MTC contemplates return of Richmond Bridge breakdown lane

MTC contemplates return of Richmond Bridge breakdown lane
Before the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge bicycle and pedestrian path opened in 2019, drivers could chat in a dedicated breakdown lane.

If everything goes to plan, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the folks in charge of the Bay Area's eight state-owned bridges, will open a dedicated lane for Richmond Bridge drivers to break down or chat after a fender bender.

Bike East Bay Advocacy Manager Dani Lanis said MTC's executive director told cycling advocacy groups last week they were considering a reduction of the operational hours of the Richmond San Rafael Bridge Trail.

"It's not quite a done deal yet," Lanis said. "It all needs to go through a process. At this point it's a proposal that MTC presented informally via conference to bike advocacy groups."

Rich City Rides hosted a 4th-anniversary bike ride in November to celebrate the Richmond Bridge Trail and advocate for its preservation.

MTC will make recommendations to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the state commission tasked with protecting, enhancing, and responsibly using San Francisco Bay.

"The BCDC will consider and approve, or not, or approve with modifications. At this point, I understand there are meetings regarding this matter coming up in April and May, and that's when the actual decisions will be made," Lanis said.

MTC spokesman John Goodwin told The San Francisco Chronicle, "This is an effort to strike a compromise between the interests of bicyclists and pedestrians, and the interests of the vastly greater number of people who travel through the corridor by car."

The Bay Area Council, a regional business association, has orchestrated a campaign to eliminate the multi-use path. The council, operating under the banner of the Commonsense Transportation Coalition, sent mailers to Richmond residents and paid for Facebook and YouTube advertisements to promote their cause.

Bicycle advocacy group works to save Richmond Bridge path
As the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge bicycle and pedestrian pilot project comes to an end, local bicycle advocacy organization Rich City Rides has launched a petition drive to save the trail. The $20 million six-mile bicycle and pedestrian path opened as a Caltrans and Metropolitan Transportation Commission pilot project in 2019.

Last year, Rufus Jeffris, Senior Vice President of The Bay Area Council, told Grandview that the path causes persistent morning westbound traffic, contributing to unhealthy air in nearby Richmond neighborhoods. 

Numerous Richmond Bridge commuters have lamented cyclists' underutilization of the pathway. Drivers have held the pathway responsible for traffic congestion and demanded removal. Gerri Cull lauded the new plan online, saying it would work better for everyone.

"I cross daily and rarely see anyone on bikes, especially when an accident happens and I have extra time to sit and watch for people on bikes," Cull wrote.

We caught up with Rich City Rides Bicycle Hub Manager Alexander Peter and other cyclists returning to Point Richmond from a group ride to China Camp on Saturday.

Peter, who is also a Richmond Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee member, says he rides bikes for his mental health and to control his blood sugar. Peter said that losing the pathway would be emotionally devastating. 

"You need to take care of yourself. You need things to get you out of the house and get you beauty that you see and experience with other people," Peter said. "Roads are not just for cars. They are for everybody. So when you say you can't use them, that is excluding a large portion of the population from moving."

Peters said he understands the pathway can't just be open for cyclists like him; it has to be for commuters and people not on fancy bikes. 

Peter said riding across the elevated bridge is an awesome feeling and opens up routes in Marin. His favorite morning ride, Route 20 to Fairfax, positively impacts his emotional well-being.

"If you've ever gone, especially during the fall when Route 20 is turning, it has all the leaves and all the colors. It is the most beautiful route in the whole Bay Area, and everybody should experience it," Peter said.

Julius Grogan, who traveled from the Vallejo area for the China Camp group ride, said the bridge is the only way to get to Marin on a bike.

"It is a tough bridge. I have a love-hate relationship with the wind," Grogan said. "Otherwise, for people who love to get out and see all over the Bay Area, it is a great access to get over there and meet new riders.

Peter says plans are underway for a Richmond Bridge group ride in support of the pathway.

"The goal is to let people know the path is there. Because if you don’t use it, you will lose it," Peter said.

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