Update on Possible Richmond-San Rafael Bike Closure
Sometimes even when advocates win, they can't win. The lane may stay--but the approaches might be closed
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Advocates with Bike East Bay and the Marin County Bicycle Coalition were happy to discover that the installation of a new pipeline to carry water between Richmond and Marin will not require closing the long-and-hard-fought-for bike lane on the upper deck of the Richmond-San Rafael bridge.
However, under the heading of cyclists-can’t-win, the Bay Trail approach to the bridge will be closed, as reported by Bike East Bay’s Robert Prinz:
Bad news: From the bridge landing over to Point Richmond they want to bury the pipeline underneath the existing bike/walk path, which would involve digging up and completely closing the path 24/7 to bike/walk traffic for half a year, possibly longer. pic.twitter.com/5QBOHsMEmc
— Robert Prinz (@prinzrob) October 18, 2021
“They’re planning to put the pipeline in the Bay Trail (i.e. the bridge approach) between Stenmark Drive, Tewksbury Avenue, and Castro Street,” wrote the Marin County Bicycle Coalition’s Warren Wells in an email to Streetsblog. He provided the following map to show where the Bay Trail would be closed for half a year or more:
As Streetsblog reported last month, the Marin Municipal Water District wants to use the RSR bridge to bring more water to Marin. As a Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) study pointed out, the Water District “has begun evaluating the feasibility of placing a 24-inch pipeline on the RSRB to bring water to Marin during the current and potential future extreme drought. Two locations on the bridge are being evaluated, one in the current multi-use path and one placed underneath the upper deck.”
Obviously, advocates aren’t against transporting water–they’re against continually putting the needs of motorists above those of cyclists. Some 40 people have already written in to express there support for the maintaining the entire bike route. “I’m an East Bay resident and frequent user of the RSR bridge bike lane. Car travel has so many negative externalities and we can’t sacrifice all public goods to placate drivers.” wrote Aryi Sreenivasan, in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, the comment and information line for the Association of Bay Area Governments and Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He also asked them to “keep the bike path accessible during any water pipeline construction.”
Most people also asked for congestion pricing to be used to reduce traffic rather than talk of converting the bridge’s two-way bike path (seen above, upper right) into a car lane. As Streetsblog readers are no doubt aware, ever since the path opened, pro-car officials have been pushing to turn it into another traffic lane, ostensibly as a way to reduce congestion. Of course, in the long term opening another lane would make congestion worse, not better.
Now, with the pipe going underneath the upper deck of the bridge, taking out this key segment of the Bay Trail on the Richmond approach will make the whole discussion moot for six months or more. In Streetsblog’s view, it’s unacceptable to close this approach when so many car lanes are available. It’s also a little absurd: Bay Area governments urge people to cycle to reduce emissions. Then they provide incomplete and squirrely infrastructure, such as with the approaches to the bridge (note on the map how the bike trail jogs back and forth while the highway is a straight shot). And then, even when courageous (or desperate) people try to bike, every time there’s a need for maintenance or another project multiple car lanes will be kept open while bike infrastructure is closed for months at a time. That’s what happened during a freeway ramp reconstruction project in 2020 on Treasure Island, when cyclists were unceremoniously stranded, with no way to get between the island and Oakland except by backtracking by bus into San Francisco.
How can people be expected to get into shape, potentially buy expensive electric bikes, and design their routines around cycling instead of driving if Bay Area governments keep pulling the proverbial rug out from under them?
Advocates are asking people to attend Wednesday’s/tonight’s meeting at 6 p.m. to speak up for maintaining the Bay Trail during construction. Again, that’s Wed, Oct. 20 at 6 p.m.