Walk or Bike the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge name explained

The Golden Gate Bridge is named after the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance from the Pacific Ocean to the San Francisco Bay. The Golden Gate Strait is some three miles long and a mile wide, and the water’s currents usually range from 4.5 to 7.5 knots (around 5 to 9 miles/hr). John C. Fremont (a U.S. Army Engineer) named the strait “Chrysopylae” (Golden Gate) in the mid-1840s as the strait was reminding him of the Istanbul, Turkey, harbor named Chrysoceras (Golden Horn).

The Golden Gate Bridge connects the City of San Francisco to the northern counties of California, including the world-famous wine regions of Sonoma and Napa. The bridge’s towers stand an impressive 746 feet tall and its “International Orange” color, the beautiful Art Deco styling, and the sweeping massive main cables give the bridge it’s magic. The bridge features a fine artistic harmony of light, color, and sound which attract over ten 10 million visitors every year, especially during the summer months, so when you plan a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge, be prepared to encounter large crowds and be also aware of quickly changing weather conditions.

Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge started in early 1933 and took just a little over four years, and on May 28, 1937, the bridge was open to traffic. Building the Golden Gate Bridge came at a cost. In today’s value, construction would have cost around $1.4 billion, including the cost of labor, materials, and environmental impact surveys.

A Long Bridge

For some time, the Golden Gate Bridge had the world’s longest span, but that hasn’t been the case for a long period of time. Until the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (New York City) was opened in 1964, the 4,200-foot long Golden Gate Bridge suspension span was the longest in the world, but the Verrazano Narrows Bridge’s span is some 60 feet longer than California’s Golden Gate Bridge. The Verrazano Bridge, in turn, was the world’s longest single span suspension bridge until the middle of 1981 when in England the Humber Bridge (spanning the Humber River for 4,626 feet) was opened for traffic. Today, there are two bridges that exceed the span of the Humber Bridge. In Denmark, we find the Great Belt East Bridge with a 5,328 feet main span and Japan’s Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge spans an impressive 6,532 feet, and there are more bridges that are longer than the Golden Gate Bridge.

At midspan, the Golden Gate’s roadway surface hangs some 271 feet above the Golden Strait’s average low water level, and at the bridge’s south abutment, the top of roadway surface towers around 186 feet high. As you are traveling across the Golden Gate Bridge, the difference in elevation is some 85 feet. At the southeast end of the bridge, we find a pretty new Bridge Plaza where visitors can get educated on all things related to the bridge. This is a great visitor experience that’s managed by the non-profit Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

Walking the Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2012 and biking or walking across the bridge is on the bucket-list of many locals and visitors from across the globe. From the bridge’s east side walkway, visitors can marvel at San Francisco’s skyline, the bridge’s soaring 746-foot orange towers, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Marin Headlands. The Golden Gate Bridge is, not surprisingly, the world’s most photographed bridge and it never fails to give a thrilling experience, even when it is shrouded in a chilly blanket of fog.

The bridges ‘massive towers have dominated the San Francisco Bay ever since it was opened in 1937 and the bridge is open to cars and bikes 24 hours a day, while walkers can cross the bridge via the east sidewalk from 5 in the morning to 6:30 in the evening in fall and winter, and from 5 in the morning to 9 in the evening during spring and summer months. Be aware, though, to come well-prepared and wear some extra clothing. The notorious San Francisco fog (nicknamed Karl the Fog) should not be underestimated when you want to cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mark Thomas