News from Our Neighbors up North: Marin County Bike Update By Josh Hart, Rail-to-Trails Conservancy, California Field Office

Bike advocates in Marin have been having a busy year, fighting a proposed parking lot on the future bike freeway and attempting to stop the city of Larkspur from tearing down the trestle over Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Besides those ill-conceived projects, many beneficial projects are moving forward.

2001 Marin Bicycle/ Pedestrian Master Plan
On May 22, the Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan was passed, a document two years in the making and considered one of the most aggressive bike plans in the country. The plan focuses on implementing a network of bikeways connecting the Golden Gate Bridge to San Rafael, and Larkspur to Point Reyes, via old railroad corridors that pass through tunnels and over trestles, allowing nonmotorized travel along a flat grade.

Golden Gate Bridge Safety Railings
Safety railings between the roadway and the bike/ped paths are scheduled to be installed on both the east and west sides of the Golden Gate Bridge starting this September. Because of the low barriers currently in place, pedestrians and (especially) bicyclists must worry about being swept into traffic when there are high winds or if a crash occurs.

A sample of the new railing design can be found just north of the north tower on the west pathway. The project will likely be completed in fall of 2002. Installation of safety railings is a long overdue safety measure given increasing bicycle traffic (and speeds) on the bridge, and several recent crashes.

Conzelman Road Reopening
Conzelman Road - which goes under the bridge to Fort Baker at the north end - has been closed because of the earthquake retrofit project, but will reopen in August, according to Golden Gate Bridge District officials.

The trestle in Larkspur spans busy Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Here, a bicyclist with a megaphone is atop, spreading the word to save the historic structure. Photo courtesy of Josh Hart.
Corte Madera Creek Trestle "Wrestle"
On June 19, the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted to allow the City of Larkspur to tear down the 100-foot section of the historic railroad trestle spanning Sir Francis Drake Blvd. to complete a road-widening project. (The section of trestle over the water will remain standing.) This is the trestle that many hope will become a bicycle bridge as part of the North-South Bicycle Freeway, sections of which are already in place. It is also the trestle that Clint Eastwood leapt off in the penultimate scene of Dirty Harry.

Although the Board's vote is a blow to the bicycle community, the silver lining is that the County has allocated $300,000 for a replacement structure and required Larkspur to leave space in the middle of the road for a support for a future crossing. Activists are still fighting the removal, however, and the road-widening project must still go through a full, formal environmental review. Stay tuned.

A group of cyclists at the Cal Park Hill Tunnel, which could provide great bike/ped access from the Larkspur Ferry Terminal to San Rafael. Photo courtesy of Josh Hart.
Cal Park Tunnel Project
Several hundred yards north of the trestle is the Cal Park Hill Tunnel, closed for almost a decade because of a minor collapse. The County has taken the lead and applied for $4 million of state Transportation Enhancements funding to reopen the tunnel to allow bicyclists and pedestrians easy direct access between the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and San Rafael Transit Center. They have also applied for a grant from the state Bicycle Transportation Account.

Opening the tunnel would eliminate the need to ride around Sir Francis Drake Blvd. near San Quentin Prison to get between the two towns, and is a key segment of the planned Bicycle Freeway. The Cal Park Hill Tunnel project is truly a victory for the bicycle community. The Golden Gate Bridge District staff had originally wanted to build a 255-space parking lot at the south portal of the tunnel for ferry patrons, but the Marin County Bicycle Coalition and other groups fought hard against the proposal, claiming that with improved routes, people would be more willing to bike and walk instead of driving their cars, alleviating the need for more parking. The Bridge District announced that it would change its plans and instead re-stripe the existing parking lot. We are hopeful that the Cal Park Tunnel will be fully funded and will become a model "bike/ped access to transit" project.

For more information about bicycle advocacy in Marin, see, home of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.