Detail of Over the bridge by Poetas, http://www.flickr.com/photos/poetas/4294033892/
Imagine a Bay Bridge that’s a destination – 4.5 miles of gorgeous bay vistas enjoyed by cyclists and walkers, linking East Bay and San Francisco communities. Imagine a 20-minute commute over the water.
This is the vision that could be realized by putting a Safety Path – with access for bicyclists, walkers and emergency and maintenance vehicles – on the West Span of the Bay Bridge. Path would make the Bay Bridge a full service span for all modes of travel, rather than a bridge to nowhere for cyclists and walkers.
At the EBBC (East Bay Bicycle Coalition) meeting Wednesday night, the West Span Bicycle/Pedestrian/Maintenance Pathway – also called the Safety Path - was the topic that generated the most interest and excitement. Member Jason Meggs, who worked on the successful campaign to include bicycle and pedestrian access on the rebuilt East Span, noted that activists had two years to organize that campaign and “this time we have two weeks.”
The rallying point is a meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) on Wednesday, January 27 at 10 am. The commissioners will discuss raising the bridge toll with a possible congestion pricing option – charging more at rush hour and less at off-peak times. The issue EBBC members and supporters are rallying around is the allocation of those funds. The toll increase is an important opportunity to fund carbon-free transportation on the Bay Bridge.
Robert Raburn, EBBC Executive Director, emphasizes the safety benefits of the path, noting that the West Span will be the only one of California’s seven toll bridges without a breakdown lane (after the new east span is completed). The path would allow easier access for emergency vehicles, a safe haven for stranded motorists, and a space from which CalTrans maintenance workers could access the span for repairs out of traffic lanes.
According to Meggs, “Riding on the bike path is the safest way to get to work.” He notes that 20 times more cyclists live near the Bay Bridge than live near the Golden Gate Bridge. It is estimated that at least 2,000 cyclists would commute across the bridge daily. That figure doesn’t include tourists and recreational riders.
The MTC funded a feasibility study for a path on the West Span in 2001 that estimated the cost at $160 million. This is a tiny fraction of the over $6 billion being spent on the seismic retrofit.
Supporters of the West Span path include the Sierra Club, the Association of Bay Area Governments, and Bay Localize. Emeryville and Berkeley have passed resolutions in favor of the path. Oakland adopted a resolution in support when the idea was first considered and is in the process of passing a new one.
The EBBC is rallying people to attend the MTC meeting and to send letters to their commissioners (see link below). Jason Meggs is spearheading the organizing. “I'm super passionate about this in part because when I moved to the Bay Area I came from the east coast where most bridges allow bicyclists. Back then I looked on a map and said, It'll be great to go to school at UC Berkeley because I can just bike to San Francisco. What a shock!”
Come to the MTC meeting: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 10am,MetroCenter Auditorium, 101 Eighth St, Oakland (opposite Lake Merritt BART)
Find out more and send a letter to your MTC commissioners:
CAMPAIGN INFO: http://www.ebbc.org/baybridge
ACTION LETTERS: http://www.ebbc.org/action
POSTER-MAKING: Sun and Mon 1/23 & 1/24, 5-10 PM; at 2185 Acton in Berkeley, 4 blocks from N. Berkeley BART, call Jason at (510) 725-9991 for more information