Yesterday I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, something I have done at least one hundred times in my 30+ years living in the Bay Area. Tomorrow is the Bridge’s birthday, so let’s cross it here together.
Heading southbound into San Francisco, there are a total of six lanes that span the bridge for both directions. The number of lanes per direction varies by the time of day and traffic flow.
Commuters driving to San Francisco from the north during the morning rush hours usually have four lanes, as shown in the photo below, on a workday at dawn.
Lanes are managed by a movable barrier system, so the number of lanes in each direction changes numerous times throughout each day, depending on traffic flow.
The movable barrier system is made up of 3,517 interlocking steel and concrete pieces. Called the Road Zipper for its interlocking system that resembles a zipper, it is a yellow machine operated by two people, that adjusts the lanes.
This system creates barriers between the lanes. It was installed in 2015 to prevent head-on collisions and has succeeded.
You can see the bright yellow Road Zipper in the next two photos.
The Golden Gate Bridge first opened to traffic on May 27, 1937.
The toll to cross then was 50 cents per car in each direction. Now, 86 years later, it is $9.75.
More toll info: GGB Highway and Transportation District
More info: Wikipedia Golden Gate Bridge
Many people like to cross on foot or bicycle, there are sidewalks. It’s fun…and costs nothing. It is usually cool or cold, and windy. It is also loud, with the constant and rhythmic thu-dud thu-dud of vehicles.
But it’s completely exhilarating and picturesque.
Standing on the bridge, you are 246 feet (75m) above the water. You are up high.
If it is not foggy, looking east you see the San Francisco Bay with Alcatraz and Angel Islands, and miles and miles of water.
But foggy days are frequent.
Long barges and large ships lumber to and from the shipyards.
Sailboats and yachts abound on a sunny day.
Ferries transport commuters and tourists year-round.
Looking to the west is the vast Pacific Ocean and the ridges and peaks of the Marin Headlands, a part of the Pacific Coast Range mountains.
The span is 1.7 miles (2.7 km). When your southbound drive comes to the bridge’s end, there are eight toll gates. All toll-taking is electronic, and the toll is only collected once, in the south direction.
The bridge clock is perched here too, photo below.
For San Francisco residents of today or yesterday, the Golden Gate Bridge is more than a bridge or a landmark. It is part of living in this city by the bay.
Everyone has a Golden Gate story. I love to hear the stories.
One of my dear friends who was the young child of a San Francisco police officer, for example, tells of when she was treated to the thrilling officials-only elevator ride up in the bridge tower. Another friend who went on the 50th anniversary Bridge Walk talks about the sudden and terrifying jolt when the bridge had too many pedestrians.
Some folks have antique tools or old cable pieces from the bridge, other Bay Area residents paint their homes “international orange” as a salute to the beloved bridge.
Like most people who live here, I love to cruise under the bridge. It’s quiet and serene and the bridge is far more immense than you realize.
My favorite memories are of being on boats cruising under the bridge–bird and wildlife cruises, Fourth of July firework cruises, ferry rides on lunch hours, and more.
Look at how huge this tower base is. The size of surfers, below, gives perspective.
“Born” in 1937, and 86 years later, the Golden Gate Bridge is still a much-loved landmark.
Happy Birthday to one of the world’s most beautiful bridges.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander.