Showing posts with label Marin Headlands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marin Headlands. Show all posts

Friday, December 20, 2013

Marin Headlands: Miwok and Marincello

An amazingly nice mountain bike loop in the Marin Headlands, just across the Golden Gate from San Francisco, is the Miwok trail - Marincello trail climb combination. The two are connected by the Old Springs trail descent with its fun series of modest steps. The return from the Marincello summit is the Bobcat Trail descent.

A profile of the climbs with the Old Springs descent in between is here:


The smoothed grade versus distance is here: grade

The grades omit the transitions at the bottom and top. Still, they don't do full justice to the difference. Miwok is an undulating grade, with a series of steeper portions, while Marincello is more of a steady grind with a brief recovery followed by a final short, steep bit at the end. Marincello is a smoother surface: there's some ruts on Miwok. But both trails are easily rideable on a road bike. The Old Springs descent is a bit rough going on a road bike but it's still not a problem.

This is an awesome loop and easily extendable with Coastal Trail from/to Conzelman for Golden Gate Bridge access, or to the north via the more technical portion of Miwok and the steeper trails surrounding.

A Strava route is here.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Car-Free Headlands, thanks to the Republican Party

I rode Hawk Hill in the Headlands today, and what an eye-opening experience. Rather than a traffic-clogged photo-op, it was a peaceful vista to be savored and enjoyed. Walkers, hikers, cyclists were going up and down the hill, all smiling at the rare opportunity presented by the Federal shutdown... the shut-down of a national park service that is so car-centric it views "access" synonymous with "car access". I went to the summit then started descending the backside of Conzelman. As I turned a corner I saw two women slowly climbing the other way. My first reaction was "they're crazy", until a few seconds later it occurred to me... why not? The "narrow" road is plenty wide enough for bidirectional bike traffic. So when I reached the bottom I turned around and climbed it myself: ouch, that is steep. It's an opportunity I'm not likely to get again.

I strongly recommend checking it out. It's a chance to envision the potential of Hawk Hill -- something more than a traffic-clogged parking lot where people step out of their oversized vehicles, snap a few photos, then drive back down. I really wish the park service would realize that their version of "access" destroys the beauty of what they have the duty to protect.

One downer: I suffered dearly on that oh-so-steep climb of the Conzelman backside only to later upload my data and find the segment was flagged. The pain, the pain...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

re-cycling the Marin Headlands

Back in April I lamented the closing of the Marin Headlands for construction. Well, the construction was finally completed last month, and Sunday for the first time since then I rode the loop.

I've been sick for two weeks now: sniffling, hacking, and coughing has been epidemic at work, and after Thanksgiving it was my turn in line. So I've been feeling sort of crappy, riding as I'm able. Yet yesterday I motivated myself to try a loop of the challenging and beautiful Headlands. The last time I'd ridden to the Hawk Hill summit was September, when it had been unpaved, serene, and illegal. The chance to have ridden it without car traffic had been too much to resist. Now the pavement is done and yesterday, fearful of what I would observe, I set off.

Hawk Hill in September
Hawk Hill in September, during repaving.

The result: the pavement is pristine, as expected, which is nice, of course. And my fears of "improvement" were unfounded: there's been little "improvement" to degrade what had been, with the exception of tourist vehicles, a spectacular gem of a road so close to the city of San Francisco. There's a prominent traffic circle at the intersection of McCullough and Conzelman, a few pull-outs presumibly so slower moving (???) cars can allow others to pass, obviously improved guard rails, and sand bags on McCullough which seem to serve as a buffer for vehicles which drive off the road. All of this seems like the sort of infrastructure you'd expect to see on Alpine roads taken by long-distance travelers. The traffic on Conzelman, on the other hand, is virtually all tourists driving their rental-SUVs up the hill so they can admire the view and snap digital photos. And on McCullough most of the traffic is bicycles: there's not much reason for cars to drive there.

So my suspicion that this was all a pork-fest for the formerly Madame Speaker remains. As a result we all get to use those spectacular roads one less summer of our lives, and the economy is driven incrementally further into its chasm of debt. Oh, I forget, it's "stimulus". The new guard rails will generate all sorts of revenue for future generations, spurring a rebirth of American productivity.

Anyway, the loop is much nicer in this season of fall/winter than it is in the summer, anyway. The weather isn't that much different, and the tourists are much reduced. And nothing spoils a good road like cars.

Which is why the proper approach is to close it to cars. Create a pedestrian lane on the "view" side, a bidirectional bike lane on the inland side, and let people enjoy the beautiful, short hike to the summit and back. Oh, people would probably whine and complain about disabled access, and I'm sympathetic, but if disabled access requires maintaining vehicular access, then we should just convert the entire National Park trail system into paved vehicular roads. Such an investment would truly be "stimulus": simulating a little health and exercise, and substantially improving the tranquility of what should be a very wonderful place.

Monday, April 26, 2010

bike ban on East Road in the Headlands

The forbidden way... click for larger map.

"No Bikes" is all the sign at the entrance to East Road says. The old sign, which said "due to gravel" along with how vehicles and pedestrians were still allowed, was gone. I guess they decided it was time to get serious.

That sealed the deal. I turned onto East Road, rather than continue on the more direct route up Alexander.

It's all completely ridiculous. There's a few trenches, marked with ominous "open trench" signs, which are filled with dirt and covered with gravel. Sanchez Road between Market and Duboce in the City is far worse. Yet for some reason cyclists, the majority of the traffic mountain bikes designed for riding up fire roads and single-track, is forbidden. Oh, my -- a cyclist might hit the gravel and crash! But so might a motorcyclist, or for that matter any vehicle. During the week the road is completely closed to all traffic, but on weekends, cars and pedestrians are allowed. Only cyclists are denied access.

In California, cyclists may only be banned from freeways, tunnels, bridges, and expressways (a recent addition to the list). I suppose temporary emergency situations which might be particularly hazardous to cyclists, such as a power line downed in a storm, might also apply. But East Road is different: it's national park land, part of the Golden Gate National Park. The Federal government is far less pro-cyclist than California, at least in talking the talk. The California Bike Coalition and the San Francisco Bike Coalition have each done fantastic work towards promoting the rights of cyclists to use the roads. The League of American Bicyclists far less successful, in my humble view. In fact, only recently has the federal government made it a policy statement that cyclist access be a priority in transportation projects. And for this, Transportation Secretary La Hood has taken a lot of flak from the radical motorheads, who very much like the monopoly their carbon-spewing behemoths of steel and plastic have on the federal transportation infrastructure.

The whole Headlands project, of which the East Road trenches are a part, promises to improve the conditions for cyclists there. But it's all porkified hogwash. Conditions for cyclists in the headlands now are almost idyllic, all except for the tunnel on Bunker Road, which at least has a trigger for cyclists to illuminate a warning sign of their presence in the tunnel. No -- the purpose of the project is to facilitate car access: to "handle the rigors of 21st century tourism." Whoa -- I thought the "drive the SUV up the hill, take a photo, and drive back down" paradigm was the folly of late-20th century tourism, hopefully not the 21st. This century, we've realized we've got to be smarter managing the movement of people and objects: hauling 6000 lb of mass-produced, over-marketed junk up a 1000 foot climb to carry a 150 lb tourist (okay, I'm optimistic: most are a lot more than 150 lb...) to a viewpoint is obscene. For those that can't hike up, there can be a shuttle. Wider roads = more cars = just as much congestion, more pollution, and worse conditions for cyclists, not better. A few painted stripes and bike stencils on the road won't change that.

So please ride East Road. Ride it often. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one doing so: I saw a number of other cyclists doing the same. We as cyclists don't need to be coddled any more than motor vehicle operators need to be coddled. If anything, we need to be coddled less: cycling, unlike driving, is a right, not a privilege.