Should Bicyclists and Pedestrians Start Paying a Toll on the Golden Gate Bridge?

When a local resolution that you don’t agree with is on the table, one way to voice your opinion and rally others to your cause is to create a Care2 petition. That’s what one woman did when she learned that the Golden Gate District is considering charging bicyclists and pedestrians a fee to use the Golden Gate Bridge, which has happened before, but not in a long time.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

By 6 a.m. on May 27, 1937, approximately 18,000 people were waiting to cross the brand new Golden Gate Bridge for the first time. It was Pedestrian Day, a part of the bridge’s Opening Week Fiesta, and the entire roadway was reserved exclusively for pedestrians from dawn to dusk.

An estimated 200,000 pedestrians participated; reportedly 15,000 people an hour passed through turnstiles in a steady stream, each paying 25 cents to cross.

Pedestrians continued paying to cross the Golden Gate bridge from that day back in ’37 until December 15, 1970, when the pedestrian toll was finally eliminated by Board of Director Resolution No. 7159.

The Golden Gate Bridge has been toll-free for pedestrians and bicyclists ever since, but a new plan could change that.

There are eight toll bridges in the Bay Area. All are state owned except the Golden Gate Bridge, which is owned, operated and maintained by the Golden Gate District (short for Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District), an independent public agency based in San Francisco.

Right now, all eight Bay Area toll bridges are toll-free for pedestrians and bicyclists, but the Golden Gate District’s 19-member board is contemplating a financial move that would require cyclists and pedestrians to pay a fee, just like vehicle drivers, to cross the Golden Gate bridge.

In late October 2014, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District Board of Directors narrowly voted 10-9 to keep considering a pedestrian and bicyclist fee for people crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate District released a 45-point plan to keep itself solvent, part of which includes sidewalk fees by 2017, as the Bridge District struggles to chip away at a $33 million deficit.

Once news broke about this potential new sidewalk fee, a Care2 petition was created to keep the Golden Gate Bridge free for bicyclists and pedestrians.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of debate surrounding this decision.

Denis Mulligan, general manager and CEO of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, and Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, sounded off on the topic during KQED Radio’s forum with Michael Krasny. You can listen to it here:

Some believe that the new fee would discourage pedestrian access on the bridge and unfairly remove money from the pockets of citizens who are already struggling to afford the city, like Julie M, who created the Care2 petition to tell San Francisco: “No Toll For Bicyclists and Pedestrians on the Golden Gate Bridge.”

On why it’s a bad idea to charge pedestrians and bicyclists to use the Golden Gate Bridge, the petition points out:

About 6,000 cyclists and 10,000 pedestrians cross the bridge on days with good weather. Imposing a tax on crossing the bridge would unfairly remove money from the pockets of citizens already struggling to afford the city; incentivize car use, contribute to congestion and discourage healthy outdoor activities that should be free for all citizens.

The SF Bicycle Coalition is calling on sustainable transportation advocates to oppose the fee, calling it a tired idea that would discourage walking and biking. SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum’s says, ”This really seems to be out of sync with the values of most of the people in the Bay Area.”

The Bay Area Is Divided

On the flip side, some believe if you use it, you should pay. Bikers and pedestrians use the bridge, adding to its wear and tear, so it’s only fair that they should pay a fee, just like car drivers, that could be used for bridge maintenance.

The fact is that the Bridge District is grappling with a huge deficit and receives no local tax support. As General Manager Mulligan explains, “We do not receive sales tax measure money or property tax measure money from San Francisco or Marin counties, so tolls are the source of our principal subsidy for bus and ferry service.”

If the motivation behind the new pedestrian bridge fee is financial, fee opponents suggest looking elsewhere to solve the $33 million deficit, perhaps starting with Golden Gate District employee salaries. General Manager Denis J. Mulligan makes $405,000+ per year.

There are a handful of other bridges in the U.S. that charge walkers and cyclists a fee: Bridge of the G-ds and The Rainbow Bridge, to name a few. But not many, and none of the state-owned Bay Area bridges do so.

Opponents of the new fee believe charging bikers and walkers to cross the Golden Gate Bridge is a step in the wrong direction. Some feel that San Francisco should be doing all it can to increase biking and walking in urban areas like San Francisco to reduce our carbon footprints. Others feel, you should pay to play, and it’s been done before, so it can be done again.


What do you think? Should the Golden Gate District start charging bicyclists and pedestrians to cross the Golden Gate bridge? Share your thoughts in the Comments.

Sign petition: Julie’s goal is to collect 12,000 petition signatures, and she’s close with just over 11,100 thus far. If you think the Golden Gate Bridge should remain free for pedestrians and bicyclists, please sign and share Julie’s petition to make your voice heard.

Start a petition: If there’s something you feel strongly about, consider creating your own petition. It’s an easy, effective way to get others behind you and your cause.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Linda Rolf
Linda Rolf4 years ago

Bikers and pedestrians cause minimal damage to the bridge unlike cars and trucks. SF is one of the wealthiest cities in the country and if the current management can't maintain the bridge without being petty and mean maybe they should let another agency do it. All the people who say bikers and pedestrians should pay are most likely auto drivers.

NorthernLady California

Walking and bicycling are great but if it wasn't for the cars, I doubt that the bridge would even be there so why shouldn't they bear some of the cost of maintenance.

NorthernLady California costs a lot of money to maintain a bridge. If you don't like it....swim!

Kelly Davis-steel
Kelly D4 years ago

No way

Kelly Davis-steel
Kelly D4 years ago


Brian Foster
Brian F4 years ago

Petition signed. The tolls for cars are already too high. We don't need to charge people, to walk, or ride their bikes on the bridge.

Cedar Z.
Past Member 4 years ago

Petition signed. People should be encouraged to walk or bike, not charged a toll.

Jp Jp
Jp Jp4 years ago

answer: no they should not.