Novato, CA to fill missing link in city bike path plan

New plan will serve as crucial connector for safer access to quiet roads

Novato, California seemingly has it all for cyclists: weather that makes for year round riding, close proximity to great off road trails, and its fantastic scenery. For those cyclists living in Novato, however, getting to safe routes often means risking life, limb and bicycle on roads that are far from ideal.

“It is very spotty in the town,” Zteam Novato chapter leader, Sarina Fortune, told BikeRadar. “Some of the roads do have bike lanes, but the roads that offer best riding in Marin County are not the sort of roads you’d want to use.”

Fortune added that because of the terrain, there is just one route out of the town to the better riding and there is a very limited shoulder that makes it dangerous.

“It is a winding road and cars can come around from a blind corner,” said Fortune. “It is dangerous for everyone involved.”

The City of Novato has worked hard to provide bike lanes, but this spring City Council member Jeanne MacLearny noted that there was something of a ‘missing link’ that ties the existing bike paths together.

Julian Skinner, Senior Engineer for the Public Works in the City of Novato agreed, telling BikeRadar that connecting the paths and addressing this so-called missing link is the goal. “We have adopted a bicycle plan that has proposed facilities and this is one of them.”

Skinner contends that there several other missing links, but that this one basically addressed the biggest issue, allowing riders to get to the better roads without having to take routes that were downright dangerous. “This new route is the shortest distance between two points,” explained Skinner, “It minimizes the vehicle and bike conflict.”

More importantly, he says it keeps the riders off the shoulder of a freeway, which was previously the most direct route; the other options added distance or steep hills to the mix. “None of the previous routes were for the faint of heart,” says Skinner.

The new project will be completed by the rainy season, and should be open to riders by the middle to end of October.

These new trails build on the 2007 Novato Bicycle Plan, which provides for a citywide network of bicycle paths, lanes and routes, along with bicycle-related programs and support facilities. This new connector includes 3,200 lineal feet of Class I multi-use path, with a width of 8-10 feet and a 2-foot gravel shoulder. The project also includes a concrete barrier to protect cyclists from the freeway.

These improvements are just what riders such as Fortune hope to see. “I think Novato has a big population of cyclists, and to have a continued path that connects the network would be ideal,” said Fortune. However, she does think the city has a ways to go to make it ideal. “We could use some more bike paths in several areas in the city for safety. It would make it better for parents and kids, who have to ride on these busy roads without bike lanes.”

Skinner agrees that there are issues, stating, other ‘missing links’ do remain. Most are because there are outstanding issues. We’re working with Cal Tran (California Department of Transportation) for the permits. Some other sections that need to be upgraded may require a right of way or will require parking to be removed for a completed path.”

These issues need more outreach says Skinner, and thus could take longer, but for now at least one more missing link is finished. The big issue is that from here things may get harder harder. “Most of the easy ones are done already,” she said.

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