First Step Taken Towards Removing Bike Lane from Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Plan

Framed as $100,000 to study options, funding is allocated towards eliminating the bike path during peak periods

The Richmond–San Rafael Bridge. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The Richmond–San Rafael Bridge. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A key step was taken this morning by the Bay Area Toll Authority Oversight Committee (BATA) of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to eliminate the bike and pedestrian path on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

In a meeting that lasted less than half an hour, the committee unanimously approved an amendment to MTC’s contract with HNTB, the engineering firm responsible for converting the shoulders of the bridge into active lanes. From the amendment:

…includes $100,000 in funds to begin developing the scope, schedule and budget of a potential project to establish a third travel lane [emphasis added] across the bridge in the westbound direction as requested by the Committee in January.

That means the westbound shoulder, which was to be converted to a bicycle and pedestrian path, will be “studied” as an automobile lane instead. The very language is telling: apparently, to the BATA committee, bikes and feet aren’t means of travel.

“As I have said before, we recognize there are frequently congestion challenges with the bridge, and we want to be part of the process and part of the solution. But I think it is totally misguided to start with the premise that opening a third westbound traffic lane is the solution,” wrote Richmond Mayor Tom Butt in an email to the BATA committee. “That’s not the way to initiate a responsible study.”

As Streetsblog reported previously, the idea of getting a bike path put on one of the shoulders of the Richmond-San Rafael bridge has been in the works for four decades. In February of 2016 the BATA committee unanimously approved the trial of the ten-foot bicycle-pedestrian path on the shoulder of the upper deck as part of the I-580 Richmond-San Rafael Access Improvement Project (see rendering below).

But then earlier this year Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly started a push to convert the planned bike/ped lane into a “shared” lane–meaning it would be turned over to motor vehicles when most people are going to work.

A rendering of the bridge bike and ped path. Funding is now available to study turning this into another car lane. Image: MTC/HTNB
A rendering of the bridge bike and ped path. Funding is now available to study turning this into another car lane. Image: MTC/HTNB

The “shared” lane was pushed as a “compromise,” even though it means all six lanes of the bridge (the four existing lanes and two shoulders) would be used exclusively by motor vehicles for much of the day.

Although the BATA committee approved the funds unanimously, there was at least some hesitation. “When we really try to open up this study is it going to take an approach of looking at the pros and cons of something?” asked Commissioner Jeannie Bruins, Councilmember, Los Altos City Council. “There’s the issue of can we–and then there’s should we.”

Andrew Fremier, MTC’s Deputy Executive Director for Operations, said it takes a long time and requires a huge amount of study to turn a shoulder into an active lane. He assured the committee that the study is just to gather more information. “This is one more piece of that; it will continue to provide a path forward.”

Dave Campbell, who addressed the commission for Bike East Bay, said there’s a greater need to study what happens to automobile traffic once it gets off the bridge. He also said they need to study improving bike access to the bridge, considering how difficult it is to reach the bridge by bike in the first place. “If a study is to be done, it should have a broader mission,” echoed Mayor Butt in his email.

None of which seemed to deter Orinda vice-Mayor Amy R. Worth, chair of the BATA committee and one of the champions of banning bikes during rush hour. “Many people who make hourly wages are being stuck in tremendous congestion that continues to grow,” she said before calling the vote. “How do we improve the commute in that corridor and accommodate all modes of transportation?”

Apparently, by only accommodating one mode of transportation.

“Bridge-related congestion is complicated and it is also ephemeral,” wrote Butts. “As I type this at 8:30 a.m. today, I look over I-580, the bridge approach, and I see traffic moving at the limit. I see traffic moving well across the bridge westbound. Something made this possible, and it wasn’t a third lane.”

A study is now funded to look into eliminating the bike and ped path during peak periods. Image: MTC
A study is now funded to look into eliminating the bike and ped path during peak periods. Image: MTC
  • tiabgood

    Removing the bike lane that is not even there yet. I have been so looking forward to being able to get to Marin without public transit.

  • gneiss

    Honestly this isn’t a study, it’s a marketing campaign to help provide those commissioners who fail to see any value in using bicycles as transport political cover when they vote to ban bicycles on the bridge for much of the weekdays. The way people commute to work by bicycle is changing dramatically with the use of electric bikes. This new technology is allowing people who aren’t committed fit cyclists the opportunity to commute without working up a sweat or requiring a high level of fitness. That the MTC fails to see these possibilities that these machines can offer shows a profound lack of vision and windshield bias when it comes to how people get to work.

    There is no “sharing” going on if bicycle riders are banned from the bridge for most of the day during the work week.

  • Gladwyn d’Souza

    MTC starts from the lie that congestion can be solved. Environmental groups buy into promise that token active transportation projects are a good compromise for building a few more highways. Now even the tokens are game for solving congestion. MTC doesn’t have a plan- meaning there is no plan to make the future better. Their strategy is gridlock. Wake up at

  • DrunkEngineer

    For anyone who was still undecided on how to vote for upcoming the RM3 toll measure, this should make the decision very easy.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Pretend I’m dense. Am I for or against?

  • Flatlander

    This is a hard one.

    Philosophically, I think a higher bridge toll is a proxy for congestion pricing, so I support it. But the more the project list consists of highways and as long as MTC/BATA pull stunts like this, the more I oppose it.

    On the other hand, I am 100% convinced that if RM3 fails, public officials will assume it’s because there was too much transit and active transportaiton, rather than not enough…

  • david vartanoff

    Because none of the officials have enough guts to do separate funding referenda for transit and highways.
    That said, I, too, am tending toward NO because too much will be wasted on tarmac.

  • DrunkEngineer

    You should vote No because it will finance a huge amount of highway construction. And it will not provide any funds to complete the Bay Bridge bike path. This latest stunt with the RSR bridge is icing on the cake.

  • gneiss

    So long as California state law is not modified to explicitly require highway builders to include bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and new land use options instead of more highway lanes in their designs they will keep pulling these stunts.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    What if I’m in favor of tolls purely for their congestion-reducing and mode-shifting effect?

  • DrunkEngineer

    The tolls will be used to expand highways, so it will not reduce congestion but rather increase VMT.

  • David

    What a sensational headline. They voted to study the use of the bike path, which will be separated by a moveable barrier already, during weekday rush hours and all day weekdays. The bike path would still be there on the weekend when the spandex-clad MAMILs want to do a century across the Bay.

    For the people who actually use this bridge–commuters who travel from Pinole to Larkspur or Vallejo to San Rafael, for example–the bike path will do absolutely nothing to improve their commutes. There is no development on the east end of the bridge and only a handful of offices near the west end, so realistically the bike commute in this corridor is 10-15 miles each way. Good luck getting more than a handful of people to try it…even on Bike to Work Day.

    It’s a shame MCBC and BEB are expending so much energy defending a silly project like this when there are very real bicycle infrastructure projects needed in the communities that this bridge links together. Let’s use the westbound lane for carpools and buses during rush hour. And if we want vision, why not study the feasibility of extending SMART or BART across the bridge instead? They’ll make a meaningful difference–not a token bike path for rich white men who like to play with road bikes.

  • “Bike lanes” in the state of California have a very specific meaning. The type of facility being proposed for the bridge is not a bike lane (Class II facility), it’s a bike path.

  • Flatlander

    Your assumption that no one would use the bridge for commuting is flawed. Ever seen the Golden Gate Bridge during rush hour? And there are no jobs or dense housing anywhere near it.

    And a bike path that is not usable during the most important hours of the day, is not a bike path.

  • SF Guest

    In general separating funding for transit and highways has nothing to do with guts; whenever a tax or bond measure is proposed they understand the chances of it passing increase when they merge them together for mass appeal. Many measures pass or fail based on how they are marketed.

  • Edward

    And California is weird in requiring a 2/3 vote. We are so used to it that we almost think it’s normal.

  • City Resident

    The bike/ped path is to be in place for four years, after which it would be reevaluated. As others have pointed out on this thread, with growing use of e-bikes, bicycling has the potential to considerably grow its mode share. To test the merit of a bike/ped path on the Richmond San Rafael Bridge, round-the-clock access is needed (as planned), over many months or years. Perhaps such a path can be in place for two years (instead of four) prior to its reevaluation. Having written that, I’d very much welcome having SMART or BART (or a bus-only lane) take space on the bridge. By adding automobile lane(s), congestion (and pollution) will be induced. Adding pollution and advancing climate change should not be an option. Increasing swaths of land on our planet are becoming increasingly uninhabitable, thanks in large part to our unceasing embrace of the automobile.

  • Vooch the best way to reduce congestion on the bridge and increase capacity would be to reallocate

    1) one existing motor lane in both directions for dedicated bus service


    2) one existing motor land for a 2 way protected bike lane


    3) triple tolls for private cars from 0600 to 1900; 365 days a week.

    These adjustments would dramatically increase the capacity of the bridge. Through put would skyrocket

  • David

    Do you seriously think 9,000 pedestrians per hour would use the bridge? Please. And 7,500 bikes? More like 75…per day.

  • Vooch

    just because you are too lazy to use active transportation doesn’t mean the rest of the population is

  • basenjibrian

    Vooch! Surprised to hear you take this position. Shouldn’t you be spending your time advocating for the sale of all bridges and highways to the Koch Brothers and Bain Capital?
    I kid. I kid!
    (Seriously. I agree with you)

  • Vooch

    Bain would likely get the crumbs. The gems would end up in the hands of Carlye, Blackstone, and a Goldman subsidiary.

    Dumb money pension funds ( Calpers & NYS ) & sovereign wealth funds ( Saudis always ) would supply the capital.

    The privatization would be a feeding frenzy of greed and liberal application of hookers & blow to the privatization officials BUT at least these black hole infrastructure assets would no longer be sucking off the taxpayer tit.


A rendering of the bridge bike and ped path. Funding is now available to study turning this into another car lane. Image: MTC/HTNB

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