London Cyclist in SF (and a Proposed Bike Speed Limit)

Golden Gate
Photo © London Cyclist

Andreas of London Cyclist fame was recently in San Francisco and spent the day sightseeing around the city on a rental bicycle. He blogged about his experience and it sounds like he had a great time exploring Golden Gate Park and points north, including the obligatory trip across the bridge. It’s fun to read about the city from the perspective of a bicyclist from another country.

Did you know that bicycle rentals in S.F. have exploded from $500,000 a year in 1995 to over $10 million last year, with most of those bikes being used to cross the Golden Gate on sightseeing excursions? Recently, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation district commissioned a study to look at bike/ped safety on the bridge sidewalks. Alta Planning and Design conducted the study, which, among other things, recommends a 10mph speed limit on the bridge (5mph near the towers). Many feel the speed limit is not justified by the study’s findings – Alta’s statistics show 165 “accidents” on the bridge between 2000-2009, with the most common type being “solo bicycle”. A majority of the incidents took place on the western sidewalk where pedestrians are not allowed. A resulting backlash by bicyclists and bike rental companies has delayed implementation of the speed limit (for now).

While the speed limit is intended to be permanent, its recommendation comes just as a bridge retrofit project is set to begin which will require closing the west sidewalk from 5/9/11 – 8/26/11.

London Cyclist

7 Responses to “London Cyclist in SF (and a Proposed Bike Speed Limit)”

  • John Ferguson says:

    San Francisco bike rentals are big business – the ripple effects of all those cycling tourists can be felt around the bay. Sausalito has had an ongoing debate for the last couple of years about how much they should do to encourage or discourage cyclists – some merchants see them as taking away from business and have tried to get some sort of tariff imposed on the big rental companies to offset the cost of dedicated parking, etc. I don’t think that effort is going anywhere, but there’s real resistance in the Sausalito merchant community and among some council members to building or maintaining any sort of bike facilities. They think that cyclists don’t spend money, or that the existence of so many cyclists will take away from their business somehow. I’d love to see some sort of comparative study of retail sales in areas prior to and after installation of cycling facilities, although it would be hard to control for all the other variables that could affect those numbers (like general economic conditions, the mix of retail in different markets, etc.)

    I bike across the GGB regularly on my commute to work, and it seems like most people are courteous and aware of bikes. You just have to pay attention and let people know what you’re doing. I have a bell on all my bikes, and GGB passage is a major reason why. I’m dinging that thing constantly when I’m crossing the bridge when there’s significant foot traffic (which is any time after 9 am, I’d say). The speed limit likely won’t have a noticeable effect on safety, but at least the bridge authority can point to something that they did to ‘improve safety’. I think the plan as Alta drew it up is mostly unworkable, but we’ll see what they come up with in the revision phase.

  • John Ferguson says:

    Just found the update from last year – Streetsblog SF reported that bike parking has been added but no tariffs discussed:

    Council appears split 3-2 on whether tourist bikes are a good thing or a bad thing. Luckily, 3 think it’s a good thing..

  • peteb says:

    I have rented in SF, made the ride through Sausalito to Tiburon, and then taken the ferry back (May 2009). It was wall-to-wall bikes on the main deck of the ferry. Sausalito was seeing a lot of walk-in business at restaurants and shops, and the only reason that I didn’t see more bicyclists was that the parking lots were dedicated to cars, with very little in rack/lock for bicycles. The one big rack was jammed with bikes. I was there in what I assume is the “off season” and it was very busy. The complaints on either end seem retrograde… Parking Fees down? How about cashing in on reduced road repairs from reduced auto traffic?

    The obvious: your community has a $10mil annual bike rental bonanza and businesspeople can’t find a way to cash in? That is what we call a *you* problem.

  • Darryl says:

    Good grief, how fast are these people wanting to ride? 10 -12 mph is my preferred speed.

  • John Ferguson says:

    @Darryl, if you rode across the bridge in your preferred range, you’d likely be exceeding the proposed limit, especially travelling downhill. Kinda proves the point that this speed limit is probably unworkable.

    If the path is clear, I’ll average 15 mph across the bridge which doesn’t seem fast when there’s no one on it. If there are tons of pedestrians, there’s no way to ride that fast safely but we don’t need to have a speed limit to know that. Just cite those who are ‘riding dangerously’.

  • John Riley says:

    London cyclist did not take the best routing for parts of this trip. The maps provided with the rental bikes are really inadequate. The full-on SF bike route maps are better.

    I appreciate that riding across the bridge is special to the visitors, but I can’t help thinking they would see more of the city on a different loop. The place is getting quite rideable.

  • Andreas says:

    Hard to say whether a speed limit would be a good idea. Experienced riders that live in SF want to go fast. Tourists (like myself) want to go slow to take in the bridge. Perhaps it would be better to just put a sign up warning people that if you hear someone shouting “On Your Left” it means they are about to overtake you at speed on the left! A simple solution that may cut down on the accidents without imposing a hard to implement speed limit.

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