Judah Schiller is the first person in history to bike across the San Francisco Bay, and that’s just the beginning.
On September 27, 2013, I set a new world record by becoming the first person in history to bike across the San Francisco Bay. In an iconic metropolis on the water that boasts a dynamic, almost fervent bike culture, not one single cyclist had ever ridden a bike from the East Bay into San Francisco. The reason? There has never been a bike lane on the Bay Bridge that connects two of the largest cities in the U.S. Until my epic ride across the waters of San Francisco Bay, the choices were to ride the Ferry or squeeze onto public transportation — the BART train — which until recently wouldn’t even allow bikes on cars during commuting hours and is constantly under looming threat of shutting down due to strikes. (Actually, bikes are allowed on cars during commuting hours — just not on the first three cars.)
It all started four months ago, when I was on of a small boat tour under the new Bay Bridge. “Beautiful, modern design” our guide pointed out proudly. “Sweeping views of the Bay that excited bikers and bike commuters could enjoy…” Well, at least one day. Yes, the Bay Bridge is officially the world’s longest bike pier. It won’t even open until 2015, and even then it will bring bikers only halfway across, stopping short at Treasure Island. To retrofit the older, Western span of the Bay Bridge for a bike lane will take at least another decade, and will come with a price tag of $500 million.
And that’s when it hit me. I just knew that there had to be some kind of socially innovative way for someone to ride across the Bay, and get to work without the hassle of standing on a crowded train. And I knew that I was going to be the one to do it.
It became my singular focus and something that gave me renewed purpose at 41. I felt a burning need to do this for myself and for bike lovers everywhere. And perhaps even more profound was my desire to do this for my three children. Since their mother died at childbirth six years earlier, I have raised them as a single dad and really just wanted to show them that anything is possible…
More than just an alternative way to get bike commuters across the Bay, I soon realized that the new sport of “water biking” was waiting to be born. I wanted to launch a new aquatic frontier in biking, one that would enable bikers to experience the joy, action, serenity, and health benefits to be had on water. From gliding on the bay for a ride that resembles road biking, to scaling choppy waves for a ride that’s akin to mountain biking, water biking is something everyone should experience.
And so in August, I announced the launch of BayCycle Project, the first organizing body and community for water biking in the U.S. And what better way to launch than to make the first bike crossing of the SF Bay? We also kicked off a campaign on Indiegogo so that others could get involved and help pioneer a monumental evolution in biking. From hosting events, races and bringing new water bike systems to market, to exploring ways to create “virtual” bike lanes on the water in urban areas, we’re going to show the world that two thirds of our blue planet is waiting to be biked… and no two rides are ever the quite same. This was a statement I came to appreciate even more deeply as I made history once again by becoming the first person to bike across the Hudson River into New York City. And what an epic ride it was…