For five straight years, Sarah Kaplan biked every weekday morning from her home on Haight Street to her job in the Financial District. But she won’t be making that commute again any time soon.
Kaplan, an avid bicyclist, recently broke her elbow while biking on the Golden Gate Bridge, an injury she says could have been prevented with better management of the span’s crowded eastern sidewalk.
Due to construction, the west sidewalk — normally reserved for cyclists on weekends and holidays — has been closed since May 31, cramming sightseers, tourists, pedestrians and bicyclists into perilously tight conditions on the east sidewalk.
Kaplan’s injury occurred June 19, while she was traveling back to San Francisco after cycling in the North Bay. While navigating the crowds, she noticed a woman with a camera crossing the sidewalk, unaware of her surroundings. Kaplan swerved to avoid the woman, forcing her to crash into the guardrail and land violently on the ground.
“I was actually moving very slow,” said Kaplan, 27. “There was just nothing I could do. There was too much activity out there.”
After writhing around in agony for a few moments, Kaplan caught a ride back to San Francisco from another person on the bridge. At the doctor’s office, she learned her elbow was broken.
The injury required surgery and two pins in her elbow, forcing Kaplan off her bike for six to eight weeks. Even when she’s fully healed, she said, she’ll be wary about climbing back on her two-wheeler.
“It was definitely my preferred form of transportation,” Kaplan said. “I’m not sure if I’ll feel comfortable right away just getting back on my bike.”
Since the sidewalk closure, pedestrians and cyclists have criticized the chaotic scene on the east path. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition recently began circulating a petition asking the Golden Gate Bridge District to open up a traffic lane for cyclists, or provide a shuttle for bikers to avoid the crowded east sidewalk.
Kaplan said a dedicated lane for cyclists would be a good idea. More signage on the sidewalk and an increase in personnel to direct the crowds would also help, she said.
Earlier this year, the district proposed a bike speed limit on the span — either 5, 10 or 15 mph — but district spokeswoman Mary Currie said that plan has been postponed, and won’t be discussed again until September.
The district will soon start painting stripes on the sidewalk to designate spaces for pedestrians and cyclists, Currie said. It also recently added six new caution signs, warning visitors about the crowded sidewalks.
Currie said the district has recorded just one bike injury on the span since the west sidewalk closure, although she noted that some accidents — such as Kaplan’s — may not have been reported.
The western sidewalk is scheduled to reopen in October.
- 10,000 Pedestrians on the Golden Gate Bridge during a busy weekend day or holiday
- 6,000 Bicyclists on the bridge during a busy weekend day or holiday
- May 31 Beginning of west sidewalk closure
- 4 Months the west sidewalk will be closed
- 1 Reported accidents on the sidewalk since closure*
*Does not include Kaplan’s accident
Source: Golden Gate Bridge District