Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Park review: actually a bike route review

I was going to schlep up to an Oakland park today but my legs are still quite sore from a recent bike ride. I'll review that route instead, and plan better next month.

The Macarthur Boulevard bike route connecting Mills College and east Oakland with downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt results from an ongoing bike advocacy effort. It's well signed in the eastbound direction, but tricky to follow on the return trip. An unsigned route continues in the direction of westbound Macarthur Blvd to Chatham Rd, which reconnects to Macarthur via Park Blvd.

Google Maps recommends jouncing six times to avoid a one-way segment of Macarthur Boulevard from Ardley Ave near 14th St. One who miraculously follows the jounces would approach Lake Merritt from Trestle Glen, a pleasant, upscale residential neighborhood. There's also a bike route sign pointing south on 14th St but leaves a cyclist to find their own way, perhaps to Park Blvd.

Westbound, I chose to ride on the sidewalk for about a mile to stick to the direct eastbound route. Still, where the Macarthur bike lane becomes available again at Park Ave, there was no legal crossing from the eastbound side sidewalk. I watched the lights and made a dash for it. You must have a good headlight at night for the following short segment: it's elevated and unlit.

This route also requires vigilance for street safety, especially after dark. It seemed abandoned at 9pm on a Saturday and I was the sole cyclist for miles. It alternates bike lanes with shared lanes.

Its hills provide a light to moderate workout without sharp bends. I dropped my chain once, as they call for frequent gear shifts, but on a weekend night traffic was light and there was a shoulder to work in.

An irresistible bonus for this route is the Mills College campus, which has multiple entrances, the most recognizable one an arching gate on Seminary Ave. From my first visit here for an excellent contemporary music concert the stillness of the gardens and fountain resonated with fond memories of my alma mater. Spend some time walking around here once you overcome the hairy route.

Happy new year and safe riding!

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