Bay to Breakers bans backpacks, will eject runners without bibs

Joseph Schell/s.f. examiner file photoThe Craigslist Bay to Breakers footrace will limit participants to small bags. Costumes are still encouraged.

Police and organizers of the massive Craigslist Bay to Breakers footrace announced new security measures Monday that include an increased crackdown on unregistered runners and a ban on most backpacks and bags.

The security measures, which will include an increased law enforcement presence, come as The City prepares for the first large footrace since two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three people and injuring hundreds.

One new security measure for the 12 kilometer race, which starts downtown and crosses The City to end at Ocean Beach, is a ban on backpacks, large bags and any type of container or carrier exceeding 8½-by-11-by-4 inches.

The two bombs used in the Boston attack were carried in backpacks and placed on the ground near crowds of people who amassed near the finish line.

Other security measures for the May 19 event include heightened enforcement of older rules, including a ban on participants who don’t register.

“We started really enforcing that for the last few years,” Bay to Breakers race director Angela Fang said of the unregistered runners.

In past years, race officials have estimated that as many as half of all event participants do not register. The only estimate that Fang would provide Monday as to the number of people who participate in Bay to Breakers without paying was more than in the hundreds but less than tens of thousands.

Security will be increased both along the course and at the post-race festivities, which this year will be held at the Ocean Beach parking lot.

“The Boston Marathon bombings have raised the public’s awareness of potential attacks,” Police Chief Greg Suhr said in a statement. “It has reminded the public to have a heightened sense of awareness. We are asking observers and participants to be attentive on race day and report unattended items such as backpacks and packages.”

He said extra security will be needed along the route and at places where large numbers of people congregate to watch the event along the 7½-mile course.

Fang said the racing industry as a whole is re-addressing security issues after the Boston attack.

Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for Mayor Ed Lee, said local security talks started on the very day of the Boston attacks, with the Police Department reaching out to the organizers of events from street fairs to footraces. She said the mayor fully supports the new Bay to Breakers security measures.

This is not the first year that race organizers have focused on security and safety. In 2008, organizers proposed a no-alcohol, no-nudity and no-float policy, although a backlash led to a deal that banned only booze in glass containers.

Then in 2011, the 100th running of the race, organizers banned floats and other wheeled objects. They also cracked down on unregistered and inebriated runners.

Dressing in costumes is still permitted and encouraged at the event, Fang said.

“We are hoping we still have the fun, irreverent race we’ve had for decades,” she said.

mbillings@sfexaminer.com

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