Richmond-San Rafael Bridge bike path still underutilized as test run nears end

A four-year program set to conclude in November will determine the worthiness of a bike and pedestrian pathway that eliminated a traffic lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in the Bay Area.

The bicycle and pedestrian path across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge cost taxpayers $20 million.

Since the pathway's opening in 2019, it has been severely underutilized, with only 281,000 bikes having used the bridge. In recent weeks, 139 bikes cross each weekday, and 434 bikes cross on weekends. The highest number to have crossed the bridge was last July last year, with 747 bikes.

Even fewer people walk along the bridge, with only 35,000 utilizing that part of the San Francisco Bay Trail. Roughly 23 people walk across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on weekdays, and 39 people on weekends. The highest number of pedestrians recorded to have crossed the bridge in a single day was on April 25th, with 1,688 people.

At the same time, the morning commute is nightmarish.


Bay Area bridge tolls could go up to $8.50 if new legislation passes

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"Every day, 18,000 workers who rely on the bridge are forced to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on their commute because of the continued closure of the third lane," said Bay Area Council executive John Grubb.

The Bay Area Council, along with Richmond officials and neighborhood groups, point to the adverse health impact of this situation.

"We know that standstill traffic creates three times the pollution than a free-flowing highway," commented Assemblyman Damon Connelly.

This exposes nearby residents to toxic nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, and particulates.

"Tire and brakes emit fine particles in the air linked to heart and lung disease," said Vernon Whitmore of the Richmond Santa Fe Neighbor Council.

"We, most certainly, are strongly advocating for some relief or no new issues that will create a stronger backup that's coming through our communities," said Willie Robinson of the Richmond NAACP chapter.

One proposed solution is to temporarily close the pedestrian and bike path on the westbound side during the morning commute. This route would be open to traffic until the commute is over. The moveable divider could be moved to the side, similar to what happens on the Golden Gate Bridge during commute hours.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) argues that little would be gained in terms of time or health benefits compared to the days prior to the pathway's opening.

"The time it takes to travel through the corridor grew by one minute. There was congestion before and there is congestion now," said MTC Spokesman John Goodwin.

Although the bicycle and pedestrian pathway carries even fewer daily bike commuters, it does not occupy a traffic lane and does not extend all the way into San Francisco.