Richmond Bridge bike path opening

The big event this weekend was the opening of the Richmond Bridge bike path. Access to this bridge has been a crusade for decades, even before the Bay Bridge bike path was a thing. I got to interview a number of the people involved for a report I did on the Bike the Bridge Coalition, and all of them were there at the ribbon-cutting event.

The speeches were mostly pretty standard stuff, everyone trying to take credit for the project—even those like CalTrans and Chevron who had actively tried to block it. The strongest speaker was definitely Najari Smith of Rich City Rides, who got the crowd going with an Oh Yeah! call and response. He framed the project as belonging to Richmond, saying “we” are going to make sure that the project continues after the four-year pilot.

Richmond Bridge bike path grand opening

Ginger Jui of Bike East Bay followed up by framing the path as delivering environmental justice (Ginger was the only speaker to address issues of equity or justice), though I think they missed a bit of an opportunity to hammer home the point. The environmental justice movement began in Richmond, with protests over the impacts of Chevron on the health of the local community. The ribbon-cutting event was on a Chevron parking lot alongside the refinery’s oil tanks; environmental justice could have been more directly tied to the location and the event. (There was one protestor who encouraged the crowd to turn their backs on the speaker from Chevron, but he was largely ignored and quickly cleared out by security).

Obligatory critical theory content: There was a large media presence at the ribbon-cutting but I didn’t see Najari or Ginger’s comments quoted anywhere. They had the best statements, so that omission is…curious.

The fog was playing with the bridge, making for some dramatic photos.

Richmond Bridge bike path grand opening

After the actual ribbon cutting I joined up with Rich City for their ride across the bridge. There was a strong e-bike presence, with Scott from Pacific e-Bike cruising on his electric low rider, Alex on an electric trike and Najari with two passengers in the electric pedi-cab.

Richmond Bridge bike path grand opening

It was pretty huge. I don’t have any real way to estimate the number of riders, but it was certainly in the hundreds, and probably over 1,000. There were a lot of smiles, especially from riders passing our funky caravan (I was on unicycle, of course).

Richmond Bridge bike path grand opening

Richmond Bridge bike path grand opening

I enjoyed the path more than I expected to. A lot of that was the energy of the event; the few times where I was riding more or less solo, the isolation and noise of the bridge felt a bit oppressive. Riding with the group and the sound system, it was pretty fun; I think on an average day noise and smell will be real issues.

But, it’ll be better than the Dumbarton, which is one of my least favorite rides in the Bay Area. The Richmond Bridge is elevated; on the Dumbarton you have to deal with fumes not only from the highway but also from the salt ponds and mud flats. On the way back on Saturday the fog had filled in below the bridge, leaving us floating above the clouds.

Richmond Bridge bike path grand opening

Richmond Bridge bike path grand opening

Overall, I’m still skeptical that having a bike path on the bridge is good transportation policy. I’m dubious that it will see much regular use. But it’s clearly better transportation policy than having another car lane, and right now it’s probably the best way to prevent that outcome.

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