MCBC In Action Advocating Behind the Scenes

Some of the advocacy we do at MCBC happens in full view of the public. We often ask our members and supporters to send emails or call their elected representatives to demand better bike infrastructure. However, much of it also happens behind the scenes – we regularly meet with city staff to review projects in the pipeline and are able to win significant improvements without ever having to send an email to our members. Here is an example of that work. 

The Freitas Parkway Interchange

Anyone who rides a bicycle in Marin knows that the places where local roads intersect with an on-ramp/off-ramp for US 101 (called “interchanges”) knows that these are some of the scariest places to ride. Wide lanes, no protected bike facilities, and heavy traffic put drivers in a “highway mindset.”

For this reason, anytime there’s a chance to remake an interchange, MCBC springs into action to ensure that it’s done correctly. These projects don’t come along often, and any changes that are made are likely to persist for a generation. 

One such interchange is US 101 and Freitas Parkway/Civic Center Drive/Old Redwood Highway in San Rafael. The San Rafael Department of Public Works (DPW) recently held a meeting showing initial designs for a reconfigured intersection.

Advocating Behind the Scenes - Freitas

US 101 & Freitas Parkway/Civic Center Drive Interchange, looking east

A Flawed First Draft

While the first draft represented an improvement, it had some serious shortcomings. A proposed roundabout was a positive improvement. Roundabouts can handle more traffic than stop signs and are much safer than traffic lights due to the lack of head on or T-bone crashes. 

The initial designs provided a better experience for northbound bicyclists, with a separated path traveling through the intersection. However, southbound bicyclists would be forced to take the lane through the roundabout, contending with traffic from multiple directions. We saw this as unacceptable, and at odds with the goal of creating an all-ages-and-abilities experience.

Advocating Behind the Scenes - Freitas

Initial designs of interchange reconfiguration, with no safe route for southbound bicyclists

Pushing for a Change

Along with our friends at WTB-TAM, another bicycle advocacy group in Marin, we reached out to San Rafael public works staff and our representatives at Caltrans to express our concerns. After another round of edits, the second draft came back much better. Rather than taking the lane through the intersection, southbound riders would travel through a two-way bike lane around the north and east legs of the intersection, and then take a two-way, protected bikeway down the hill to Merrydale Road/Scettrini. This means that bicyclists in both directions will be separated from car traffic where now they are forced to ride on the shoulder. 

Advocating Behind The Scenes - Freitas

San Rafael DPW is still exploring how to finish the connection between Merrydale/Scettrini and the SMART Pathway at McInnis Parkway. We will report back. 

What’s Next for this Project?

Funding has been secured for the project and it is in  final design. Construction should begin in 2023 with project completion by 2024. We have some remaining concerns about how bicycle traffic will be managed during construction, but we’re working on it!

Advocating Behind The Scenes - Freitas

Your Support Matters

This is just one example of the work we do every day to try to make Marin a safer, more connected place for people traveling by bicycle. Even if we aren’t sounding the alarm bells, we’re doing our best to review every project with a magnifying glass, making sure that what gets built serves all needs of our community, rather than just the efficient throughput of automobiles. Safety for people walking and biking should be a goal on its own, but is crucial to a livable, cleaner, greener Marin. 

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