Bicyclists, pedestrians and wheelchair users voiced their concerns over a possible speed limit for bikes on the Golden Gate Bridge and sidewalk safety proposals at two public hearings in San Francisco Thursday.
The proposals–which include a 10 mph speed limit for bicycles on the east and west sides of the bridge–generated opposition from many of the 6,000 bicyclists who use the Golden Gate Bridge everyday.
If adopted, each speed limit violation would incur a $100 fine.
The hearings were scheduled to incorporate feedback from cyclists, pedestrians and other sidewalk users, said Denis Mulligan, general manager for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.
The district has already received almost 300 comments online and heard from 100 people at Thursday’s hearings, bridge district spokeswoman Mary Currie said.
The proposals were adopted after a study showed that out of 165 bike crashes in 2009, speed was a factor in at least 39 percent of the incidents, according to Berkeley-based Alta Planning and Design.
(Revised 5/23/11) The safety measures were proposed after a study showed that speed was a factor in 39 percent of the 165 bike crashes that occurred on the bridge over a 10-year period ending in 2009. Most of those were solo crashes and did not involve pedestrians or other bicyclists.
Officer Ross Ingles of the California Highway Patrol in Marin County has worked as a bicycle patrol officer on the Golden Gate Bridge since 2001.
Ingles described a crash he saw that involved a cyclist plowing into a tourist who was trying to take a picture of his family.
Neil Gehani, a San Francisco resident and member of the Mission Cycling Club, said speeding isn’t the only problem.
“We’re making speed the villain, when reckless bicycling is a big problem,” Gehani said.
With detectors, speed is easier to measure than reckless bicycling, Ingles said.
Many cyclists nodded in support of adding a radar detector sign that would gauge how fast bicyclists are traveling to help cyclists without speedometers.
Bridge Manager Kary Witt offered the idea of a speed limit that changed at different times of the day, such as allowing higher speeds at early morning commute times.
“When you go to pass grandma, you slow down,” Witt said.
Some cyclists were not in favor of any type of speed regulation.
“I’d like to not turn the bridge into a police state,” San Francisco resident Robert Schuchardt said.
Schuchardt, 73, is a member of both the San Francisco and Marin county bicycle coalitions. He has been biking across the Golden Gate Bridge for about 15 years.
The friction between pedestrians and bikers can be fixed through educating sidewalk users, better signage and marking the sidewalks with lines to guide people into certain areas, he said.
Changes need to be made to accommodate everyone, said Richard Skaff, who is the founder and executive director of Designing Accessible Communities. The Mill Valley nonprofit advocates creating universally accessible environments.
Bikers who speed are a concern to the bridge’s wheelchair users and sharing the location is important, said Skaff, who is in a wheelchair himself.
“I feel uncomfortable now because I (didn’t move) quickly out of their way,” Skaff said.
Others identified safety concerns with inexperienced tourists who rent bikes to travel across the bridge.
“Rental bikes are a challenge,” Mulligan said.
The bridge district is collaborating with rental bike companies to inform their customers about safety measures and helmet use, Witt said.
Nearly everyone expressed appreciation as they offered a variety of suggestions and ideas at Thursday afternoon’s hearing.
There will be more public forums, possibly in late June, before any proposals will be adopted, Mulligan said.
“We’re trying to make it safe and enjoyable for people on the Golden Gate Bridge,” he said.
Rachel Purdy, Bay City News