walnut Avenue’s design features.
The changes have already made an impact on local families. Monica-April Skinner is a mom and bike rider from Niles, and goes out of her way to use the new bikeway on Walnut Avenue. “I make an effort to go to Walnut because it’s the safest way for me to get into the downtown area for my errands,” she says. “We bought a cargo bike and we actually sold our second vehicle!” Monica-April loves the new bikeway and would like to see more safe infrastructure in her community, particularly on Mission Boulevard to connect Walnut Ave. to the Niles area.
While Fremont has done a great job of building out its bike network, there has been some pushback on bikeway projects. With a lot of work still to do, City Council needs to hear ongoing support for bikeways and upcoming protected intersection projects to keep the momentum going. While the Bike Month ribbon cutting and celebration rides have been postponed due to COVID-19, local riders can celebrate by visiting the new facility solo or with family.