Commuter bicyclists in Novato, rejoice: The long-awaited path between South Novato Boulevard and Enfrente Road along Highway 101 will be shown off for the first time Friday. Maybe rose petals won’t be tossed on the path prior to the first riders hitting the fresh pavement, but it’s that big of a deal for those who have longed for a connection between north and south throughways.
“This is a major improvement for cyclists in Novato,” said Mark Birnbaum, one of the staunchest advocates of two-wheeled transportation in town.
The Marin County Bicycle Coalition has organized a ride to the event, and several dignitaries plan to be on hand when the city of Novato marks the completion of the multipurpose path at Friday at the path’s south end, just north of the parking lot. Those driving to the ceremony can park in the Pell Plaza parking lot (alias the headquarters lot) off South Redwood Boulevard.
The bike coalition riders are meeting in the Inn Marin lot at 2:15 p.m. and the ribbon cutting is to happen at 3 p.m. Light refreshments will be provided.
Before the new pathway was constructed, riders heading south would have to chance it on the shoulder of Highway 101 between South Novato Boulevard and the Enfrente/Entrada exit in Ignacio — a short span of freeway on which it was legal to ride a bike. “It was a poor surface with lots of glass and debris and close to fast-moving cars,” Birnbaum said.
Another option was to ride up and over the hill between South Novato Boulevard and Ignacio Boulevard (via South Redwood Boulevard and Palmer Drive) or around the hill via Sunset Parkway and Ignacio Boulevard. Birnbaum has been commuting on the hillier route for 11 1/2 years, but he admits “a major hill is not feasible for most people.”
Scott Warner, a Novato resident who commutes often by bike to his job in Larkspur, commented on a previous that he enjoyed the roundabout way up Sunset to Ignacio, “but this new alternative will be great for my occasional work commute by bike. In fact, it really puts a nice almost finishing stamp on the Route 5 bike network from north Novato to Larkspur, and hopefully more and more people will take advantage of the efforts (time and money) that our local bike advocates and city officials have put toward this.” He added that more cyclists riding to work means fewer cars on the road, less traffic and less greenhouse gas emissions.
City staffers were heavily involved in the project, including retired engineer Tom Nolan, who was a bike commuter for many of his 25 years with the city. Nolan helped secure initial funding from the county transportation agency, guide Caltrans through its part of the project and negotiate rights of way.
The city received $1.95 million in federal funding for the project, including $1.65 million of Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program funds allocated to Marin County. The contractor, Ghilotti Construction, started excavating for retaining walls in late June and placing the excavated material in the low areas.
The Marin County Bicycle Coalition has celebrated the reopening of several other short stretches of multiuse pathways in recent months, and the new Enfrente pathway is considered a critical link in Marin's North-South Greenway.
“These projects take patience and time, and MCBC values our members' support that keeps us involved with the decision-making processes to build a great bicycle network for all of you,” the coalition said in a release.