A temporary wooden pathway will allow bikers and pedestrians to travel on the Bay Bridge for the first time — and on the same morning as vehicles when the new eastern span debuts Sept. 3.
The logical choice — constructing a permanent pathway connecting the Oakland touchdown to the new eastern span — isn't possible until the original eastbound off-ramp and westbound on-ramp are demolished. In the meantime, the 640-foot-long, 15½-foot-wide temporary path will provide access to a permanent bike path that extends two-thirds of the way into the new eastern span.
"People have not been able to walk or ride on the bridge legally until now," Bay Bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon said Thursday at a construction site on Yerba Buena Island. "They'll get a view of the original span now, and eventually when that comes down some really good views of the Bay."
The new pathway, which is on the southern side of the bridge, was born out of robust public input in an extensive design review process. The temporary portion will have east- and westbound bike lanes with nonskid coating and an outside lane for pedestrians, along with 4-foot-7 railings like the permanent path it links to.
Suicide attempts — which have haunted the pedestrian-accessible Golden Gate Bridge for decades — were brought up during the review, but no precautions beside the railing were agreed upon.
"Lack of those features is the outcome of the design process, which included public input," Gordon said.
The 12 wood segments and four concrete chunks making up the temporary pathway had to be constructed on the island because there was no room to do so in the East Bay.
"Everything here is difficult," said Greg Allen, project manager for MCM Construction Inc., one of the companies leading the project. "The interesting part is going to be getting them to the other side and setting them."
Bikers will be held to a 15 mph speed limit on the slightly inclined pathway and subject to traffic citations, according to California Highway Patrol spokesman Daniel Hill.
"Highway Patrol bicycle officers will be out in force from the minute it opens, looking out for reckless riders and protecting people who use it safely," he said.
The permanent pathway extending all the way to Yerba Buena Island is expected to be completed by late 2014 or early 2015.
"They have built as much of the bike path as humanly possible without running into the original bridge," Gordon said of the project's progress. "While they found a way to get around the east span with the temporary path, there was no way to get around the west end."