Niles Canyon bike rides could get safer

Niles Canyon on my 2012 ride. Widening two bridges will help, but a trail is needed for safe cycling.

I can see the day when cyclists (and hikers) will safely ride through Niles Canyon on a beautiful recreation trail. More importantly, so can members of Alameda County, East Bay Regional Parks, the city of Fremont, San Francisco Water Department, the town of Sunol, and other agencies that have a hand in determining Niles Canyon’s future.

This historic canyon, where the transcontinental railroad snaked its way through starting in 1869, now hosts two railroad lines, both active, and busy state highway 84.

You might think there wouldn’t be room for a trail, but as it turns out there is ample space, and East Bay Parks has already done some preliminary research to show how a trail could be built in three stages.

Judging by the turnout at public meetings and a “Stroll and Roll” event held in 2015 (another one planned for this fall), there’s plenty of public support. Finding the estimated $70 million needed to complete the project is going to make this a long-term effort over a couple of decades or more.

The San Jose Mercury News ran a story about the trail plan in early 2016. A year later, I wanted to find out more. Suzanne Wilson, project manager for the Niles Canyon Trail Connectivity Feasibility Study, answered a few questions.

So, just how much of a priority is the trail with East Bay Parks? “While the Park District is very involved in and supportive of the project, Alameda County is ultimately the lead agency at this time,” said Wilson. “Supervisor [Richard] Valle and [Scott] Haggerty’s respective offices have continued the effort, with the support of the Park District, to keep the momentum going as this is a project that is important to their districts.”

While I won’t go into the details, you can read up on the trail plan on the East Bay Parks website. It’s a PDF file and takes some time to load.

Assuming the trail gets the go-ahead, and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t, it’s going to take money from many sources. How about the recent increase in gas tax? Wilson said the parks agency is keeping an eye out for opportunities, but noted that most of the money raised will go toward shovel-ready projects.

It’s hard to put into words the importance of a trail through Niles Canyon. Ask any cyclist who has ridden in the area and they’ll express their frustration with riding from the Bay to East Bay/Livermore Valley. Niles Canyon is ridden, but it’s one of the worst routes for a bike. My opinion.

I know of two cyclists killed on Hwy 84 through Niles Canyon and no doubt there may be more. A trail through Niles Canyon is more than a “nice to have” for the cycling community. Future generations will enjoy rides through a scenic canyon cut by Alameda Creek.

One Response to “Niles Canyon bike rides could get safer”

  1. Anwyl McDonald Says:

    Reading about planning for the trail has been exciting. Thank you for publicizing the proposal. Your assessment of Highway 84 through the canyon as being one of the worst routes for bikes is spot on. Having a safe parallel route will be wonderful.

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