This past Saturday, the five-plus-mile-long Richmond-San Rafael Bridge bike path opened up a whole new world for Bay Area bike riders. And long-distance walkers.
You might not know that from the sparse media coverage, much of it featuring some version of the question "Who will ride it?" The several thousand people who showed up to cross the San Francisco Bay on the path's opening day answered that question pretty clearly: lots of people.
From early in the day, Bike East Bay representatives at the Richmond end of the bridge cowbelled in a steady stream of riders from Marin, while a growing mass of people arrived from Richmond and points south in the East Bay to await the opening ceremony.
Or not. Plenty of riders just headed straight for the bridge.
Group rides were organized from points north and south; it seemed that every local bike group scheduled their Saturday ride for the bridge. There were lots of spandex-wearers, but also plenty of jeans and t-shirts, and at least one tutu. People sported tweed suits, skirts, gray beards, dreadlocks. There were people walking and running, plus dogs, kids, tandems, recumbents, folding bikes, tricycles, rickshaws, unicycles, tall bikes. And a hobby horse.
Several groups took in as many bridges as they could: they started in San Francisco, rode north on the Golden Gate Bridge, looped through Marin and east on the Richmond bridge, then continued south to the Oakland Bay Bridge where they could ride to Treasure Island. There the city gleamed tantalizingly in the distance, unreachable until that west span of the bridge's bike path is built.
The unofficial estimate of how many people rode the bridge is "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds." Strava's new Richmond Bridge segment, called "Use it or Lose it," quickly gained more than 800 participants on Saturday. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission installed automated counters on both sides of the bridge, and although they are still being fine-tuned and don't count runners or walkers, the MTC's official count is over 5,000 trips for the weekend, with more than 3,500 of them on opening day. Those are one-way trips, so anyone who crossed and came back would have been counted twice. So: close to 2,000 people were out there riding on Saturday.
The ribbon cutting, held at a parking lot that would have had a great view of the bridge if the fog had cooperated, featured glorious speeches about the hard work put in by Caltrans, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and even Chevron, which has a refinery nearby, to make sure this path happened.
Ginger Jui, executive director of Bike East Bay, reminded the gathered crowd about the larger picture. "This is not just about a bike path on a bridge, or on a freeway. This is about environmental justice. It's about climate change. It's about people having access."
"We need more bike lanes, not car lanes," they said. "More transit, not traffic. More housing, not more long commutes."
This bridge path is just an opening.
Here is a short video, shot by Jason Meggs, that gives a taste of the day, followed by more photos.
Streetsblog California editor Melanie Curry has been thinking about transportation, and how to improve conditions for bicyclists, since her early days commuting by bike to UCLA long ago. She was Managing Editor at the East Bay Express, and edited Access Magazine for the University of California Transportation Center. She also earned her Masters in City Planning from UC Berkeley.