Belmont gets connected

There isn't much that will get me out of bed at 6:30 on a Saturday morning. The (very) short list of motivational morning events includes flights to tropical destinations, medical emergencies, earthquakes (magnitude 6.0 or above), and waffles. I can now add youth-centric bike bridge ribbon cuttings to that list.

On Saturday, November 19, I was invited to speak at the ribbon cutting for the City of Belmont's new bicycle/pedestrian bridge over Highway 101 at Ralston, named “Children's Bridge.” I was joined by many other speakers, all of them much more well-regarded than me, including Assemblymember Jerry Hill, State Senator Leland Yee, County Supervisor Carole Groom, Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi, representatives for both Senators Feinstein and Boxer, Belmont's Mayor Feierbach, and others. As City Manager Greg Scoles put it, they always invite this many speakers, but they never all say yes. This time, everybody wanted to be there.

Children's Bridge before the ceremony
The scene upon my (early) arrival.

And why wouldn't they? This is a bridge that was designed using children's drawings as inspiration, whose ultimate goal was to give children a safe way to cross Highway 101 and arrive at the city's sports complex. There was a huge group of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other kids on hand, chomping at the bit to take a ride or walk over the swervy, curvy, blue new span. So eager was the crowd, and so numerous the speakers, that we all took our prepared three-minute talking points and scribbled them down to about 45 seconds. My long-winded pontification on the value of balancing separated bike infrastructure with on-street facilities quickly got boiled down to “Keeping kids safe on bikes is important!” The politicians on either side of me were savvy enough to not keep a couple hundred kids waiting through long speeches before playtime started. We did good, and got through the whole lineup without a riot.

Kids line up for the bridge
This was not a crowd we wanted to keep waiting.

Getting ready for the ribbon cutting
The politicians know that supporting bikes wins reelections.

All in all, it was a beautiful morning. The sun came out and dried the ground; the community came out in huge numbers to show their support and enjoy the new structure; and a vision a decade in the making was finally realized. I know that some might argue that money would be better spent on making the nearby Ralston Avenue over-crossing more bike-able, but one doesn't have to preclude the other, and I saw many parents at the ceremony that feel more comfortable with their kids using the new bridge.

The bridge is opened
Finally, the bridge was opened. The author didn't tread much farther than in this picture.

I, on the other hand, have a deep-rooted fear of heights, and bike/ped bridges pretty much paralyze me with their full-side-view design. I got about 100 feet up the east-side ramp, fought the urge to drop onto all fours and cling to the legs of the nearest person, and turned around to hightail it back to the ball field. Thanks to the City of Belmont for inviting me and hosting such a great ceremony!

Read more about the ribbon cutting ceremony and see a picture of my best lizard face at the Belmont Patch.

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