photos and story by Luckie Lovette
They stroll, skate, cycle and stare.
For the first time in 76 years, the Bay Bridge is now accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists.
“I went in through the Burma Road path in West Oakland and it took 20 minutes to walk from the entrance to the Oakland touchdown,” says McClymonds senior Aronisha Smith. ” I was tired when I made it halfway, but it was a beneficial walk that made me healthy.”
The new east span of the bridge, which had a piece collapse in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, opened three weeks ago. Since then, thousands of people, including residents of West Oakland, have walked over, and were captivated by the breathtaking views of cranes, the old bridge and the water.
There are two lanes for bicycles and one lane for pedestrians. The views are amazing, but riders should be warned that the path is not for the unconditioned heart; the trek is entirely uphill from Oakland going to Yerba Buena Island.
“It would be a pretty long walk if you’re not biking,” said McClymonds alum Paige Seymore.
Oakland city leaders and transit officials unveiled the green-and-white sign at the entrance of the path bearing the name of late city planner and longtime bicycle advocate Alexander Zuckermann.
Zuckermann founded the East Bay Bicycle Coalition in 1972 and lobbied the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for years to bring greater bike accessibility to Oakland and other parts of the Bay Area.
One unique feature is that the bike path hangs slightly away from the bridge, with a vent to draw away exhaust from passing cars. While you might want to make your way to Yerba Buena Island and/or Treasure Island, you will have to wait until after the bridge bike and pedestrian lane opens.
Some bicyclists are asking why the path doesn’t continue all the way to San Francisco. The Bay Area Toll Authority is looking at that very idea, with a study due out later this year. Design chief Steve Hulsebus said the bike path’s connector can’t be completed until the infamous “S-curve” is demolished in 2015.
“We’re gonna get people halfway to Yerba Buena Island from Oakland. The real goal is to get all the way to San Francisco from Oakland. Then it can be a transportation facility and not just a recreational bike path,” Hulsebus said.
Much of the $500-million price tag to finish the rest of the new bike path will likely come from higher bridge tolls, putting any dreams of biking to San Francisco nearly decade away.
Is it worth the wait? Some of its new admirers think so. “It would be cool to be able to walk to Yerba Buena Island,” says McClymonds physical education teacher Jeremy Namkung, who has not yet walked the bridge. “Although, I would be more eager if it connected all the way to the city (San Francisco).”