BARTable by bike: Richmond Bridge and the Iron Triangle

After 20 years of work by advocates, in 2019 Caltrans opened a lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge for bikes and pedestrians; more than 1,000 people crossed the span at the huge opening party. Cyclists now have a 24/7 route to get to Marin County from Contra Costa and the rest of the East Bay.

The City of Richmond has also been developing new bike infrastructure on land, making it easier to access the shorelines in and around Richmond’s Iron Triangle. The Richmond Greenway, formerly a freight rail corridor, has been recreated as a linear park, with amenities like the Edible Forest, Rich City Rides’ Bike Shed, and Dirt World, the biggest BMX pump track in the East Bay.

These rides explore the railroad and industrial history of the city, float above the Bay on the Richmond bridge, or do a fun loop around Point San Pedro in San Rafael. The two routes overlap only at the beginning but can be easily combined for different loop options.

How to get there

Take any Richmond train to the end of the line. Exit the fare gates to the right, pass the entrance to the Amtrak station, and go up to the street level plaza.

Short Route

Rail fans can go explore Richmond’s Iron Triangle, a set of active, inactive and decommissioned railroad lines serving the refineries, shipyards and other industries which are part of today’s Richmond and its historical development. This ride visits two sites, Ferry Point and Point Pinole, where formerly industrial uses have been converted to public space. Experience the old rail lines and building foundations while enjoying lovely views of the Bay and the Carquinez Strait. Bring your fishing gear to take advantage of the piers at Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline and Point Pinole. Or, split off in Point Richmond to head out to the bridge.

Things to see

The Richmond Greenway

Beginning in the late 1960s, community activist Lillie May Jones worked to reclaim a former Santa Fe freight rail line as community space. Over the past 20 years, the City of Richmond and a number of community groups have worked together to create the Richmond Greenway, a beautiful linear park with many amenities, including the Edible Forest orchard, numerous community gardens, and the Dirt World BMX pump track. At Unity Park you’ll find the Bike Shed, where you can get your bike fixed up, or join in on one of Rich City Rides’ fun, family-oriented Sunday Self-Care bike rides. Or stop by to close out the month with the Final Fridays at Five party in the park.

Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline

A trip through a former rail tunnel will take you to the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline, where you can see the remnants of the train ferry pier, along with other industrial structures. Have a picnic, see ducks and pelicans in the lagoon, or wade into the bay at the swimming beach. Rail fans can visit the Golden State Model Railroad Museum, a 10,000-square-foot warehouse with train layouts at multiple scales.

North Richmond Farm

The Iron Triangle railroads run north into the industrial zone near the Chevron refinery, where the North Richmond Farm works to develop community agriculture on abandoned land. A project of Urban Tilth, the farm provides space for urban agriculture and environmental education, helping kids understand more about how pollution affects them in the home of the environmental justice movement. Fourth Saturdays are volunteer days; come by, help out, and meet people working in the dirt.

Point Pinole

The rail lines head out to Point Pinole, the gateway to the Carquinez Strait. Here, the explosives used to build California’s railroads, highways, and gold mines were manufactured at the dynamite factory, which was moved far away from the city and protected by eucalyptus trees after several deadly explosions at previous sites. Now a public park, you can explore the ruins of the old factory, read about some of its history, or take advantage of the longest fishing pier around. The GPS track follows the gravel pathways, or you can take the road all the way to the point.

Long Route

Bike advocates waited for access to the Richmond Bridge for decades. Now available 24/7 (except when maintenance is necessary), the pathway connects Richmond and San Rafael by bike for the first time. Marin has some of the best roads around for long, fun rides, and this route around Point San Pedro is one of them. The bridge itself can be a dramatic ride as you float above the bay.

Things to see

Terrapin Crossroads

Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh’s retirement project, Terrapin Crossroads is a huge restaurant and music venue, where Deadheads and those who love them can see music on multiple stages, or just grab lunch out by the canal. Terrapin attracts a wide range of musicians, from bluegrass to jam bands to jazz greats, and you might get to see Phil or one of his friends dropping in on a set, or just hanging in the Airstream trailer that serves as a dressing room.

China Camp State Park

Racism against Chinese families who immigrated to California during the Gold Rush era led to restrictions on where they could live and work. China Camp, at Point San Pedro, was one of the few places the Chinese were allowed to fish, and it became the home of a thriving Chinese community. Its last family resident, Frank Quan, passed away in 2016 at the age of 90. Today, China Camp Village is a museum where you can explore the historic buildings and artifacts. The park also has a 10-mile loop for hiking or mountain biking (doable on a gravel bike), and an overnight bike-in campground (sign up at Reserve California, or arrive early to claim one of the two first-come-first-served overnight sites—only $5!).

Marin Civic Center

How many times do you get to ride through a Frank Lloyd Wright building? The Marin Center was one of Wright’s last commissions, and the largest public project of his long career. Public guided tours are available on weekdays (check their schedule), or do a self-guided tour of the building and its art galleries during open hours. The Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium hosts many music, lecture and theater events, or get your picnic fixings on Sunday morning at the Marin Farmer’s Market, one of the oldest and largest in California.

Cautions

  • The Iron Triangle includes many at-grade railroad crossings. Cross the tracks at right angles to avoid getting your wheel trapped.
  • Ride with GPS elevation data is incorrect for the bridge. There is a steady climb with about 200 feet of elevation gain from either side, and a saddle in the middle.
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