Looking north from the Emeryville border on the new bikeway
What recently-completed East Bay road project is less than one-fourth mile long and more than 10 years in the planning?
If you guessed the Ninth Street Bicycle Boulevard Extension, the connection between Berkeley’s Ninth Street Bicycle Boulevard and Emeryville’s Doyle Street Greenway, you win the prize. (Okay, there is no prize – but good for you!)
On April 21 at 10 a.m., the cities of Berkeley and Emeryville, along with the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and many of the local officials and funders who helped support this important bikeway will officially celebrate the opening of the connection between the two cities. The public is invited to participate in the "grand opening."
This little stretch of bikeway will have a big impact on regional bicycle connectivity, says EBBC Program Director Dave Campbell.
"The Ninth Street Pathway is a key connection between Berkeley and Emeryville and serves many popular destinations, such as the West Berkeley Bowl and Bay Street and large employers such as Clif Bar, Bayer and Novartis," Campbell said.
The off-street portion of the bikeway follows the former Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way. This railway was abandoned in the early 2000s and the right of way was purchased by the cities of Berkeley and Emeryville. In conjunction with new housing developments on three of the blocks between Doyle Street and Ninth Street, Emeryville created three blocks of off-road greenway between buildings that attracts dog walkers, strollers and cyclists of all ages.
Emeryville is still working on the southern end of the greenway, which will connect to the Horton Street Bicycle Boulevard. The current route provides a bicycle connection to West Oakland and Mandela Parkway; once future projects are completed, the bikeway also will offer connections to the Bay Bridge and to Bay Street via a bicycle/pedestrian bridge at 53rd and Horton.
Peter Schultz-Allen, environmental programs analyst for the city of Emeryville, said the greenway, which is designed as a “linear park,” is “a big win for the community.” The greenway adds a lot of trees to a formerly industrial part of Emeryville that needed more greenery.
However, until the connection with Berkeley was completed, cyclists going from Emeryville to the on-street Ninth Street Bicycle Boulevard in Berkeley (which was completed in the winter of 2002/03) were forced onto neighboring car-heavy Hollis Street or San Pablo Avenue.
“It’s been kind of a dead end path for five years,” Schultz-Allen said. “Now it’s a regional link. It’s not an Emeryville greenway, it’s part of a Emeryville-Berkeley greenway.”
The construction of the West Berkeley Bowl, which opened in the summer of 2009, provided the opportunity the city of Berkeley needed to move the connection one step forward, with a safe bicycle route around the Bowl’s parking lot to an improved crossing of Ashby at Ninth Street. While they completed the route for cyclists, Berkeley planners also filled in a missing sidewalk segment on Ninth Street, improving the pedestrian connection across Ashby.
“We felt this segment was an important gap closure,” said Eric Anderson, Berkeley’s Associate Planner-Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs, adding that “there was a synergy of things that happened” to help get the route completed.
Future improvements also are in the works for the Berkeley section of the path. The current route jogs west from the former railroad right of way to take riders across Ashby on Ninth Street. Two more blocks of the old railroad right of way remain to be developed. Once that is done, cyclists will be able to follow a straight and continuous off-road bikeway across Ashby, connecting seamlessly with the southern end of the Ninth Street Bicycle Boulevard. Berkeley is continuing to move the design process forward for this segment of pathway, according to Anderson.
“We’re trying to position ourselves to get the funding as soon as it’s available.”
Anderson highlights the big impact of this small piece of roadway, saying, “It is a regionally and countywide significant bike route. It’s an important connection that’s part of the county’s bicycle plan.”
Campbell said that significance helped garner funding: This bikeway was one of the first projects to receive regional bicycle funds after the first Regional Bicycle Plan was adopted. Funding came from several state, regional and local agencies: Caltrans, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Alameda County Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
“One of the big challenges with this project is that it’s right on the border of two cities,” Anderson said. Planners in Berkeley and Emeryville wanted pathway users to have a smooth transition across the border from one city to the next, something that doesn’t always happen in the uber-local world of bicycle and pedestrian route planning. The two cities worked closely together to make sure the continuation of the off-street path in Berkeley provides a smooth transition from the Emeryville path.
Come see it for yourself on April 21! The ribbon cutting will be followed by a ride to the Earth Day celebration in downtown Berkeley, where EBBC will provide free valet bike parking and the event will provide lots of great activities, food and entertainment. There will also be a short and gentle ride on the Doyle Street bikeway (perfect for the littlest riders) to nearby Doyle Hollis Park and Emeryville’s Earth Day celebration.