Bike Improvements Coming to Alameda

Alamedans miss out on bike sharing, but a lot is happening for cyclists, including a biking track, new trails, and other upgrades.


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The so-called cycle track on Fernside is so popular that one is coming to South Shore.

STEPHEN LOEWINSOHN

 

In April, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved $8.7 million to expand Bay Area Bike Share to the East Bay in Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville. But bike-loving Alameda was left out. Should we be mad?

“Alameda is just too far from the core that has been identified as most likely to be successful,” explained Renee Rivera, executive director of Bike East Bay, an organization that has pushed for bike sharing in the East Bay.

Bay Area Bike Share debuted in August in downtown San Francisco, the Peninsula, and San Jose with 700 bicycles at 70 rental stations, or “pods.” The MTC will add 750 new bikes in the East Bay in 2015.

“Analysis shows that a lot of people would use these facilities in downtown Oakland and downtown Berkeley, because they have lots of great destinations that are all relatively close to each other and to BART,” Rivera said. The idea is to start with pilot pods in highly visible areas that are close to one another so that people can easily find the pick-up/drop-off locations, she said.

The MTC’s Sean Co agreed and cited Alameda’s lack of connection to regional transit systems, as well as the difficultly of getting on and off the island by bike. “In the future, we’ll look at Alameda as a place to expand further,” Co said.

“We’re disappointed that we were not included, but we understand their need to begin this incrementally,” admits Gail Payne, Alameda’s transportation coordinator. “We’re just hoping that we will be considered in future rounds.”

Alameda is one of fewer than 300 cities considered Bicycle-Friendly Communities by the League of American Bicyclists, which awarded Alameda a bronze title—the same rank as Oakland, Emeryville, and San Jose; Berkeley is unranked.

It’s true that Alamedans love their bikes. Biking is relatively safe and easy, thanks to flat terrain, the 25 mph speed limit, and miles of bike lanes in a city that has increased bicycle parking recently to meet to the general growth in biking as residents recognize its medical, environmental, and economic benefits.

Lucy Gigli, the president of Bike Walk Alameda, which promotes better biking conditions in Alameda, shares none of Payne’s regret. “We are a small city with limited staff,” she said. “We tend to sit back and see what is a success in other local cities before we pursue something. Bike sharing in Alameda will depend on how people are using it in the rest of the East Bay, and we won’t have a better idea of what that is for a few years. Right now, it isn’t top on the city’s list.”

So what is?

The Shoreline Drive/Westline Drive Cycle Track, a two-mile long, two-way bikeway along the shoreline. Construction to convert the selected roadway lanes, currently used by moving and parked cars, should start after the July 4th weekend. The bike-only track will be separated from car traffic. Once completed, the cycle track will be one of the longest in the country.

Then there’s the Cross Alameda Trail. A proposed “rails-to-trails” project, it would stretch from the western to eastern ends of the city on abandoned railroad right-of-way owned by the city. Finally, Payne is crossing her fingers for a $10 million federal grant for the San Francisco Bay Trail Expansion and Repair Project, which would improve existing parts of the Bay Trail in Alameda, as well as expand it to other parts of Albany, Berkeley, and Pinole. And Gigli cites ongoing efforts to make bicycling in Alameda even safer by creating more protected bike lanes.

“Alameda was primarily built before the auto became king,” Payne boasts, “so it’s much easier for us to switch back to the tradition of bicycling and walking.”

Gigli estimates that roughly 1,000 Alamedans participate in Bike to Work Day annually. The date is May 8 this year, and Alameda will have its usual five energizer stations, where bikers can stop and receive treats and Bike to Work Day goodie bags.

 

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