FREMONT (KPIX) – On December 1, the Fremont City Council voted unanimously to permanently close most of Morrison Canyon Road to vehicle traffic. While the vote wasn’t narrow, the road certainly is.
What looks like a walking path is actually a two-way city street. Or, at least it was until 2018, when the city closed it to cars because things were getting pretty crazy.READ MORE: UPDATE: Penngrove House Fire, Spot Fires Contained; Evacuations North of Petaluma Lifted
“My friend and I would walk up here a lot and at one point she actually got side-swiped by a mirror of the cars!” said hiker and nearby resident Tina Butler. “So, we’re like, yeah, we love to walk Morrison Canyon but we can’t really do that anymore!”
The road was carved out of the hills in the 1800s for horses and wagons to use and is less than nine feet wide in some spots with sheer cliffs on either side.
Fremont finally closed the street after the Vargas Plateau Regional Park was built at the top of the mountain, attracting lots of hikers and bikers. Long-time cyclist Lance King said the problem really started when GPS apps began directing cars to the road as a shortcut to Interstate 680.
“Yeah, it was funny,” he said. “I’d be going down on my bike and I’m coming up on a car — they aren’t looking out the windshield, they’re looking down at their phone. It was creepy!”READ MORE: KNP Complex Fire: Sequoia National Park's Giant Forest Unscathed
The city says before it was closed, the tiny road was seeing about 400 daily car trips during the weekday afternoon commute. So, after two years of temporary car closure, last week the City Council made it permanent.
“The idea of a cyclist going up there and a car coming, racing down, it’s simply incompatible,” said Councilmember Vinnie Bacon. “I think it has to be one or the other.”
But Attorney Michael Colantuono, who represents some of the residents up the hill, said the street is a public asset that should be shared. He admits it’s a dangerous situation but said first responders have been reluctant to use the road because militant cyclists have occasionally stacked rocks on it to discourage vehicle traffic.
“As a way of staking their claim that this should not be used by cars at all. In their mind, it’s their road,” said Colantuono. “And it’s easy politics to favor the bicyclists and walkers who live and vote in your community at the expense of people who may not get to the hospital when they need to.”MORE NEWS: Man Charged With Attempted Murder After Woman Repeatedly Ran Over By SUV At Millbrae Starbucks
Colantouno says his clients are considering challenging the decision in court. Still, at this point, the City Council has decided that Morrison Canyon Road is too narrow for cars and there is no room for compromise either.