Bay Trail Comments

My Walk Around San Francisco Bay


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The San Francisco Bay Trail is under development by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). It is represented as a planned 400-500 mile network of hike and bike trails in all nine counties adjacent to the Bay. By "network", they mean there is to be a trail that encircles the Bay and also that there will be a number of side loops and spurs. About 240 miles of the planned trail are complete. All in all, a great concept.

I have commented elsewhere that, from my perspective, I would be happy to see a trail up behind Moffett Field. Similarly, the planned extension from Dixon Landing north across Coyote Creek would be nice.

But I think there are some problems with the scheme in the North Bay. Take a good look at the "Concept Map" on the right. The proposed trail swings very far north and, in that area, mainly follows existing, very busy highways. Now take a look at ABAG's published North Bay Trail Map. Toward the bottom left, there is a line along Hwy 37 crossing the Petaluma Bridge. Granted, the notes tell us that this is an Unimproved Bay Trail (on street) with no bike lanes and/or no sidewalks.

Of the five other people who circumambulated San Francisco Bay, four were promoting the Bay Ridge Trail. The Bay Ridge Trail, like the Bay Trail, exists as much in concept as it does on the ground. Those four took much wider routes around San Francisco Bay following the ridges.

The fifth person who walked around the Bay, JH, wrote me that "Hwy 37 was by far the worst part of the trip.  If anything my experience was worse than yours ... I would say I feared for my life ... I was stopped ... by an off duty highway patrolman. It's a shame there is not a bike path there. It would be a beautiful place to walk or ride ... ABAG/Bay Trail is moving at a glacial pace. It will be 50 years before the project is finished (if it ever is)."

As I explained to the Pretty, Young Highway Patrol Officer (PYHPO), when she detained me after crossing the Petaluma River Bridge, "There is a state law that says that, if a road has no sign barring cyclists and/or pedestrians, then we have the right to go there. Also, this route is designated as part of the San Francisco Bay Trail by the Association of Bay Area Governments."

"That may be true," said the PYHPO, "but I can't allow you to walk here." She finally let me continue. The deed had already been done. But she was right.

I felt safe walking over that bridge. There is a 20 inch "sidewalk" and another 20 inches to the white stripe. So drivers who were fully conscious understood that all they had to do was drive down the middle of the lane and they would miss me by a few feet. But many drivers are not fully conscious. They are driving under the influence of cell phones or other drugs. When they see something that jerks them to consciousness, they instinctively swerve in the other direction. I was safe, but the drivers were not safe. And anybody in the adjacent lane was not safe. Luckily there were no accidents.

What's the alternative? ABAG has plans to convert old rail beds to trails. There is a stretch from Novato to Sears Point which is partly developed as a trail. I would think a trail could be installed parallel to Hwy 37 in the marshes between Vallejo to Sears Point. But the over-riding question is how to cross the Petaluma River?
I just received a communication to the effect that barges going up the Petaluma River are unhappy about the railroad trestle across the river. And now they are planning a ferry from up there, and they might want the trestle removed.

Sigh! No easy answers! How about we designate that stretch as an official "Hike and Swim Trail"?
If and when ABAG announces completion of a trail that fully loops the Bay, I predict that walking around San Francisco Bay will become something of a regional craze. People will do it in large groups. In outlandish costumes. Some ultra-marathoner will come along and run it in 2-3 days.
If the Ridge Trail is ever completed as a loop around the Bay, it will become one of the most popular of the big, continuous trails.

© 2003 Joyce Gross