BCDC Backs Bike/Ped Access on RSR Bridge
On Thursday, February 5 at the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) meeting, the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, San Francisco Bay Trail Project, and East Bay Bicycle Coalition presented a PowerPoint presentation and research document making the case for public access on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Public access on the bridge has been supported by BCDC, the Bay Area Toll Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Marin County Board of Supervisors, West Contra Costa County, and many other organizations and elected officials.
At this point, Caltrans is the only agency stopping public access. BCDC indicated in their staff report that they would require a permit from Caltrans if Caltrans requests a “change in use” on the bridge. A permit requirement could likely result in a condition for Caltrans to simultaneously provide public access. However, at the current time, Caltrans is not requesting a change in use to the Bridge. The Marin County Bicycle Coalition will continue to work with other partners to fight for public access on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
On April 3, 2008 the push for public access on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge got a boost when the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) expressed their support for bicycle and pedestrian access on the Bridge, a key component of the Bay Trail, and asked Caltrans and other stakeholders to come back to the agency within 180 days with more information about safety issues. BCDC is a state agency which regulates planning and development near the Bay and part of their mission is to promote “maximum feasible public access” to the Bay. BCDC has supported the concept of bicycle and pedestrian access on the Richmond Bridge since 1997 when they first issued a permit to Caltrans for the seismic retrofit, a project which ended up costing more than $1 Billion. The proposal for bicycle and pedestrian access would cost about 5 percent of the total cost of the recently completed seismic retrofit and bridge overlay and provide a much needed link between Marin and Contra Costa counties.
At the meeting, BCDC heard of the proposal to provide a moveable barrier on the upper deck of the bridge which would allow for bicycle and pedestrian access on the bridge shoulder during non-commute hours. From 6-9 AM on weekdays, the barrier would be moved to the side of the bridge to allow for three lanes of automobile traffic heading westbound – during all other hours, the barrier would be in place providing for a separated pathway for bicyclists and pedestrians. Currently, the bridge supports two 12 foot lanes for auto traffic and a 12 foot shoulder. The proposal, which was developed over a four year time period through a study funded by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Toll Authority is the third such study completed on public access since 1997. The access proposal was supported at the meeting by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and its Bay Area Toll Authority, the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition, the San Francisco Bay Trail Project, and numerous people who described how they would use the bridge to commute to work via bicycle.
Caltrans said that they are not in favor of the moveable barrier proposal because it will remove the shoulder which they feel could increase crashes by 200 percent. Their position, however, conflicts with actual data from the bridge which showed that crashes decreased by 30 percent when similar barriers were installed for construction on the Bridge from 2003-2005. In addition, Caltrans has promoted using the shoulder as a third lane for automobile traffic, which would also remove the shoulder. Many BCDC Commissioners expressed strong interest in upholding their mission of promoting public access, alternatives to the automobile, and improving safety by slowing down cars on the bridge, which often travel up to 80 miles per hour. BCDC’s regulatory powers mean that it would need to issue a permit to Caltrans if they propose opening the shoulder for automobiles. At that time, it’s within BCDC’s authority to make simultaneous construction of the bicycle and pedestrian pathway a condition for the permit.
Read the Marin IJ article
Read the SF Chronicle article
Bicycle access on Richmond-San Rafael Bridge makes sense (IJ editorial, April 15, 2008)
For more information about the history of advocating for bicycle access on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge use the following links:
Caltrans rejects access proposal, February 2008
Spring 2007 update
Working for Bike Access On the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (Summer 2004)
Study Begins for Bike/Ped Access (January 2004)
Seeking Bicycle Access on the Richmond San Rafael Bridge (October 2002)
Other links about the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge:
Read the MCBC's September 2002 letter to BCDC
Read the MCBC's September 2002 press release
Read the Contra Costa Times article on the September 2002 BCDC meeting
Read the Contra Costa Times October 2 2002 article on the BCDC bike lane approval
Read the MCBC's October 4 2002 letter to BCDC
Last updated February 2009