Unlocking the Ravenswood Preserve to EPA Residents

In 2021 East Palo Alto resident Vignesh Swaminathan sent me a message asking if I wanted to go for a walk. He was concerned about how a new bike trail on the other side of town from me was built.  Vignesh, it turns out, is a TikTok star and has something like a million followers under his nom de plume, “Mr Barricade.”  We walked over to the Ravenswood Preserve, a part of town that I honestly rarely visited as they prohibit dogs.

What I saw shocked me. The newly opened bike trail was built to exclude access to East Palo Alto residents. It is literally locked off to EPA residents in University Village, and in order to access this trail they need to walk an additional ~1.5 miles to get to exactly the same spot on the other side of the fence from their home. Vignesh made this TikTok video:


♿🚴🏿‍♀️#adaaccessible #trailhead encourage #multimodal #transportation #bike #walking #epa #redlining #civilengineering #urbanplanning #streetparking

♬ original sound - MrBarricade

Why did The City of East Palo Alto, Midpeninsula Openspace, Facebook,  SF PUC, and Menlo Park all agree to build a beautiful bike trail that intentionally fenced off  East Palo Alto residents?

I messaged all City Council Members and City Staff about this issue in October 2021. I – naively – thought this would be an easy matter to resolve and the gate would be open in a matter of weeks, surely less than 3 months. How wrong I was!

The good news is that although it has taken longer than anyone wanted, MidPen voted unanimously to open the gate. The San Francisco Public Utility Commission will need to approve the final design, but an agreement in principle has been reached to open the bike trail to the community. I made a comment in person at this meeting:

My takeaway lesson on this is that it is vitally important that we show up at these meetings and advocate for EPA – if we do not, nobody else will. It is shocking that our city leadership on City Council and Staff meekly went along with the idea to open a bike trail for Facebook engineers yet at the same time lock it off to EPA residents.

The new gate on Rutgers should be open in late summer 2024. It will be a great reason to celebrate once this issue is finally behind us, and everyone in EPA has access to this wonderful trail.

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