Bike the BART Strike?

Negotiations between BART and the unions representing BART employees are coming to head as employment contracts are set to expire the end of this month. The unions will take a strike vote on Tuesday.

BART currently carries over 400,000 passengers each day. A lot of commuters will probably be on vacation anyway during the duration of a potential strike, and there are kinda sorta alternatives for many trips that involve BART. Those alternatives (highways, bridges, AC Transit, SF Muni, the Ferries, and Caltrain) are already at capacity, though, so things should get interesting.

Those of you crossing the Bay are really hosed, though, right? 194,000 passengers pass through the Transbay tube daily. The traffic bridges across the Bay are already at capacity, and the Transbay buses using those bridges will be caught in the same traffic mess as everybody else, even with the HOV lanes. Ditto the Caltrans bike shuttle over the Bay Bridge.

What about bikes?

If a strike happens, I anticipate plenty of bikes for travel in the East Bay and around San Francisco. Commuters who might try to substitute bikes for BART to cross the Bay have challenges, however. Bikes are prohibited from the Oakland Bay Bridge and the San Mateo Bridge. You can’t bike between the East Bay and San Francisco unless you go all the way down to the Dumbarton Bridge, which has a pedestrian sidepath. If you live around Fremont or Newark you might consider biking the 15 miles over the Dumbarton to Palo Alto Caltrain.

Biking over the Dumbarton Bridge is not an especially pleasant ride. The bike path is a littered mess and the crosswinds can be extreme. To one side is a short concrete wall to separate you from bridge traffic, while a railing keeps you from plunging 100 feet into the Bay below on the other side of the path. Have a plan “B” if you’re afraid of heights or prone to vertigo.

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Use Google Maps and select bike directions to figure out how to get onto the Dumbarton. From the bridge to Palo Alto Caltrain, it’s a straight shot through East Palo Alto and Palo Alto on University AVenue. University through EPA is a little bit rough – ensure your tires are fully inflated to avoid pinch flats on the pot holes. Take the lane while crossing over Highway 101 until you get south of Woodland Avenue, or walk on the extremely narrow sidewalk. In the area around Ikea and 101, be sure to obey the traffic signs and lights or risk getting squashed.

Coming around the South Bay

Most observers predict significant spillover into the Peninsula and perhaps even the South Bay and commuters who normally travel on BART will drive over the San Mateo Bridge, the Dumbarton Bridge, or even south of the Bay on I-880.

If you’d like to give transit around the west side of the Bay a try, VTA runs the 181 Express from Fremont BART to San Jose Diridon Station, from where you can ride Caltrain up to San Francisco. One way fare for VTA express buses is $4, cash or Clipper. Caltrain charges $9 for one way cash fare between San Jose and San Francisco, or $8.75 if you tag on with Clipper. Discounted fares are available for youth, seniors, disabled and Medicare on both VTA and Caltrain. If you go this route, I recommend you don’t bring a non-folding bike unless you really need it. VTA buses carry only two bikes, and Caltrain bike cars are at capacity these days.


  1. They just need to increase the bridge toll and run more bike shuttles. Or we can just round up a big cycling posse and rush the toll plaza.

  2. I kinda wonder if somebody does something like that. If the bridges are jammed up it’s not like the CHP can catch you, right?

    How busy are the ferries from Alameda County? I’ve only been on Marin County boats.

  3. If the strike goes down, a number of us are planning rush the bay bridge at 9am. #bikemob !

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