Running the New Bay Bridge Bike Path: It’s Not Perfect, but It’s a Kick

This afternoon, on a whim, I went for a run on the week-old bike and pedestrian path that runs along the new Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge. I glimpsed the path on our first drive over the new bridge last weekend (the $6.4 billion span opened to traffic eight days ago), and I thought, “That looks so cool!”

So, does the hard-fought, years-in-the-making bike path live up to the hype and meet expectations?

Well, I certainly had a satisfying 8-mile out-and-back run, but my elation was colored by the fact I was running trouble-free after weeks of injury, and it felt so great to be outdoors, appreciating life on this 9/11 anniversary.

For anyone living in or visiting the East Bay, here’s my review of the path. I definitely think it’s worth running or cycling, at least once to check it out.

First, it’s obvious it’s not done—it’s a work in progress. It stops 1000 feet short of its destination (Yerba Buena Island) and won’t access the island until the old bridge is torn down, about two years from now. Eventually, one can only hope, a lane will be built to ride or run all the way into San Francisco.

Since it’s an out-and-back, you don’t run over the bridge the way you do on the Golden Gate. Instead, you unceremoniously encounter a metal barrier and have to turn around. For this reason, I like what this article called it: “the world’s longest bike pier.”

bay bridge trail sign

The Bay Bridge Trail map at the start across from Ikea in Emeryville.

I parked at Ikea in Emeryville and picked up the path across the street. (Read this great blog post for details on how to access the path; you can also reach it via Maritime Street in West Oakland).

The first mile is a real treat—it’s fascinating to run under The Maze, to see up close the underbelly of what we mindlessly drive over. For parents with young kids, just doing this mile would be a fun little bike ride or walk.

under the maze

The start of the path, under the maze. A nice dirt strip for pedestrians borders the paved bike path for the first mile.

This first mile or so also features good signage. Sometimes the signage can create a funny juxtaposition, as in this photo below, where the pretty “save the bay” environmental message contrasts with the ugly industrial scene directly in view:

Juxtaposition of sign and "scenery."

A sign and “scenery.”

By 1.5 miles, you reach the toll plaza, which is interesting to see from this angle. Here you’ll find a row of toilets. Take a break to use one because there are NO BATHROOMS the rest of the way. You’ll also notice there are NO DRINKING FOUNTAINS and NO TRASH CANS. Picture it now: kids on parent-forced bike rides crying because they’re thirsty and have to pee, and tourists dropping their water bottles and food wrappers on the path because they can’t find a trash can. Bummer.

The bathrooms at the toll plaza.

The bathrooms at the toll plaza.

But, I carried water, so I was fine. Better than fine—I really enjoyed striding out and taking in the sights. It’s not exactly pretty, but it’s quite interesting to see the construction debris and the old bridge stopping abruptly.

Construction debris near the base of the bridge.

Construction debris near the base of the bridge.

At Mile 2, the old bridge stops abruptly in front of the new ramp to the new bridge.

At Mile 2, the old bridge on the left stops abruptly in front of the new ramp to the new bridge on the right.

The two miles to the turnaround on the bridge are perfectly smooth and might lull you into a trance due to the white noise of the traffic and the repeating lines of the bridge structure. But I’d rather zone out and run steadily here than on a treadmill. It’s not terribly scenic (speaking of which, why couldn’t the path be on the more scenic north side of the bridge???), but it is different and pleasant.

Given that we have few paved, flat paths to run here in Berkeley and Oakland, this is a great place to go if you want to train on a fast and flat surface, or if you have a baby in a stroller and want a smooth traffic-free path on which to push it. I like to run the Eastshore Path along Highway 80 occasionally, between Emeryville and Richmond, and this is a welcome add-on to that path for training.

The path approaching the curve to the island.

The path approaching the curve to the island.

At around the 3-mile mark, looking back toward Oakland.

At around the 3-mile mark, looking back toward Oakland. Nice benches, but they could use a trashcan nearby.

I reached the turnaround and chatted with a bike cop who took this next photo of me. Now that’s a beat I’d like to work if I were a cop!

Reaching Mile 4 and the turnaround.

Reaching Mile 4 and the turnaround.

I imagine a lot of day-trippers and locals will do this walk or bike ride once for the novelty of it and then not see the point in doing it much more after that, until the access to the island opens. But I plan to go back to run it, especially on days when I want a speedier workout on a steady, smooth surface. For cyclists and runners, this is good training ground, even if it does stop short of its destination.

Perhaps it’s not the best planned public space, but it’s progress, and it gives us an up-close view of the old and new bridges for an only-in-the-East Bay experience.

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4 Responses to Running the New Bay Bridge Bike Path: It’s Not Perfect, but It’s a Kick

  1. Allen Lucas September 12, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    First thing I noticed – it looks like you almost had the bridge to yourself! It’s probably not like that on weekends, but still, most of those pictures show an empty trail. And good call about the trash cans – they really need several or else people will just toss their stuff in the water. Thanks for being brave and trying this out for us. (Oh, and nice shirt!)
    Allen Lucas recently posted..Zooming at VasonaMy Profile

  2. Mark Tanaka September 13, 2013 at 7:18 am #

    I just biked the Golden Gate Bridge with a cousin once removed (from Japan) yesterday. It SUCKED! Too many people, too much smog. Looks like the Bay Brige has fewer people and more space separating the path from the traffic.

  3. Mark Tanaka September 13, 2013 at 7:19 am #

    Though I think she had fun…
    Mark Tanaka recently posted..Cascade Crest 100 Mile 2011: Return of the Tunnel, Including a Bonus Bicycle-Riding Ex-Meth AddictMy Profile

  4. Jen October 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    Thanks for the helpful info! I came across your post as I was planning on running the Bay Bridge, which I did yesterday. Would’ve been completely lost without your post and the KQED article.
    Jen recently posted..Marine Corps Marathon Week 15 (Peak Week!) + Mt. Diablo Mini-RecapMy Profile

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