If you want to travel between San Francisco and the nearby town of Sausalito you can certainly drive. Many people do. But traffic is miserable and parking at either end is frustrating. Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to ride a bicycle over the Golden Gate Bridge. An entire ecosystem of small companies has sprung up to serve a growing market of bike commuters and tourists alike.
It’s also effortless to take a ferry boat between Sausalito and downtown San Francisco either on foot or with a bicycle. Biking is very inexpensive compared to the cost of a car, insurance, parking, gas… Think how much more miserable the highways would be if all these pedestrians and cyclists were in cars trying to drive over the bridge. It’s nice to have options. And the view is spectacular when you actually have the ability to look around and enjoy it.
Compare the cost of dedicated bike lanes and bike racks to the one mile segment of Highway 101 that’s just been upgraded. The Department of Transportation dropped $1.4 billion on Doyle Drive. It’s a magnificent piece of engineering, but a space shuttle could have been launched with that kind of cash. Or everyone in North America could have gotten a pretty nice bike.
Keep in mind, Doyle Drive wasn’t absolutely essential. It connects residential side streets in the Marina District (technically Lombard Street is part of Highway 101) with the entrance to The Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge is already served by Highway 1. No matter how much the feeder roads are expanded and improved there are still only six lanes on the bridge. Having a dozen lanes from two freeways squeeze on to a six lane bridge does nothing to speed traffic. Doyle Drive is just an impressive funnel.
Right about here is where people start talking about elites and the privileged class of people who have the leisure to ride around on bikes when hard working Americans from distant suburbs to the north are just trying to get their kids off to school and get to work in their sixteen year old Fords and Toyotas. So I have to ask. Who pays the $1.4 billion for the road? How much do bike paths cost? Where’s the greatest burden? What’s the biggest bang for the buck?