The Bay Bridge bike path designs are completely insane.

To call me an advocate for bicycling infrastructure would be putting it mildly... but the money it would require to put a bike lane on the Bay Bridge is an idiotic use of public funds that completely dwarfs the Super Bowl and the America's Cup combined by several orders of magnitude. I can't believe they're still spending money -- and so much money -- still even thinking about this.

They've already set fire to ten million dollars just on this study! That's more than half of SFMTA's 2015 budget for bike infrastructure ($17.8M) for this powerpoint of science fiction nonsense. That's real bike lanes you are not riding on right now.

How about something more practical, like a six mile bicycle zip-line, or the Alameda-Weehawken burrito tunnel.

I mean come on:

Another big question is how to get the path across Yerba Buena Island. The options include a bike and walking path that would be suspended from the ceiling of the Yerba Buena Tunnel, providing a direct connection to the west span. Less costly options include building paths above or below Hillcrest Road, which winds around steep terrain on the south side of the island.

In San Francisco, the project would also feature "dual high-capacity and high-speed elevators" on the Embarcadero to quickly move people on and off the path. One option being considered would be to have the elevators open first, in lieu of a ramp touchdown, which could be built later. [...]

Part of the current design effort is to find a design that can be built for under $300 million -- far less than early estimates for the project. Bay Area Toll Authority officials said they are considering raising bridge tolls to cover the cost as part of a regional measure that would also fund a number of other transportation projects. [...]

"We hoped we would come to this day where the political will is lined up," said Rivera. "This project feels like it has so much momentum. It feels like there's no going back."

Previously, previously.

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30 Responses:

  1. Wait, this wasn't built with the bridge? There's your first mistake.

    NYC-area authorities built the Verranzano Narrows bridge without a ped/bike path but supposedly left the option for a "retrofit". The most recent estimate for attaching a path - again, just for walking and biking - would have cost more than the bridge cost in the first place. It'll essentially never be built - and certainly spending close to half a billion on a walking path over one bridge is bad management.

    The Bay Bridge is like TWO Verranzano bridges! Plus a tunnel! Forget it

    • Pavel Lishin says:

      > Wait, this wasn't built with the bridge? There's your first mistake.

      Sir, you jest! Why, an addition to a public infrastructure that would allow velocipedes to travel unhindered over bodies of water would easily DOUBLE the number of bicycle face cases in the local sanatoria!

      (I know, the bridge was built in the 20th century, not the 19th, but I'm still not sure how common bikes would have been in the '30s, especially for actual commuting.

      • There was a major bicycle craze in the 1890s when chain drive was invented. By the 1930s, not so much. They didn't get really popular again until the 1970s when the "ten speed" got popular here. Sales count of bikes actually passed automobiles for a while.

        Makes me wonder if we're due for another tech-driven bike boom. Maybe e-bikes? If all of a sudden everyone wants to commute on their new e-bike, taking a bridge lane for bikes wouldn't be so far-fetched.

  2. jwz says:

    And can you even imagine how unpleasant that ride would be? First you have to pound up like a mile of switchbacks before you even get to the bridge deck; then you freeze your ass off doing a six mile slog through winds so strong that they regularly knock motorcycles over; and when you finally reach the other side, you're still only at the sewage treatment plant! You still have miles to go before you reach civilization!

    I think the bike commute between SF and Palo Alto would be a lot easier and more pleasant, and only crazy people do that.

    • Patrick says:

      The local bike federation keeps proposing something similar (though much less costly) for crossing the Hoan Bridge in Milwaukee. Except there are perfectly acceptable surface routes under the bridge that don't have the same ridiculously long ride up and down a cold and windy bridge. But even the detour from the lakefront-iest parts only takes you like 4 blocks inland so it's not like, y'know, "20 mile bypass around the bay".

      I think it's some kind of natural end point for these sorts of organizations.

    • Marcelo says:

      > bike commute between SF and Palo Alto would be a lot easier and more pleasant

      Crazy person here. That ride is actually not hard and quite pleasant in the morning. The ride back (if you're brave enough to do it) is generally a shit show, though.

      But even that would be preferrable from crossing the BB on a bike... as you say, crazy winds to get nowhere interesting. Just take BART already.

      Next on their agenda: the San Mateo Bridge bike path.

      • jwb says:

        It's been years since anybody was able to get a bike on BART at times people actually want to do so. Sure you if you want to travel only at either 11AM or 11PM it's completely practical, but if you're a 9-5 type of person bikes on BART are completely out.

        For my money the best thing going is bikestations at BART. Ride to BART, then ride BART. Free parking for bikes.

    • Stevo says:

      if they installed a windbreak or something i think it would be pleasant. 8 miles is not all that far on a bike, takes 45 to an hour. I guess it's a little more daunting for a casual biker.

  3. I've been advocating for an acrylic tube across the bottom of the bay. By some freak of circumstance, that addresses all of your objections here, jwz, except miles. Some of us welcome a few miles; others hunt for miles, pissing off the country dwellers. Move over, SeaWorld.

  4. Jon Lennox says:

    It sounds like giving all bicyclists free BART rides between Embarcadero and West Oakland, for the next thirty years, would be at least an order of magnitude cheaper.

  5. Hell, adding an extra bicycles-only car to EVERY BART TRAIN would probably be cheaper. Running a dedicated bicycle shuttle or ferry across the bay once every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day for the rest of our natural lives would be cheaper.

    I guess what I'm saying here is: I run a specialized architectural and urban planning consultancy firm, and I would like to know where to sign up for this gravy train. Can produce un-implementable "visualizations" on demand.

    • Jason McHuff says:

      There actually already is a CalTrans bike shuttle across the bay, albeit at limited times. And it's only $1, so if you need to travel in the reverse direction, having a bike is the cheapest way to get across, even if you don't need or want to bike on either end.

  6. Owen W. says:

    I thought the Mont Ventoux ramp was a joke

  7. Hahaha
    Jesus Christ, and they pay people to come up with this.

  8. thielges says:

    Yeah I had the same reaction. As an everyday biker I want better infra. But this is over the top.

    The obvious alternative is to convert 1 of the 10 lanes into a 2 way bike/ ped path. Of course the motoring majority will have a cow but it is feasible that such a conversion will eventually carry more traffic than when it was a car lane. And you can imagine how much cheaper it would be to just install a barrier and reroute the associated approachs.

    Either that or bring the Key System back to the lower deck and provide 24hr service.

    I wouldn't discount cyclists commuting over the bay. Plenty do over the GG and Marin doesn't have nearly the population nor does the GG bridge touch down near homes or jobs at either end. Jack London to the Fidi is about the same distance as my daily commute and I'm a wimp.

    • anonymouse says:

      Unfortunately for any dreams of reviving the Key System, the new east span was specifically designed to be too weak to carry trains. I guess we'll just have to wait until it collapses in the next earthquake.

  9. My own "option zero" point of comparison is how much it would cost to build a fleet of Cadillac-level bike-only mini ferries, and endow them to operate forever between TI and FB. The bike path from YBI to Oakland is already built* so might as well use that. Pretty sure we could have ferries every five minutes 24/7 for about a tenth what this path will supposedly cost, let alone what it will actually end up costing.

    *Except for one 30' segment which is currently on its third redesign. The first version was deemed too ugly, the second wasn't strong enough. If you ride out to the current end of the path and look down, you can see a pile of now-scrap steel from one of these versions.

  10. Soooo this isn't one of those neat marble tube games?

  11. Anyway, the charitable interpretation is that this is all a reductio ad absurdum proof that we shouldn't build the west span bike path. But if so, it's a pretty expensive proof.

  12. Stevo says:

    the cost does not seem terribly out of line when compared to the cost of the bridge itself, ~ 4%

  13. nooj says:

    I'll be really happy when city planners (and lawmakers) quit treating bikes like pretend cars and quit trying to give them car-like infrastructure.

    • bobbybobbob says:

      Why? Segregated bike infrastructure seems to work great in the places that have pursued it. The only valid complaint I'm aware of is that rather a lot of people can't realistically benefit from it because they can't bike (infirm, disabled, etc).

      • nooj says:

        Places that have pursued it--ie, actually built segregated bike infrastructure--have done well. This is a fantasyland. It's idiocy born of some dumbshit who thinks every problem can be solved by adding more lanes of traffic.

        We need to stop bolting bike lanes onto car roads. We need to stop forcing bikes to go places cars go, and stop forcing them to obey the same traffic laws cars obey.

  14. MattyJ says:

    The problem of crossing the bay bridge with a bicycle could easily be solved with a handful of stakebed trucks. Now give me my $10 million.

  15. Jeff Clough says:

    Based on the concept art, I'm guessing the "study" was conducted by an intern armed with a copy of Cities: Skylines.

  16. Jenni Bot says:

    They're not gonna put bikes, motorbikes and streetcars back on the bottom tier like in the midcentury?

  17. Bill Whitehouse says:

  18. Mike Bentley says:

    Nobody wants to ride through a hurricane over a bridge, that's nuts. I propose they add a bike-only train to the bridge.

  19. Job says:

    In case you need some material for comparison, there is a youtube channel dedicated to Dutch bike infrastructure. Among other things it reviews new bike paths, roundabouts, bridges, etc:

    Here are three bridge videos:

    Bonus video on how to design a good roundabout:

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