San Francisco’s drug-infested bike trail closed to cyclists

Written by By Jana Maguire, CNN

A 34-mile stretch of trail in San Francisco has a weed problem.

The World Heritage-listed Bayview Loma trail is a popular destination for bicyclists and pedestrians from San Francisco to the Marin County hills. But a stretch of the trail is so infested with weeds, particularly in the northeast portion of the trail between Pacifica and Marina, that the entire length of the trail has to be closed to cyclists to keep the trails safe.

Despite dozens of pleas for help by locals and the California Coastal Commission, the city of San Francisco and the city’s Department of Public Works have failed to remove the weeds in their entirety.

“It’s all but impossible for a biker to ride on the trail in the northeast for half a mile,” said Alex Cohn, chief counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s like a bike path for mud-dawg riders.”

Leading up to the rainy season, cycles who wish to ride on the track will have to put in a waiver to cross the open ground.

In response to concerns about the weed issue, the San Francisco Department of Public Works ‘spokesperson Alicia Trost said in an email: “The sandblasting contractor has identified (almost all) weed or brush in the area, and the contractor is currently clearing the ground with a blowtorch. The contractors and contractors will be returning once the storm clears for a second round of blasting.”

“Given this has been a multi-year project for the contractor to complete and to the clean up, it has been decided it would be prudent to allow a second round of blasting following (the) storm to ensure the smooth flow of traffic.”

The issue has been on the city’s radar for some time, said Cohn.

“They’ve let this grow to a significant extent for several years, and it has now become a safety concern to bike users in the Bayview-Loma area, particularly along Cesar Chavez (Avenue),” he said.

To understand the full extent of the problem, a Washington Post reporter and photographer rode on the trail and then rode the strip of trail bordered by weeds.

Every time they crossed the open ground, the rakes and mowers that ran all along the trail would stop and chain back to their workplaces, deterring the cyclists from crossing the open ground. The trail was littered with rocks, dirt and pruned shrubs. There were no shrubs that could be saved, only weeds.

So in February, Councilmember David Campos introduced a resolution calling for the city to remove all weed along the trail that was not crushed. At a meeting last month, the city called it a “complex and monumental undertaking.”

“The Coast Trail is arguably one of the most scenic links between two famous treasure troves of California’s waterways — San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean,” he said in a statement . “For years it has been a protected national treasure from seaweed growth — and for cyclists it is also a gorgeous and rare chance to ride clean and safe in dense rainforest sections as close to the water as possible.”

Cyclists who need to use the trail on the northern section of the trail have had to take a 20-mile detour. Cohn said that the city’s inaction on the problem is in violation of its own rules.

“The entire Bay Trail is designated as a high priority recreational trail and as such, the City requires any such construction or improvement to be located within a two-mile radius of a road,” he said. “This design is in effect for a reason, and is designed to protect both people and the environment. Simply, it’s unfair to close the entire trail when a considerable portion, like the northeast portion, is where the weed is located.”

Since the bike trail and route have been closed to cyclists, Cohen said they have been finding all sorts of other problems on the section that was open.

“There are a lot of unpleasant issues with navigating the open land between Marina and Pacifica,” he said. “I have seen dog waste, garbage, roadside encampments, power lines down, and someone sunbathing on top of a transmission line.”

He said that the city’s passive neglect of the weed problem has already caused serious damage to the riverbed. “Any other part of the route is simply not there. Trees are being completely removed, vegetation is being significantly impacted and the water quality has been significantly degraded

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