Commuting by Bike

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Bicycle Commute Routes - Richmond to Oakland

Oct 2006

I live in the Richmond/El Cerrito area and want to commute to work by bicycle to downtown Oakland (Lake Merritt). I suppose I could go straight down San Pablo, but the traffic during commute hours is a concern.

I'd like to learn of preferred/alternate routes from anyone who has been going this same direction during commute hours, along with things to watch out for and approximate mileages and commute times.

Also, if you're aware of any good local reference websites for Bay Area bicycle commuting please share those as well.

Thanks in advance, Scott

Hi Scott,

Good for you, for wanting to bike commute! About 15 years ago, I used to ride my bike from El Cerrito down to my work on Bay Farm Island in Alameda- a distance of about 25 miles, which took about an hour and a half. Just getting to Lake Merritt would take about half that time, I think (45'), if you (and your bike) are in reasonable shape. Here was my basic route- I would take Richmond St./Key Route most of the way to the Albany/Gilman St. area, then scoot over a bit to Sacramento St. Sacramento will take you through most of Berkeley and eventually turns into Market St., going through Emeryville/Oakland. Most of these streets are wide, but not as busy as San Pablo, and the intervals between signal lights seemed pretty good. Also, I never liked the bike trail along the BART tracks-- too many pedestrians with not-great visibility, and a little bumpy in places to keep a good pace going.

After that, my memory gets a little more fuzzy- I think I might have scooted over to MLK Dr. until I got to the area of the MacArthur BART station and took either Grand or 20th to get over to Harrison/Lakeside. Lakeside takes you around Lake Merritt to a little hill on Madison, and now you're basically in downtown Oakland. (from there I connected to E-12th St. which eventually got me to the bike-friendly Alameda bridges at Fruitvale, Park St., etc.). Since that was a 'long' ride to begin my work day, I'd usually cheat and take BART partway back in the evenings. I also had the luxury of a shower and locker room at my work. In the early morning, there weren't really any traffic or crime problems-- but, like I said, that was ~15 years ago. (I did it from '86 to '92) It was a great way to stay in shape, and I actually kind of miss those days. My bike commute now is less than 7 miles, which means I spend more time at work than on the bike! Jim is a good site with Google maps where you can look up routes and comments about conditions and hazards. SC

The East Bay Bicycle Coalition has a fantastic map with very broad coverage of the East Bay that shows bike routes and lots of other bike-relevant information. I use it any time I'm going to go somewhere new by bike.

It is listed on the site: as: East Bay: East of the Hills ((c)1994 EBBC), $6 in stores East Bay: West of the Hills ((c)1996 EBBC), $6 in stores

It is an excellent resourse. is also putting up some biking info, but last I checked it doesn't yet plan a route for you, but does give relevant maps online: - Charis

Grease-Stained Pants from Bike Commute

May 2006

Hi, I ride my bike to work. It's a pretty short commute, but no matter how short of a time I spend on my bike, my pant leg is covered with grease from the chain. I've cleaned the chain, but does have anyone have any recommendations beyond the standard 'roll up your pant leg' advice? Any good gator-style products for my leg, or cover ups for the chain on the bike? The insides of my pants are covered with old grease stains now. Thanks! Lots o' Stains

You can buy these velcro things that wrap around your pant legs. They are typically made of reflective material. I commuted on bike for 6 years this way with no problems. Any of the many bike stores in the area should have them. happy biker

My husband is a bike commuter too. He uses those little metal clips to keep his pant leg away from the chain (don't know what they are called). But what I really wanted to tell you, is that we've found a product that gets the grease out -- it's called Oil Eater (or something like that) and is found at car supply places like Kragen. It comes in a spray-bottle and is made from biodegradible enzymes. I think its primary use is cleaning engines/driveways, etc. but it works great on clothes too. biker wife

Hi, I've had this grease problem too. What I ended up doing was bying bandanas and tying those to my pant legs with as much open on the inside to protect my pants. It helps, though I've ended up with grease in the most unlikely places (the front of my shirt for example) and I can't explain how it gets there. I could use a really good tip on how to get grease off clothes. Love my bike but not the grease

I like to keep it simple - I fold the bottoms of my pants legs up and hold them in place with rubber bands (of which I always have an ample supply in my back pocket). The worst that can happen is grease can get on the inside of your pant leg, but it can't be seen when you roll it back down - though you might get a little grease on your socks -edwin

Hi- After losing countless of those little ankle bands, I've adopted the ultra low tech solution of tucking my cuff into my sock for the ride. Unless I have very short socks it works great - it is actually more effective than any other technique I've used. Just like a built-in gator - Yes, I look like a dork, but my cuffs are clean!