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Bike/Pedestrian Path on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Is Finally Open

Fog did not deter riders–or walkers–who have waited many years to ride the Richmond San Rafael Bridge. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog

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.

Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
A growing crowd waited for the official ribbon cutting. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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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.

Hobbyhorse
Photo by Melanie Curry/Streetsblog
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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.

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The view from Treasure Island on Sunday. Photo by Robert Prinz
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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.

Susie Hufstaeder of Bike East Bay was ready, with cowbell. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
Susie Hufstader of Bike East Bay was ready, with cowbell. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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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.

The bridge was invisible in the fog. Photo by Melanie Curry/Streetsblog
The bridge was invisible in the fog on Saturday morning. Photo by Melanie Curry/Streetsblog
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The truth is a bit more nuanced, though. The path wouldn't exist at all if not for the visionary, tenacious work of advocates twenty years ago. Its continued existence is still threatened by skeptics who think the narrow space should be dedicated to yet more cars, as if that would somehow solve congestion.

From left, Robert Raburn, founder of East Bay Bicycle Coalition, Jeff Hobson of Photo courtesy Jason Meggs
From left, Robert Raburn, BART director and early advocate of the bike path, Jeff Hobson of the SFCTA and former deputy director of TransForm, Stuart Cohen, founder of TransForm, and Jason Meggs, a staunch early activist for the Richmond Bridge bike path. Photo courtesy Jason Meggs
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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.

Chevron tried to stake a claim, but, as Najari Smith of Rich City Rides reminded everyone, this is not Chevron land, it is Ohlone land. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
Chevron tried to stake a claim, but, as Najari Smith of Rich City Rides reminded everyone, this is not Chevron land, it is Ohlone land. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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Here is a short video, shot by Jason Meggs, that gives a taste of the day, followed by more photos.

Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
Early arrivals regrouped on the Richmond side, from both ends of the bridge. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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This was an all-ages event featuring a lot of smiles. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
This was an all-ages event featuring a lot of smiles. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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Najari Smith of Rich City Rides multitasked on his trishaw throughout the day. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
Najari Smith and his Rich City Rides team multi-tasked on his trishaw throughout the day. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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Bill Pinkham, sporting a classic t-shirt from the East Bay Bicycle Coalition former name of Bike East Bay), was ready.
Bill Pinkham, sporting a classic t-shirt from the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (former name of Bike East Bay), was ready. Photo by Jason Meggs
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A steady stream of bikes passed, all day long, despite the early fog. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
A steady stream of bikes passed, all day long, despite the early fog. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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Among the luminaries present was Gary Fisher, who has said that he plans to ride the bridge every day. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
Among the luminaries present was Gary Fisher, who has said that he plans to ride the bridge every day. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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Rick Rickard of Bike East Bay waited for the speeches to finish so he could lead a group ride to Marin. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
Rick Rickard of Bike East Bay waited for the speeches to finish so he could lead a group ride to Marin. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
Several good doggies made the trek. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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Photo courtesy Bike East Bay
Photo courtesy Bike East Bay
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Dave Campbell of Bike East Bay (in green shirt) does outreach on the Marin side of the bridge. Photo by Jason Meggs
Dave Campbell of Bike East Bay (in green shirt) does outreach on the Marin side of the bridge. Photo by Jason Meggs
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Photo by Jason Meggs
Jason Meggs, left, and CalBike executive director Dave Snyder are all smiles. Photo by Jason Meggs
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Photo by Jason Meggs
Getting to ride this bridge is a reason to smile. Dave Campbell, at left, and Cynthia Armour of Bike East Bay. Photo by Jason Meggs
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Several unicycles made it across and back. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
Several unicycles made it across and back. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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At least one tall bike showed up. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
At least one tall bike showed up. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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Nakari Syon and Taye McGee make sure Rich City Rides is represented. Photo by Jason Meggs
Nakari Syon and Taye McGee make sure Rich City Rides is represented. Photo by Jason Meggs
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The path is far from perfect--it is narrow, close to fast-moving traffic, and features several climbs. But now it is a key connection, and no longer a barrier. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
The path is far from perfect--it is narrow, close to fast-moving traffic, and features several climbs. But now it is a key connection, and no longer a barrier. Photo by Melanie Curry/ Streetsblog
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