Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Now Open for Bikes and Pedestrian Traffic

A long-awaited link from the East Bay to Marin County became a reality this fall, allowing bicyclists and pedestrians to cross the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. Fans better use the pathway — or else.


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Photo by Sergio Ruiz

There were miles of smiles for the fall 2019 opening of the new Richmond-San Rafael Bridge bike/pedestrian path across the waters of the San Francisco Bay, giving new meaning to the phrase transports of delight. Undaunted by a chilly, foggy Saturday morning, thousands of cyclists, pedestrians, and dog companions joined to congratulate the throng of officials and bike advocates who had worked for decades to make this new stretch of the San Francisco Bay Trail a reality.

As ribbon-cutting ceremonies continued on top of a hill overlooking the bridge, cyclists of all ages and abilities steered their road bikes, tandems, cruisers, unicycles, and at least one pedicab along a route that had formerly been a barrier to non-automobile travel between Marin County and the East Bay.

Use it or lose it: This two-way bike/ped access trail is a multimillion dollar four-year pilot project that started in 2018 with the addition of a third automobile lane on the eastbound lower deck of Interstate 580. It could go by the wayside if usage is minimum. Both the upper deck bike/ped trail and the extra eastbound auto lane are conversions of the right shoulders that already existed on the bridge.

This latest addition to the Bay Trail is not simply the 5-mile section on the bridge itself. It also includes miles of new access paths in Richmond that are either off-road completely or have protected lanes dedicated to bikes.

On opening day, bike clubs organized group rides from all over the east bay, using BART, the Ohlone Trail, the Bay Trail, and the Richmond Greenway to ride to Point Richmond, then on to the bridgehead. People biked and walked from Marin to join the festivities, too.

Post-opening enthusiasm is still high. Steve Blair could not make it to the opening but organized a weekday group ride with his VeloRaptors club. About 30 cyclists headed out with him for a successful lunch excursion in Larkspur from Richmond. Jim Bradbury tried the bike commute from his home in San Francisco, a two-bridge challenge over the Golden Gate and Richmond-San Rafael bridges, to his job in Oakland as a communications specialist for the Sierra Club. He said he felt safe on the RSR Bridge in spite of the loud traffic. He said he was surprised at how nice the new trail at the eastern refinery end is for bicyclists and pedestrians. Be forewarned, he cautioned, the Marin side is still a work in progress. If you prefer, you can always bike the bridge for the views and return to the East Bay for food options in the little burg of Point Richmond.

Among the legion of longtime trail advocates were Bike East Bay, San Francisco Bay Trail, Rich City Rides, and the Marin County Bicycle Coalition. Agencies that built the trail were Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Toll Authority, Caltrans, the Transportation Authority of Marin, and the Contra Costra Transportation Authority. A testament to the tenaciousness of trail advocates, even big-oil Chevron came on board and provided access to its land for construction of critical parts of the protected trail between Stenmark Drive and the bridge.

To access the trail by bike, you can use the brand-new network of protected bikeways the city of Richmond has installed. Start at Richmond BART, take the Richmond Greenway west to the end, then follow the signs. If you’re coming from the car-free Bay Trail along the East Bay waterfront, use Harbour Way, Hoffman Boulevard, and Cutting Boulevard into Point Richmond. During the week, these roads can be busy with industrial traffic, though they do have marked Bay Trail bike lanes. Weekends are quiet if you prefer a mellower recreational ride.

More resources about biking the bridge, including detailed maps and suggestions for destinations: BikeEastBbay.org/news/richmond-san-rafael-bridge-resources .

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