Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bridge Games

San Francisco is a peninsula that juts due north, with the Pacific on the west, San Francisco Bay on the east and the Golden Gate connecting the two on the north. Obviously, if you’re leaving town, chances are you’re going to have to cross a bridge, unless, of course, you’re been really bad and are forced to go down to San Jose, but that’s between you and your karma.

The Golden Gate Bridge, heading north into the wilds of Marin county, is the most famous of the local spans, but the Bay Bridge, which carries you over to Oakland and points east, is actually the most heavily traveled. It’s also the more horrifying trip, but since it winds up in Oakland, I suppose that’s appropriate.

What’s so scary? The approach, sweetie, the approach. The two freeways here both come wandering into town and then have to make a sharp right to line up with the bridge. One freeway gives up and dies out there, but the other turns into how you get on the bridge. Since that’s also the point where it passes through downtown, it pretty much doubles in the amount of traffic it carries in the space of few blocks with entrances pouring cars in from both sides of the road. Some of the merges are only a couple of car lengths long, oops, here I come, look out.

The bridge is two decks, one headed east, one west, so the eastbound roadbed has to swerve over to go beneath the other one. Just as it snakes sharply left, right, left the road plunges between columns supporting the upper deck and the last two entrances, one on the left and one on the right, dump in. It’s like a luge course for cars.

Of course, there are big 35 MPH signs posted, but, get real, this is a freeway in California, everybody regards those as decorative. Local drivers know to just grip the wheel tightly, close our eyes and hit the gas.

I think the whole thing is a traffic control project. Before every trip that involves the Bay Bridge, I’m sure everyone thinks “Do I really need to go to Oakland? How bad do I need to be in Berkeley? Surely I can just walk there from BART, wherever it is.” And then coming home, you get to go through the whole thing in reverse and pay a toll to do so.

I’m going to get a bike.


  1. Sounds scary!

    Everytime I'm on a bridge nowadays I keep hearing the word "Minneapolis"
    And it's not because of Mary Tyler Moore either.
    (well, not entirely at least)

  2. As someone who hasn't driven a car in many years, this frightens me.

  3. Portland is supposed to have great public transit. You can get a bike and hang out with the bike messenger tough guys.

  4. Oh, I'll be doing more than just hanging out with them!

  5. Seattle hasn't quite taken the plunge yet. We've got a decent bus system which has an underground tunnel, a new light rail train is being installed, but my favorite is the new street car. It's basically a toy, but the name of the streetcar (before they changed it anyway) is the South Lake Union Transit.

    What does that spell?

    Ride the SLUT people! :)

  6. Yes, Portland has great public transit, although I don't use it. The city has many, many dedicated bike lanes, as well, cuz commuting that way is very popular. With the fit crowd, that is. Only recently two cyclists were struck by cars in separate incidents - one of them died - so there was a big flap between bike-people and car-people.


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