Golden Gate Bridge Daytime. CC BY-ND 2.0
Source: Flickr: TheGreenMan2010
Ah, the Golden Gate Bridge. What a beautiful piece of architecture!
The Golden Gate Bridge was constructed over the Golden Gate Strait, which is where the Pacific Ocean meets the San Francisco Bay. Back in the early 1930’s, this area was known to have a high traffic of ships that brought in goods and transported people between San Francisco, Marin, and various parts of the Bay Area. Because the Bay was so busy, the government did not agree with the construction of the bridge. Even the public didn’t want the bridge erected because the original design was very expensive and very ugly.
After a few more drafts on the design, more promotion, and a boycott on the ferry services, the Golden Gate Bridge began construction in 1933. On May 27, 1937, a ceremonial celebration was held and the bridge was open to pedestrians, bikers, and skaters to cross. By the next day, vehicles were allowed to make their commute to and from San Francisco and Marin. People were excited for this new change and celebrated it through civil and cultural events and activities known as “The Fiesta.”
From 1937 – 1964, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge and connected State Route 1 and U.S. Highway 101. Today, the bridge holds the record for the United States’ second longest suspension bridge main span at 4,200 feet. The Golden Gate Bridge also has reversible lanes which may be manually adjusted depending on the amount of traffic northbound and/or southbound.
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA – by bridgeandtunnelclub
Golden Gate Traffic. Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/criminalintent / CC BY-SA 2.0
Traffic on the Bridge
There are 6 lanes on the Golden Gate Bridge with movable markers to adjust the traffic flow. Because many offices and centers are located in San Francisco compared to the North Bay, the markers are moved to accommodate the increase in traffic during rush hour commute times. On weekdays, the morning commute has 4 southbound lanes and 2 northbound lanes. Then in the afternoon, the lanes are changed to have 4 northbound lanes and 2 southbound lanes. However, because there is no divider between the northbound and southbound lanes, the bridge speed limit is 45 mph (72 km/h) and the whole length of the bridge is considered a double-fine zone to limit the temptation for people to speed across the bridge. On weekends, there are generally 3 lanes going north and south unless traffic congests for special events and occassions.
The Golden Gate Bridge isn’t just for vehicle traffic. For locals and tourists who want to walk, jog, or skate across the bridge, there are 2 additional pedestrian lanes that are open. The east pedestrian lane facing Alcatraz and the East Bay is open during day light hours on weekdays only and the west pedestrian lane facing the Pacific Ocean is open during weekday afternoons, holidays, and weekends.
There is Hope. Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mpwillis / CC BY-ND 2.0
It’s no secret that San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is known for its high number of suicide reports. The 275-ft fall into frigid cold waters with strong rip currents are a relentless ending for those who jump. While the cause of death can be immediate upon impact with the water, some cases showed other causes such as hypothermia and drowning. The Bridge, a documentary based on suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge, has been extremely controversial as its producers tell stories of those who committed suicide in 2004. It includes interviews of the friends and family of the deceased, witness accounts, an interview with a survivor, and a look into the life of those who had unfortunately lost their lives at the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco has been implementing ways to prevent suicides from happening on the Golden Gate Bridge. In the evenings, the pedestrian lanes are only open to bicycle traffic but require all bicycle commuters to be buzzed in and out so staff know that they had made it across safely. Staff members also patrol the pedestrian lanes to locate people who appear to want to jump and escort them off of the bridge to safety. The span is also dotted with blue signs and yellow phones which offer crisis counseling to offer hope to someone who is thinking of jumping. And currently, there are lots of discussions, appeals, and proposals to add more preventative measures, such as a suicide barrier, fence, and net. But with California in a budget deficit, and the current state of the economy, it will take several years of funding before any of it can be developed. Until then, city officials will continue to bid for more measures of suicide prevention on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Please visit the Golden Gate Transportation District’s web site for more information, the current price of toll, improvement proposals, a live webcam feed, events, and opportunities at the Golden Gate Bridge.