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Raising the Bar on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge

Author: Bike East Bay

Date: October 16, 2019

Update, October 2019: After years of relentless advocacy work, the path on the bridge is slated to open: November 16, 2019! Sign up for updates to be the first to know about celebrations, rides, and more. We can’t wait to see you on the bridge! 

April 22, 2019

A bicycle and pedestrian path on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge seems like a no-brainer. Bridge access is integral to the Bay Trail, a popular and well-used network throughout the Bay Area. Regional agencies are committed to converting an unused shoulder, and have funding and public support to do so. It’s slated to open this year. And yet, throughout this project, officials in Marin County have pushed back.

The argument is always the same: more lanes for cars, at the expense of bicycle and pedestrian access on the bridge. Opponents are not talking about how this project affects residents of Richmond neighborhoods near the bridge, why commuter traffic to Marin is increasing, or how we make transportation decisions as a region.

Bike East Bay’s role as a regional organization is to see the big picture and create connections across boundaries wherever we can: bridges, transit, and networks especially. We shaped the agreement for bicycle access on the bridge. When attempts were made to commandeer the project for cars, we pushed back, and asked for more, winning an additional $500,000 for improvements to connect Richmond neighborhoods to the bridge, the waterfront, ferry service, and each other. We could see that the project needed to be about more than a path on a bridge.

On the ground in Richmond, overcoming the barrier of the 580 freeway with bike lanes will connect Richmond’s Iron Triangle and Santa Fe neighborhoods with destinations along the Bay: Point Richmond, Miller Knox Park, and Point Molate. Quick-build bike improvements are slated for key connecting streets within the city’s bicycling network, encouraging more people to walk, bike, and scoot out to the bridge, and creating better rides in town.

We expect, and will relentlessly push for, the improvements to serve as a preview for permanent, high-quality bicycle infrastructure to come. Cut off from the Bay Trail by freeways, railroad tracks, and the Chevron complex, residents of Richmond have been prevented from accessing vital outdoor and recreational space. Encouraging more vehicles on the bridge only causes more driving, air pollution, unnecessarily dangerous streets, and poorer quality of life for communities along freeway corridors — including Black and Brown communities in Richmond. Any projects in the area must contribute to the healing of Richmond neighborhoods.

This project touches on so many topics that we struggle with in the Bay Area. The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge project is about the reality of what it costs to commute to, but not live in, Marin. More workers are crossing the bridge because they can’t afford to live in Marin County. Congestion will continue to be an issue no matter how many vehicle lanes are opened if Marin County doesn’t address its woeful lack of affordable housing. In the meantime, increased commute options are a much better solution than more traffic lanes. Ferry service to San Francisco and a bicycle and pedestrian path on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge are just the start.

Bike East Bay has helped reshape regional transportation goals to no longer prioritize moving more people in cars as fast as possible. This project is about connecting communities and acknowledging gaps in our current systems. We changed the conversation to consider neighborhoods around the bridge that have historically been cut out and cut off. Bike East Bay has not only kept the project on track, we’ve broadened it to do more of what it should do. We won’t let short-sighted officials limit the good this project will bring.

See you on the bridge.

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