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Bridge ride

In ‘Use it or lose it!’ ride, cyclists show support for ‘underused’ bike lane on bridge.

on November 24, 2022

More than 100 cyclists pedaled across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge on Sunday to celebrate the third anniversary of the structure’s dedicated bike lane. But their  joy was mixed with concern, which the event’s slogan explained:  “Use it or lose it!”

“This year, we’re fighting to keep the to keep this bike trail that we’ve advocated for,” said Najari Smith, founder and executive director of Rich City Rides, a Richmond nonprofit that promotes cycling.

Bridge ride
Najari Smith, founder and executive director of Rich City Rides (Nahim Rahim)

The Richmond-San Rafael bridge is 5.5 miles long and connects Contra Costa and Marin counties. The shoulder of the westbound upper deck was converted into the bike lane in 2019, making the bridge part of the San Francisco Bay Trail. Richmond City Council held a meeting about the lane in October, after hearing complaints that adding the lane has increased traffic congestion, accidents, and air pollution.

At that meeting, council member Demnlus Johnson III called on his colleagues to  resolve the issue, saying, “This is a group of community folks on both sides of the bridge asking to see if the bike lane is an issue.”

A study by Caltrans and UC Berkeley said that “the bike lane appears to be significantly underused.” Since January 2021, an average of 190 cyclists have used the bridge lane on weekends and an average of 68 on weekdays. 

Bridge ride
Cyclists cross the Richmond-San Rafael bridge (Najim Rahim)

City Council wants to do more studies and find a solution.

The cyclists who participated in the bike lane anniversary advocate keeping the lane open.

Armando Botello, a 48-year-old high school teacher, often rides across the bridge on weekends. He said he used to regularly drive from Marin County from Richmond, but since the bike lane opened, has opted more to cycle.  

“I’ve been using the bridge for three years, since they opened it,” Botello said at the event. “Today I’m here to support all the organizations that want to keep their Bay Trail open. And if you need my money, you need my signature, I will sign and donate for any.”

He calls for alternative ways to reduce traffic andair pollution, saying a cycling culture should be promoted so there are fewer vehicles on the road.

Doria Robinson, a newly elected member of City cCouncil who participated in the bike ride, said that she will fight for the bike lane as an alternative to our reliance on oil. 

“People need to carpool and they need to, you know, ride bikes, need to do other things,” she said. 

Smith said cyclists will keep fighting for the bike lane.

“If they take the bike path away from the bridge, we’ve got youth, families and community members who will respond,” he said. “I’m worried what will happen if they do take it away. You know, we’re just asking for a bike path on the bridge.”

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