Richmond-San Rafael Bridge
Decades of Struggle for Bicycle Access
The issue of bicycle access on the Richmond-San Rafael (RSR) Bridge is back on the front burner. As part of their permit for the retrofit of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, Caltrans was required to do a study about the safety of bicycle access of freeways. This study, conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute is going to be scheduled for a Bay Conservation and Development Commission public hearing this summer. The Marin County Bicycle Coalition and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC) are calling for direct access now, and in 1997 the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution endorsing bicycle access. What follows is a timeline (courtesy of the EBBC) showing a struggle of nearly 50 years for bicycle access on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge:
- 1956 Bicyclist access ends with demise of ferry service and opening of Richmond-San Rafael Bridge which has excess lane capacity in each direction.
- 1975 Short-lived proposal for a "demonstration" bike lane on the 5.5-mile span would "shorten the bicyclist's distance from Richmond to Marin by 110 miles," reported the Marin Independent Journal (May 15, 1975).
- 1977 Drought dictates that the superfluous third lane be used for water pipeline to Marin County. Lanes were re-stripped as 12' shoulders following removal of pipeline.
- 1996 Bicycle shuttle on RSR discontinued without prior notice.
- 1996 EBBC and Marin bicyclists begin monthly "access feasibility rides" to both sides of bridge in September to call for Caltrans to open the shoulders to bicyclists.
- 1997 Bay Area Air Quality Management District encourages Caltrans to provide direct bicycle access on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in letter to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) on May 6.
- 1997 Gov Wilson's Attorney General (AG) offers an opinion in early August that the BCDC would lose in court if it continued to push Caltrans for bicycle access as a permit requirement for the seismic retrofit of the RSR.
- 1997 Caltrans sanctions feasibility knowing that an AG legal opinion would decide the matter in their favor.
- 1997 BCDC granted Caltrans permit #1-97 to allow RSR seismic retrofit project, sans a bikeway but Caltrans is required to do a study about the safety of bicycle access on freeways.
- 1998 Attorney General Bill Lockyer reversed the opinion of prior AG noting that "BCDC legally may impose a permit condition which requires that Caltrans provide bicycle and pedestrian access," and that "the Vehicle Code does not pre-empt BCDC's authority."
- 1998 The Caltrans' Richmond-San Rafael Public Access Feasibility Study is released and supports the conversion of the existing 12 foot shoulders to offer bicycle access. In published version of the 343-page report, Caltrans misplaced a key section assessing suitability of RSR shoulders for bicyclists from pages 14-16 to pages 131-133.
- 1999 Hundreds of bicyclists protest at RSR Bridge on July 31 and October 30 demanding "Access Now". (You can view a slide show of this protest at http://www.marinbike.org under Campaigns.)
- 2000 BCDC promises hearing to revisit the issue of bicycle access following completion of a statewide Freeway Shoulder Bicycle Access study.
- 2001 The Statewide Safety Study of Bicycles and Pedestrians on Freeways, Expressways, Toll Bridges, and Tunnels (Mineta Transportation Institute, SJSU) is released (www.transweb.sjsu.edu/publications/BikesAndPeds2.pdf) and finds that the existing RSR "railing appears to be adequate to protect bicycles from leaving the bridge" and that the existing 12' shoulder "is more than sufficient for bicycle travel." MTC also funds a taxi service shuttle to safeguard against bicyclists being "bumped" off Golden Gate Transit buses.
- 2002 BCDC is scheduled to review the findings of the Mineta Institute study to determine if Caltrans is conforming to the McAteer-Petris Act mandate to provide maximum feasible public access to the San Francisco Bay on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. This meeting will likely be scheduled for this summer. Your attendance can help make a difference. Check www.marinbike.org under campaigns for updates, or call (415) 456-3469.