The fastest way between points A and B
When we think about the benefits of bicycling, we often focus on the long-term gains in personal health, and reductions in road congestion and air pollution. These outcomes are important, but some of the best things about bicycling are immediate. People who ride save time and money.
Here's a great example: Last Friday, the Cal Park Hill tunnel in San Rafael, California, reopened to bike and foot traffic. This 1,100-foot corridor, built in 1884 to support a railroad, crumbled in the late 1970s and remained closed and dilapidated for more than 30 years. Today, after a major reconstruction project, it again connects San Rafael with Larkspur Landing on San Francisco Bay. The tunnel shortens bike rides between the two towns by 10-20 minutes, makes bicycling faster than driving, and bypasses some of Bay Area's busiest, least-bike-friendly intersections.
In short, it's the fastest way to travel between Point A (San Rafael) to Point B (Larkspur)--two places where lots of Californians want to go. This simple, practical appeal guarantees the tunnel's success.
The tunnel path is basically flat, well-lit, and smooth. The west end flows seamlessy into the Larkspur bus station that serves San Francisco Airport. It also connects with a major ferry terminal that provides 30-minute boat service to downtown San Francisco. Now San Rafaeleans can bike to the boat instead of drive, and people all across Marin County can enjoy longer, uninterrupted bike rides on the almost-complete Marin County Bikeway.
The reopening ceremony was a great day for Marin County, and the satisfying culmination of more than a decade of hard work by advocates for bicycling, walking and trails. At least 300 people attended, and nearly half of them celebrated by pedaling through the tunnel and back.
One key player in making the project happen is Deb Hubsmith, the former chief of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition who now directs the Safe Routes to School National Partnership (which is Bikes Belong). Hubsmith, who was recognized by the leaders of Marin County for her perseverance and dedication to the project, said, "This is one of the happiest days of my life."
You can watch two excellent videos of the event here: