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Friday, April 22, 2011

San Francycle: The Truth About the Golden Gate Bridge Bike Speed Limit

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2011 at 7:38 AM

click to enlarge san_francycle_copy_thumb_500x178.jpg

Okay, let's get down to brass tacks with this Golden Gate Bridge bicycle speed-limit crypto-bullshit.

Here are the facts:

According to a study commissioned by the Golden Gate Transportation District, 6,000 cyclists pedal across the bridge everyday. That number is rising -- and so are the number of accidents, although not as fast as the number of cyclists on the bridge.

In other words, the bike-accident rate is dropping.

Over the last decade, there have been 63 speed-related bike accidents, which works out to about one every two months.

Doing some quick math: 6,000 cyclists a day would mean the bridge gets 360,000 cyclists every two months. One out of 360,000 is .0003 percent.

The study describes the sidewalks, in their current configuration, as "safe," and notes that "for the most part, bicyclists ride with the appropriate level of care."

In 2008, the District said it would get input from bike coalitions -- but it didn't.

The proposed designs for the bridge include markings that direct cyclists to ride HEAD ON INTO EACH OTHER.

The report recommends dropping the speed limit to 10 mph, but acknowledges "most speed limits on multi-use paths are 15 mph." There is no explanation as to why officials settled on 10 mph for the bridge.

We weren't immediately able to get numbers for the rate of car crashes on the bridge, but according to the Ex, there have been 36 fatal car crashes since 1970. There were no fatal bike crashes during the study period.

In 2009, there was a seven-car collision with many minor injuries. The year before that, there was a 10-car crash that injured 16, as well as a sideswipe and head-on crash that injured three. In all of those crashes, there would have been fewer injuries if the cars were traveling ... slower. Say, 10 mph, just as an example.

There is one very good idea in the study, but it gets only a passing mention: "In May 2009, the City Council of Vancouver, B.C. voted in support of a pilot project to remove one lane of vehicle traffic on Burrard Bridge for bicycle use."

We asked District spokeswoman Mary Currie whether anyone has proposed something similar. "Not in the 19 years I've been here," she tells SF Weekly. "The current policy is that we have six roadway lanes for cars. ... That capacity is needed."

It certainly is. With the number of bikes increasing, a growing risk of conflicts with pedestrians, and a proposal that squeezes contraflow cyclists into the very same lane, that "capacity" is most certainly needed.

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Matt Baume


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