City officials in San Francisco are planning to introduce speed limits for cyclists on the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, but their proposals are meeting with strong opposition from local cycling campaigners.
The measures, which would see cyclists fined $100 for exceeding 10mph on shared used paths along most of the bridge’s 1.7 mile span, falling to 5mph around the towers, are being introduced due to the frequency of accidents, some involving pedestrians, reports SF Gate.com, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
Yet a study commissioned by bridge officials last year on the subject of the safety of cyclists and pedestrians on the bridge found that during the previous decade, there had been 164 crashes on the bridge involving bicycles – around one a month – and speed was only a factor in 39% of those. During the same period, there were 235 incidents involving motor vehicles.
Bicycle campaigners say that rather than speed, most accidents are caused by slippery conditions brought about by the city’s notorious fog.
The speed limit will be monitored by officers of the California Highway Patrol equipped with radar guns, although campaigners point out that since speedometers are not fitted to bicycles as standard, it is difficult for riders to assess their speed.
Kim Baenisch, executive director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, which covers the area to the north of the bridge, across the bay from the city, said: "To be ticketed for going 11mph because you have some tailwind behind you seems really unreasonable."
Commuter Lew Ketcher, aged 68, who rides across the bridge nearly every day, said that the biggest safety concern was tourists using hire bikes.
"There are people coming right at you with a camera in one hand, looking out at the water,” he explained. “There are people stopping right in the middle of the path to take a picture."
However, Denis Mulligan, general manager of the bridge, insisted that introducing speed measures was a necessary step because of narrow sidewalks and the number of tourists visiting it. “Our concern is safety,” he maintained.
Opposition to the plans has met with some success, however; instead of pressing ahead with the proposed speed limits, officials have postponed a vote on them and agreed to hold meeting with bicycle campaigners to hear their views.
"Since we're asking them to go slower, it seems reasonable for us to go slower,” said Mr Mulligan.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.