Biking on Water: Man Pedals Across San Francisco Bay

By Joe Rosato Jr.
|  Saturday, Sep 28, 2013  |  Updated 5:41 AM PDT
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There is a new mode of transportation for commuters headed into the City. Joe Rosato Jr. reports on a new invention that turns a bicycle into a water sport.

There is a new mode of transportation for commuters headed into the City. Joe Rosato Jr. reports on a new invention that turns a bicycle into a water sport.

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The future of bicycling arrived on San Francisco’s waterfront Friday morning, and it didn’t even bother to use the bike lane.

Instead, Judah Schiller steered his Bianchi racing bicycle toward a dock at Pier 1 1/2, having just pedaled across the bay. Not over a bridge across the bay, but actually on the water.

“Seeing a person on the water on a bike for the first time,” said Schiller, “it’s the instant video, jaw drop, can’t believe it.”

You might call Schiller the Jesus of bicycling, except his divine intervention comes from a pair of pontoons and a pedal-powered propeller. He calls the contraption BayCycle.

On Friday morning, Schiller set out to become the first person to pedal from Oakland to San Francisco on the bay, completing the crossing in about 45 minutes. He said he spent about $1,500 building the project, although he did save about $6 on the bridge toll.

“I didn’t have any buses, any crazy taxi drivers, cars, no pedestrians jumping in my way,” said Schiller. “It was just me on the water biking underneath the Bay Bridge.”

Schiller said the idea for a bicycle that could pedal across water was inspired by the new Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge-- not for its sleek, innovative design but for the mere fact the new bike lane won’t actually connect Oakland to Treasure Island for another year.

MORE:  Bicycle Die-Hards Test Out Bay Bridge Bike Path

“It would take another decade and another half-a-billion dollars to retrofit the West Span of the Bay Bridge to actually get bikers into San Francisco,” said Schiller. “So basically it’s the world’s longest bike lane to nowhere.”

Instead, Schiller envisions a bike lane beneath the bridge, with cyclists pedaling to work on the water in jackets and ties, sharing the tides with ferry boats and container ships.

“In San Francisco, you see weirder things than that, that’s for sure,” said Chris Gartner, who watched Schiller pedal the BayCycle along the waterfront.

Gartner said he liked the design and would probably buy one if they ever came on the market – with some specialized modifications for bay travel.

“I don’t see a fog horn on that,” said Gartner. “So I don’t think if it was really foggy I’d be out there riding around.”

Louis Brand came to the docks to get a closer look, after seeing Schiller’s historic ride on the television.

“He rode from Oakland?” asked Brand. ”If that’s the case then I would totally try it.”

Schiller said he sees water bicycling as a revolution of sorts. He eventually hopes to see sporting events fashioned around water bicycling, along with recreational outings and water commuting.

PHOTOS: New Bay Bridge Eastern Span

Schiller, whose company plans to eventually sell BayCycle’s, plans to ride across the Hudson River next week to further demonstrate its water-faring potential.

“This time next year there will be hundreds of people biking on the bay,” said Schiller. "It’s something the Bay Area boating community is going to have to get used to.”

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