Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, already a hair-raising experience for novices, will get a little more interesting starting today, when scaffolding on the span narrows the western sidewalk, which could force cyclists to walk their bikes.
On Tuesday night, scaffolding equipment was amassed for the bridge’s massive cable renovation project, a three-year venture to clean, repair and paint the span’s iconic support structure.
The first such work will occur along a 400-foot-long section at the middle of the span, shortening the width of the western sidewalk, which is strictly for bike use, from 10 feet to 7 feet, said bridge district spokeswoman Mary Currie.
After crews set up the scaffolding — which was set to begin this morning and could take several weeks — the first six-month installment of cable recoating will begin.
Currie said the bridge district could, if warranted, ask cyclists to walk along their bikes for the length of the construction zone.
"We’re going to see how it goes," Currie said. "We plan on monitoring the situation and talking to cyclists, and if in the end we think the best move is to make people walk their bikes, we’ll pursue that option."
Jeff Sears, the owner of Blazing Saddles, a bicycle rental company whose customers frequently cross the bridge, said his business has received plenty of notice about the construction and hopes it moves along as quickly as possible. He said his company will warn its customers about the narrower sidewalks.
Upon completion of the project’s first phase, construction crews will move further north on the west sidewalk, constricting another 400-foot segment for an additional six months. Once work is completed on the west side, the scaffolding will move to the east sidewalk, which is used mainly by pedestrians.
Cable renovation isn’t the only major bridge project scheduled in 2011.
Sometime this year, perhaps this summer, the district will embark on a seismic retrofitting project that will completely shut down pedestrian and bike traffic along a 300-foot section of the western sidewalk at the span’s northern anchorage. During that period, bikes will be allowed on the eastern sidewalk. Normally, bikes are barred from that walkway daily after 3:30 p.m.
Currie didn’t have an exact date for that project, but it and the cable recoating have been pushed back from their original start date. The recoating was supposed to begin in August, and the retrofitting was originally intended to start in November.
Cable renovation will occur in segments.
6 months: Duration of first segment of cable recoating project on western sidewalk
400 feet: Length of project, located near the middle of the span
10 feet: Normal width of western sidewalk
7 feet: Width of sidewalk in construction zone
Source: Golden Gate Bridge