Bay Bridge FAQ's
What will the finished pathway look like?
There will be two pathways, one on either side of the upper deck, designed to match the existing architecture of the west span. Having two pathways will allow maintenance activities to take place while simultaneously providing access to both cyclists and pedestrians. While maintenance work is not underway, cyclists would use one side while pedestrians would use the other. The northern pathway will feature stunning views of San Francisco's waterfront and financial district, the Bay including Alcatraz, Angel, Yerba Buena and Treasure Islands. The pathways will be similar to those on the Golden Gate Bridge, but there will be larger belvederes at each of the two towers to allow cyclists to maintain a 20mph speed while also providing room for people to stop and enjoy the incredible views.West Span Pathway Project Statistics
Length: 5.25 miles
Width: 2 pathways at 12 feet each
Estimated Construction Period: 3 years
What is the estimated cost of the West Span Pathway?
The estimated cost is approximately two hundred million dollars. This may seem like a lot of money, but it is only 4% of the price tag for the East Span replacement structure. The pathway would also be used by pedestrians, and Caltrans maintenance workers and their vehicles. Plus, shore-to-shore bicycle and pedestrian access would save the region and the state a significant amount of money over the life of the bridge, including savings in maintenance costs (est. at $263,000/ yr.), congestion relief, benefits to the tourist industry, reduced liability for injured and killed Caltrans workers (who now have to work amongst 60mph traffic), and savings in health care costs from a more physically active population.
I don't ride a bicycle. Why should I support a Bay Bridge Pathway?
A shore-to-shore pathway on the Bay Bridge will benefit everyone in the Bay Area. Specifically, the pathway will improve motorist safety by providing an emergency refuge area in case of breakdown and for maintenance activities that are separate from the traffic lanes, enhance the local economy by creating a popular new tourist attraction, and ease traffic congestion by increasing capacity on the Bay Bridge. Also, in a major emergency where traffic is backed up, the pathway will serve as alternate access for emergency personnel to evacuate the injured.
How will I get onto the Bridge from San Francisco?
There are several proposals for how the pathway would connect with San Francisco Streets. The most popular alternative is a pathway that would begin at the southeastern terminus of First St. in downtown San Francisco. The developer who owns the property has granted an easement to Caltrans for future construction of the pathway entrance.
How will I get onto the Bridge from the East Bay?
Because of the new 'freeway on stilts' skyway that has been recently proposed by the Schwarzenegger administration, it is unclear where the bikeway will land in the East Bay. The previous design would have sited the 15.5 foot wide pathway on the southern side of the bridge, necessitating provision of a connection to the Bay Trail to the north of the Bridge.
How will cyclists and pedestrians get between the East and West Spans?
When the pathway reaches Yerba Buena Island (YBI), path users will follow a pathway along Treasure Island Road to connect to the other span. It is not clear whether a separated pathway to connect the whole way is feasible, or whether cyclists and pedestrians will have to use part of the existing road network on YBI.
Won't the Bay Bridge West Span Pathway project take money away from other badly needed bike and pedestrian safety projects?
The West Span Pathway is such a large project that it could not (and should not) be paid for out of conventional bike/ pedestrian funding sources. This project should be paid for out of toll revenue, federal earmarks, or a possible regional gas tax, none of which would be available to stripe bicycle lanes or build safer crosswalks. Caltrans-adopted Deputy Directive 64 states that the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians, and disabled populations should be considered as part of all Caltrans projects and facilities. The Bay Bridge is a high profile example where this directive should be applied.
Can't cyclists and pedestrians take BART, AC Transit, the ferry, or the Caltrans bike shuttle to get across the Bay?
Yes, bicyclists are able to use all these modes to travel across the Bay, however, there are significant restrictions involved. For example, BART bans bikes during commute hours, when most cyclists need to get across the Bay. It also does not run past midnight. AC Transit is limited to two bikes per bus, and the bike shuttle only runs during peak periods. Ferry service is very limited, and ferries are relatively expensive. The bottom line is, with the negligible space and energy requirements, and road impact that bikes have, it is only right that taxpayer-funded projects provide accommodation for all modes, not just motor vehicles. Car drivers expect direct access- why should bicycle riders and pedestrians expect anything less?
I heard that a pathway on the West Span was not possible because it would decrease the shipping channel clearances in the Bay. Is that true?
No- the alternatives that were analyzed in the feasibility study both mitigate shipping channel clearance reduction by either replacing the deck with lighter weight materials or tightening the support cables.
How long would it take to construct a west span pathway?
It would require several years to complete the necessary permits, environmental approvals, and to complete construction. If this process were started now, it would likely be completed around the time the new East Span (and pathway) were completed around 2012.
How many people would use this pathway?
For comparison, the Golden Gate Bridge sees an average of 1400 cyclists a day on weekdays and 4700 or more on weekends. The distance between the Marina and Sausalito (the two nearest inhabited areas) is approximately 7 miles- the same as from West Oakland to the financial district. We estimate that if the number of bike trips on the Bay Bridge were close to the same percentage of overall trips on the GGB- the annual number of bike trips on the Bay Bridge would be roughly 1.8 million.
A 7 mile bike ride only takes about a half hour at average speeds. This is competitive with driving, buses, and ferries during peak hours. Anecdotally, hundreds of people have sent letters to MTC, and thousands more signed a petition several years ago pledging to use the new facility. When you add tourists, commuters, and casual travelers, the demand could be quite high.
Even if a cyclist never ventured onto the path, it would still make sense as a maintenance/ emergency access path. Getting maintenance activities off the roadway would reduce collisions and congestion and justify the pathway just by itself.
The pathway is only 4% of the cost of the east span replacement, keep in mind. As gas prices continue to climb, bicycling across a pathway will become a legitimate commute option. Thus, a pathway is among the cheapest and easiest ways to increase capacity on this congested corridor.
How can I help make a shore to shore pathway on the Bay Bridge a reality?
Glad you asked. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has an active task force working to promote this project. Send an e-mail to email@example.com to add yourself to the participant list. You can also get organizations you know to sign on to our platform, as well as writing to your city, county, and state elected officials asking them to support our platform. You can send an easy and free fax to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission by clicking here.