Bicyclists traveling on the Golden Gate Bridge may soon have to watch their speed — or face a $100 fine.
In an effort to crack down on bike and pedestrian accidents, the Golden Gate Bridge District is recommending a 10-mph speed limit for cyclists, with the new restrictions set to be in place by summer’s end. The limit would drop to 5 mph near the bridge’s two towers.
Over the past decade, there have been 164 bicycle accidents on the bridge, with excessive speed a factor in 39 percent, spokeswoman Mary Currie said. Bridge officials hope a 10-mph limit with a $100 fine will keep bicyclists from unsafely zipping over the span.
Hunter Ziesing, executive director of the local cycling group ZTeam, said a speed limit is smart, and conceded that many serious bikers travel too fast or too aggressively on the span. However, he opposes the $100 fine and thinks 10 mph is too slow.
In fact, the average bike speed on the Golden Gate Bridge ranges from 13 to 17 mph. Currie said it will be up to individual riders to determine how fast they’re traveling.
“Bicyclists have to handle themselves in accordance with vehicle codes in other municipalities,” said Currie. “If this initiative goes through, it will be the same situation on the bridge.”
The district is working with the California Highway Patrol on how to enforce the limit. Any plan will include increased signage and pavement markings. The bridge district will not receive any citation revenue, Currie said.
Blazing Saddles owner Jeff Sears, who rents bikes to tourists for travel over the bridge, said the proposal would improve the visitor experience.
“We’ve heard customer complaints about getting harassed for moving too slow or being in the way,” said Sears, who commutes to San Francisco from Mill Valley on his bike. “I think everyone sees the writing on the wall that cycling is getting more popular and that there is going to be more people on the bridge, so a speed limit is necessary.”
Sears said his customers typically take their time on the bridge, so he doesn’t think they will incur $100 fines.
Along with deterring collisions between bicyclists, the district hopes a speed limit would cut down on pedestrian injuries. Walkers, who share the sidewalk with cyclists during portions of the weekday, were involved in 12 percent of the bike accidents on the bridge, a rate that is higher than normal, said Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of the advocacy organization Walk SF.
“Everyone has to be patient and realize we need to share this bridge,” said Stampe. “And to accomplish this, I think slower bike speeds are necessary.”
A new bicycle speed limit may be coming to the Golden Gate Bridge, but it’s unlikely to arrive in time for a crucial construction project that will force bikes and pedestrians to share the same sidewalk for a four-month span.
Starting on May 9, a 300-foot long section of the bridge’s northwest anchorage will undergo seismic retrofitting work, shutting down the sidewalk that bicyclists normally use during the busy weekend days.
Construction on the west anchorage is scheduled to last until Aug. 26, and during that time bicyclists and pedestrians will have to share the east sidewalk, a scenario that will lead to a very packed bridge.
During a typical busy day, 10,000 pedestrians and 6,000 cyclists cross the span, although during the weekend, those two crowds use different sidewalks. Bikes are normally barred from the east walkway on weekends and weekdays after 3:30 p.m.
On May 13, the Golden Gate Bridge District’s board of directors will vote on whether to authorize a new 10-mph speed limit for bicyclists, but it would take a few months for such a plan to be implemented, spokesman Mary Currie said. The speed restrictions are unlikely to be in place by the end of the four-month retrofit project.
The work is part of a $125 million project. Once the northwest anchorage is finished, crews will begin work on the northeast anchorage, shutting down that sidewalk for another four-month span.
“The real problem out there is all the tourists. They never have any idea what they’re doing, and they’re the ones who are putting people in harm’s way. A better idea would be to put all the bicycle renters on the sidewalk with the pedestrians, and open up the west side for recreational bicyclists.” — Jaffa Prince, recreational bicyclist, San Francisco
“I have mixed feelings on this. ... I think a speed limit wouldn’t be a bad idea, but enforcing it fairly would be impossible, and 10 mph is way too slow.” — Anthony Powers, recreational bicyclist, Oakland
“I think it would be pretty hard to tell if you’re going faster than 10 mph. The conditions could really affect your judgment — you could be traveling with a tailwind and have no idea you’re going that fast. And to charge someone $100 for that would be totally bogus.” — James Dexter, casual bicyclist, San Francisco