Monday, May 3, 2010

A ride over to the Marin Headlands? Not until September!

We don’t just put together bikes and sell them, we also love riding them.
It used to be that my favorite training ride, one of those rides that are handy when you have something else to do that day, was to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, climb the hill overlooking the Marin Headlands, stop for a minute to take in the view of San Francisco from the top of Conzelman Road, ride down the hill, perhaps take a detour to the Headlands Institute and Rodeo Beach to watch the waves, ride east on Bunker Road, climb again up McCullough Road and return to the city across the Bridge—about an hour and a half from my home in San Francisco. I used to take this ride twice, maybe three times a week.
Well, no more. Conzelman Road has been blocked off for the best part of this year.
Why? Because the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of Transportation have decided to improve something that was close to perfect. They are repaving the roads, enlarging them to accommodate parking for cars, and, yes, they are including a bike lane on the way up.
I certainly applaud the inclusion of  a bike lane, although it should not be necessary on what is substantially a country road. Here people are supposed to look at the stunning scenery and feel at peace with nature, rather than driving at top speed with great danger to themselves and to others without any law enforcement within sight. The newly paved roads will certainly not discourage such behavior.
What will Conzelman Road look like? According to the rendering shown in the project’s website,, it will be distressingly similar to the parking lot surrounding a suburban shopping mall.


Why is it that we think of some beautiful spot as some sort of tourist destination, or a ride, not as in bike ride but as in Disneyland ride, something that is made especially for tourists, in other words, and should be avoided carefully by locals. We have seen such trivialization happening with Lombard Street in San Francisco, which has no other reason to appeal to hordes of visitors than that of being curved. Still in San Francisco, Fisherman’s Wharf, another area that has become the prime example of a tourist trap, with the same shops and souvenirs we see anywhere else on the planet.
Why not leave to people to discover such attractions and feel a sense of achievement in their accomplishment? Why must tourism have this in-your-face quality? Why is it that whenever we discuss road improvement it is to increase the volume of traffic, primarily cars or buses? 


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