The new Bay Bridge bike-hike trail is open, as far as it goes, and I hopped on my trusty 10-speed around midday today and checked it out.
I chose the access point across the road from the Ikea entrance in Emeryville. The entrance is clearly marked. You can get there most of the way via the Bay Trail, but at the Powell St shopping center you have to go onto busy Christie Ave. for a short bit and then onto Shellmound St., which has a bike lane. Google Maps accurately shows the trail. Once past the entrance, it’s a smooth dedicated bike/pedestrian path all the way.
The trail winds under the freeway for a bit, where construction crews were still driving pilings and hauling debris from the old highway pavement. After a couple of flat miles, you go up a wooden ramp. At the top, you meet the stump of the old upper deck, and enter onto the new bridge. Eastbound auto traffic flows to your right, separated by a steel rail. To the left you get the best view ever of the old bridge with its railroad-trestle construction, iron triangles strung together like mesh on a knit sleeve.
The trail here is comfortably wide for bicyclists and walkers/runners. The surface for foot travel is hard cement. From the ramp to the tower is a gentle but constant upgrade that seemed steeper today because of the brisk headwind. Neither young nor old seemed defeated by the challenge. There are occasional outcroppings with benches for rest stops. The new bridge gradually veers away from the old until it makes a bend to the left as you approach the tower.
This tower, built by steelworkers in China, is the icon of the new span. Like the rest of the bridge’s metal structures, it’s painted a gleaming white. The four thick main cables that rise from under the roadbed to the peak form gentle inbending curves that seem to embrace the road in a hug. The straight cables that connect the main cables to the road are slanted to the side. This is not a replica of the Golden Gate, with its linear geometry. This is curvaceous, asymmetrical, non-Euclidean. It feels very solid. You can sense a slight bounce when heavy trucks pass on the roadway, but I felt no swaying or other scary motion anywhere.
Not long after the tower, a few hundred yards from Yerba Buena Island, the hike/bike trail comes to a dead end, like the Berkeley fishing pier. At this point the dark old bridge, which is already showing signs of rust, cuts across the path. Bike access to the island will have to wait until that section of the old bridge is dismantled and removed. That’s supposed to happen by summer 2015.
The ride back down the path is like a glider flight. It’s a steady downgrade with a brisk tailwind. You’ll break the 15 mph speed limit without even trying.
Although it goes nowhere, this trail is going to be very popular with bikers, hikers, and runners. All kinds of people were out enjoying it on this beautiful Wednesday. I predict it’ll be thronged on weekends. Someone should start a lemonade, ice cream, and trail mix stand at the end.
I took some photos (19) along the way. My album is up on Google+, click here.