National Bike Month kicked off Tuesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony held at the new Vista Point on Yerba Buena Island on a perfect spring day. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and San Francisco Commissioner Jane Kim represented their cities and were joined by a crowd of bike enthusiasts and a host of officials from the federal, state, regional and local levels.
The event also anointed the weekday opening of the Bay Bridge Bike Path which had been previously closed because of the ongoing demolition of the old Bay Bridge.
East Bay riders first assembled at the Bridge Yard building at the foot of the Oakland side of the Bay Bridge. The site was symbolic in that it was a former hub for the Key System street cars before transit became more automobile focussed.
Agency representatives acknowledged the advocacy efforts of avid cyclists including Bike East Bay for pushing to see this through. Schaaf addressed the riders and officials and playfully teased those in attendance for their ample amount of spandex apparel.
Schaaf also introduced Oakland’s first Department of Transportation Director Ryan Russo, whom previously worked for the New York City Department of Transportation. Russo was NYCDOT’s Deputy Commissioner of Transportation and oversaw many innovative street redesigns that New York has seen praise for. Russo officially begins his post for the city on May 8th.
Also on hand was former NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan whom Schaaf refereed to as the “goddess of transportation.” Sadik-Khan is considered a pioneer of the “complete streets” philosophy of roads and infrastructure that are inclusive to bikes, pedestrians and cars.
Schaaf also acknowledged that Oakland will soon offer a fleet of 1,500 Ford GoBikes as part of the East Bay Bike Share rollout. Schaaf noted annual membership will be as low as $5 for those with income restrictions as part of her city’s “equity first” approach to policy.
Cyclists next made the two-mile, 2-percent grade ride across the bridge to Yerba Buena Island. Riders linked up with the San Francisco side of the bike advocacy efforts represented by SF Bike Coalition Advocacy Director Janice Li and SF Supervisor Jane Kim.
Kim led off the ceremony by acknowledging the advocacy efforts of the East side of the Bay. “It always starts with our advocates first.” Kim next took a sarcastic swipe at the bureaucracy of working across multiple government agencies. “These [two projects] are great examples of what the region can do when we work together … and it does happen sometimes.”
Kim vowed to continue advocating for the continuation of the path on the Western side of the bridge. Plans for this are already being discussed and designed but are optimistically 10 years away from implementation.
“I want to be living proof that you do not need to wear spandex to ride a bike to work and that helmets do not mess up your hair” Schaaf quipped after taking the mic. Schaaf later admitted that she used an electric-assisted bike for her journey across the bridge.
Amenities of the Vista Point include water fountains, restrooms, bike racks, benches … and of course stunning views of the East Bay. The facility also includes an event space with a private overlook and synthetic grass. The Transportation Authority and Bay Area Toll Authority each contributed $1 million to design, build and maintain the Vista Point facility.
Next steps for path
While the Vista Point will create a nice resting spot for riders, many will want to continue all the way to Treasure Island. Currently, the ride is a bit harrowing for casual riders but road improvements via Macalla are underway. These improvements are unfortunately not expected to be complete until the end of 2019.
There is a weekend shuttle equipped to transport up to 8 bicycles that operates between the landing area and TI every 15-20 minutes. Vehicle parking is not allowed at Vista Point or in the vicinity.
Emeryville getting 8,000 new “neighbors”
While Treasure Island will not be home to the Star Wars museum (they recently lost this bid to Los Angeles), it will soon be home to 8,000 new residential units. Supervisor Kim is the District 6 representative that includes Treasure Island and has been a staunch supporter of the inclusion of affordable units in its development projects.
One of the developers involved in TI’s redevelopment is Lennar Corporation who are also spearheading Emeryville’s Sherwin-Williams development. The current resident population of TI is estimated at about 3,000.
The museum that wasn’t… George Lucas picks LA over SF to build his Museum of Narrative Art because LA location has “the greatest impact” pic.twitter.com/5dML5dhhpF
— Juan Carlos Guerrero (@JuanCarlosABC7) January 10, 2017
The potential of our new 5.29 square mile island “neighbors” and what it means for our city is compelling. The addition of residents will surely bring amenities, transportation options and hopefully jobs. There is optimism that it will bring opportunities for those that have not realized the benefit of our surging economy. Tammy Powers, the owner of Tammy’s Chicken in Waffles and TI’s only bike repair shop is an example of this promise (Read her story if you haven’t already). Powers has also expressed interest in opening a bike rental business on the East Bay side of the bridge for tourists.
More about the Treasure Island Redevelopment plan can be read on sftreasureisland.org.
New Bay Bridge bike-pedestrian path hours:
Weekends/Weekdays: 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Beginning May 25th: 6 a.m.- 9 p.m.
More information and updates can be found at BayBridgeInfo.org/path.
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