Dumbarton Bridge adventures

I watched traffic backing up in front of my office along Bayfront Expressway in Menlo Park Tuesday afternoon, and it wasn’t long before I learned police closed the Dumbarton Bridge when a man threatened to jump.

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The Dumbarton Bridge is an important link connecting Menlo Park / East Palo Alto on the Peninsula with Newark / Fremont in the East Bay. Besides carrying 81,000 vehicles per day, it’s also the only bridge to the East Bay on which bicycles are allowed.

Probably a few hundred people at my office commute across the Dumbarton, so I sent a blast-o-gram to everybody at my work campus telling them about the bridge closure. One colleague wrote to me, “Are you sure about this? My iPhone shows traffic is flowing smoothly across the bridge.” I told her to look out the window and see the stopped traffic for herself. If that didn’t convince, maybe the growing flock of news and police helicopters hovering overhead might clue her in to real world happenings.

I don’t usually travel down University Avenue in East Palo Alto, but I decided to check things out Tuesday evening. Traffic was, predictably, hosed. Highway 84 looked jammed up all the way from Redwood City. Both Willow Road and University Avenue coming from US 101 was similarly at a standstill, which means 101 was also a mess as commuters sought alternate routes to the East Bay via either the San Mateo Bridge or south around the bottom of the bay on I-880.

As I approached the Dumbarton Bridge on the Bayfront bike path, several cyclists told me to turn back because of the closure. I wasn’t headed to the East Bay, although I did see a few trapped cyclists who tried to figure out what to do next. Fortunately, Menlo Park police negotiators talked the would-be suicide off of the bridge railing and took him into custody.

CHP opened the bridge moments after I shot this short video of congested traffic along Bayfront Expressway and University Avenue. This allowed the cyclists to continue almost immediately, while the motorists still had to wait on residual backup to clear up.


  1. I’m in San Mateo and this was the closest thing to a search of a bike path near my house. It’s the Bayfront Bike Path. In one of the trees there’s a noose, the tiny bridge is plastered with graffiti, and there’s a black garbage bag that if it’s poked, you can feel bones in there. I wish police would go there.

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