Bikers Voice Concern Over GG Bridge Speed Limit

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Bikers compete for space on the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Officials are looking at implementing a speed limit for bikers who ride across the span.

    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.

    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.