San Francisco Bay area bike commuters may have to give themselves some extra time, in the near future, if their daily trek takes them across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge — which remains the main link from Marin County to the city — due to a new proposal of a 10 mile per hour speed limit on the bridge for bikes.
Bridge officials cited safety concerns, due to narrow bridge sidewalks and multiple user types, when they announced the proposal.
The idea of a speed limit did not sit well with riders, however, Denis Mulligan, bridge general manager, said that the city plans to sit down and discuss the matter with cyclists.
Of course not all cyclists see the speed limit in such negative light. “I think that a speed limit actually does make some sense on the bridge,” said Marin County cyclist Sean Fekete told BikeRadar. He noted that even though there is a lane that is supposed to be dedicated to bikes, often times it is used by pedestrians or blocked by tourists taking pictures from the bike side of the bridge. “They are often completely oblivious to the fact that there are bikes traveling on the path – at any speed 5, 10, 15 or otherwise.”
These issues concern the bridge managers as well. The issue isn’t just high speeds, but the fact that riders are traveling at many different speeds and that there are still pedestrians mixed in. Fekete knows this very well from his daily rides home from the city to Marin. “When there are folks who are out on their bikes flying past at 20mph and swerving around the slower riders, it’s just dangerous to all parties on many different levels,” he said. “It wouldn’t be an issue if the riding path were wide and everyone were of equal cycling ability and awareness and there were no pedestrians, but it isn’t, it is standard sidewalk width at best.”
Bridge officials propose a 10mph speed limit for bikes on the golden gate bridge: bridge officials propose a 10mph speed limit for bikes on the golden gate bridge Benson Kua/Creative Commons
Bridge officials propose a 10mph speed limit for bikes on the Golden Gate Bridge
Another issue is that the bike lane side – the western side – is reportedly used by maintenance crews to store equipment. According to the recently released Bicycle Safety Study for the Golden Gate Bridge, which was published in April, the sidewalks are approximately 10 feet wide across most of the span, but are reduced at light poles and at other areas where maintenance equipment is stored along the outside railing. At their narrowest point the sidewalks are 5.5 feet wide around the Bridge pylon.
The study also found that over the past decade there have been 164 accidents reported on the bridge; however most being single rider crashes. These solo accidents occurred five times more often than those involving pedestrians. Despite claims from bicycle groups that speed isn’t really a factor, the study did conclude that speed was a contributing factor in 39 percent of the accidents.
Even riders who are opposed to the speed limits maybe left with few other choices. The bridge is simply the shortest route from Marin to downtown. “Any alternative method would require significantly more time and money even if the 10mph limit is implemented,” said Fekete. “The only choices would be bus or ferry, both of which add time and money.”