Riding across the Dumbarton

Part of my Sacramento to Palo Alto commute has me transferring to a bus that drives me across the bay into San Francisco.  Unfortunately, the company that Amtrak has contracted for the bus service has removed the bike racks from the front of their busses.   This is a little frustrating given the fact that they finally just got them on 6 months to a year ago.  It is further frustrating because they took them off so that they could install the FastPass transponders that tick when the go through the toll booths.  I’m not exactly sure why the entire front of the bus doesn’t allow for both the 8-10 inch transponder and a bike rack, but whatever.

In the absence of a bike rack, the bikes are placed on their side in the cargo hold under the bus.  Needless to say this is not the most “bike friendly” environment.  The bikes slid around, bumping up against other bikes, other luggage and the metal framework under the bus.  These cargo holds are probably the number one reason I have a separate bike for commuting (separate from the one I take out on group rides, for example.)

So, after the unfortunate breakage of my stem on my commute bike, I found myself in a bit of a dilemma.  I’m still targeting my #15mpd commitment, and riding to work is an absolutely essential part of reaching that goal on the days I commute.  On the other hand, the possibility of theft from the trains, coupled with the damage that can occur under the buses, makes me very reluctant to take my road bike along my normal commute route.  I needed alternatives.

That was when I recalled a quote that @murphstahoe of “Holier Than You” fame had left on a previous post of mine.  His comment recommended a route that I had never considered – continue on the Capitol Corridor train past Emeryville to Fremont and ride from Fremont to my office in Palo Alto.  Seemed like a good opportunity to try this route out.

I used Google Maps bike route functionality to plot out a route from Freemont, CA to the Dumbarton bridge.  I’d driven across the bridge numerous time, so I knew my way from there.  And so it was that me, my bike and a 17.6 lbs backpack (yes – I weighed it that morning) stepped off of Amtrak Capitol Corridor #527 in Freemont to begin my ride across the bridge.

The ride towards the bridge was pretty straight forward.  It was your typical completely flat, suburban type ride.  There were marked bike lanes for most of the route which followed 4 lane roads.  There were a few left hand turns, but traffic was light enough these were pretty much a non-issue.

Marshlands Road. Dumbarton Bridge in the distance.

As I approached Marshlands Road the scenery changed to that of the muddy tidal flats I knew signaled that the bridge was near.  The road was quite rough – except for a discolored patch strip that was just wide enough for me to follow.  In fact, if it wern’t for the constant freeway noise across the fence to my right I could have imagined myself out in the country miles away from any city.  Not a bad way to get to work.

The Dumbarton bridge itself also turned out to be slightly different than I expected.  It looked like a much steeper climb than it felt.  It took no small amount of concentration, however.  The bike path across the bridge was absolutely littered with broken glass and other debris that called out for my constant attention.  Add to that the stream of trucks going 60-70 mph in the opposite direction within about 5 feet of me and I was definitely on my toes.

I stopped near the top of the bridge to snap a couple of pictures.  One thing that immediately surprised me was how much the bridge moves and bounces from the traffic.  I was actually a little unnerving at first.  However, the skies were mostly clear and I was surrounded by the scenery of the bay.  Not a bad way to start my day at all.

After crossing the bridge I landed on University Ave which I followed all of the way into Palo Alto.  It was almost uneventful – but I did get a pinch flat in East Palo Alto that demanded my attention just before the Highway 101 overpass.

All in all it was a very very pleasant ride.  And a good primer for my upcoming “Tour de Ross’s Commute” route I’ve got planned in just a couple of weekends time.

Dumbarton Bridge - looking back across the route I'd just taken.

  • http://www.cyclelicio.us/ Cyclelicious

    You were doing Amtrak Thruway to SF and then… Caltrain to Palo Alto?

    If you break down or otherwise can’t or won’t bike, there is the Dumbarton Express bus. They have bike racks on the front :-) and some of the route take you right to Hamilton. There’s also AC Transit’s route DA that stops at my work location in Menlo, and AC Transit route U that goes to Stanford. “Transbay” fares are $4 each way.

  • http://justanothercyclist.com/ Ross Del Duca

    Hey – thanks for that. I’ve seen the Dumbarton Express buses and wondered about them before.