Bike commuters taking to Bay Area bridges

bridge commuter
Terri Saul
EBBC Supporter

Oakland–There’s an unspoken camaraderie among cyclists who cross the San Francisco Bay. Some depend on a combination of public transit and bikeways. Some pedal from shore to shore. Bridge commuting, similar to cyclocross racing, involves hoisting bikes up and down stairs, or on and off buses. Transitioning from trails and bikeways to frontage roads and surface streets, cyclists negotiate swiftly changing terrain, sometimes on foot and sometimes in the saddle. Fresh air fetishists, rule-bending pathfinders, all-terrain trailblazers, explorers, navigators, they are everything that SUVs claim to be, but are not.

Bicyclists and pedestrians can access four East Bay Area bridges: Antioch, Benicia/Martinez, Carquinez and Dumbarton. Each has its own rules and transit links, making bridge commuting in the Bay Area a Phantom Toll Booth-like puzzle. But with increasing frequency cyclists are able to enjoy a continuous ride by traversing a bike-friendly bridge. State Senator Loni Hancock (Berkeley) has introduced SB 1061, which will allow toll revenue to pay for construction of a West Span Pathway. A hearing date has been set for March 23 in Sacramento. Bicycle coalition representatives are also traveling to Washington, D.C. In early March to seek federal support for a new West Span Pathway. In addition, the City of Oakland has begun the design process for a world-class touchdown at Gateway Park at the foot of the new East Span pathway.

clif bar bike racks
Kevin Cleary, President and COO of Clif Bar, commutes from Marin across the Richmond Bridge to his office in Berkeley. It takes him 35 minutes to get to the bus depot in San Rafael. The bus is usually on time. He gets dropped off in Point Richmond. From there he jumps on the Bay Trail. “I try to do it as a very easy, casual ride,” Kevin says, “but with three kids at home now it’s usually a sprint.” He likes the idea of opening up the shoulder of the Richmond Bridge to cyclists, “to have that flexibility would be outstanding,” he says. “Through my commute,” Kevin says, “I got in good enough shape to start racing.” The story of Gary Erickson coming up with the idea for Clif Bar while riding his bike,” he says is “very much a part of who we are.”

Rob Powell, a 63-year-old from Vallejo, formerly on the board of the Bay Trail, rides across the Carquinez Bridge twice a week. “I don’t do performance riding,” Rob says, “I do fitness riding, because I have osteoarthritis and I need to keep going.” After crossing the bridge, Rob takes the West Cat Bus Service to El Cerrito BART continuing on into San Francisco. “Since I’m retired I have a totally different outlook,” he says. “I don’t measure rides so much in miles as in time.” He says if Caltrans doesn’t want to deal with a road hazard, he’ll fix it himself.

Bridget May is a Bay Bridge commuter from San Francisco. A former road racer, she now races to work in the East Bay. “I was concerned about having to commute to Berkeley,” she says. “I like going over the Bay Bridge on the shuttle, because it only costs a dollar.” A reverse commuter, her fellow shuttle riders going in the opposite direction are often bumped, but she always finds a spot.
bridge commuter

Rene Rodriquez, a resident of San Francisco, has been bicycling to work for 15 years. A short film producer, she bikes to work eight miles every day from San Francisco to Alameda, taking AC Transit. Rene upgraded to a folding bike to take inside the bus. She bikes to the Transbay terminal, then takes the O bus across the Bay Bridge, pedaling on to Alameda Point. As far as cycling on the West Span, “I can’t wait until there is a bike lane that goes all the way across,” she says. “I know the Bay Bridge is a long bridge to cross. But, if you bike to work every day, you get really fit.”

A bicycle commuter for the past 30 years, Eric Morris is a music teacher living in San Lorenzo. “I’ve seen a lot of changes, most of them for the better. People are more conscious of bicycles. Transit is more forgiving.” Eric commutes regularly over the San Mateo Bridge. He bikes four miles to Chabot College, then takes AC Transit line M to Oracle in Belmont. From there he bikes another four miles to his job teaching music at Notre Dame de Namur University. Rain or shine this is his itinerary. Eric says walking is too slow. “As a matter of fact it’s no coincidence that there are bicycling messengers delivering important papers in every urban environment in the world.”
bridge commuter

John Destefano, a software engineer at NetApp has been bicycle commuting for15 years, primarily for fitness. He rides a loop between Newark and Sunnyvale with the wind at his back, four days a week during the dry months. In the mornings, he rides down the east side of the bay. In the evenings he takes Caltrain up to Palo Alto. From the station he bicycles eastbound across the Dumbarton Bridge home. When asked to describe his bridge crossing he says, “I’m not sure ‘fun’ is the right word. I do view it as the safest part of my commute.” John’s complaint is that roadside debris usually ends up in the bike lane of the bridge. He doesn’t like jumping construction ladders with his bicycle.

Bay Area Bridge commuters’ dreams for bicycling beyond the edgewaters are manifold. Kevin’s wish is “for us to be able to do a full circle around the bay.” Rob says that while bridges that cross the bay are vital, he’d like to see improvements to bridges that cross freeways. Bridget says, “I think you should be able to ride your bike anywhere. Not everyone has a car.” Rene thinks it makes sense to have a pedestrian and bike lane on every bridge. Eric says, “I’d love to ride across the San Mateo Bridge. It’d be a gas.” Going beyond expectations, Bay Area bridge commuters hurry forward while the traffic stands still.

For more information: EBBC Bike to Work Day Pages

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