Cycling through San Francisco – A bike-friendly city


Still looking fresh 30 minutes into the start of the adventure on a dedicated bike lane along Fisherman's Wharf

Still looking fresh 30 minutes into the start of the adventure on a dedicated bike lane along Fisherman’s Wharf

Last week on a stopover at San Francisco en-route to an international conference, I decided to cycle through the city. It seemed to be a popular thing with tourists to cycle to the famed Golden Gate Bridge and in the more scenic parts of town.

We rented our bikes near our hotel in busy downtown, where the shopping and financial districts were, rode through the entire stretch of the popular Fisherman’s Wharf, across the Golden Gate Bridge and returned across the beautiful Presidio park and housing areas, through various parks, back through the Wharf and finally into various parts of downtown. It was a tiring 6-hour ride through a hilly San Francisco.

It was a weekday that we chose to do our biking expedition. What I gathered was a first-hand experience that despite the hilly conditions and sometimes heavy traffic, San Francisco is a bike-friendly city which we can learn from. There are many bike lanes clearly marked out across the city. In some places where it is not possible to have the extra bike lane, the rightmost (slowest) lane is marked as a shared bike and motor vehicle lane, where motorists have to wait behind bikes that are in front of them. And in some suburbs where there were no such markings, I noted that motorists were very conscious of us and gave way to us at road crossings. It made cycling a lot safer. Biking to work appears to be a very common thing in San Francisco, with trains and subways carefully planned to allow bikers to bring their bicycles along with them. Motorists, bikers and public transport commuters seem to follow a code of ethics on how to live with one another.

Below are photographs and my thoughts as I rode through town.

Cycling along the beach on a road shared with pedestrians

Cycling along the beach on a road shared with pedestrians

The prize in sight. Tired after climbing several hills and just a stone's throw from the entrance to Golden Gate Bridge. There's a track on the bridge shared between cyclists and pedestrians.

The prize in sight. Tired after climbing several hills and just a stone’s throw from the entrance to Golden Gate Bridge. There’s a track on the bridge shared between cyclists and pedestrians.

Surveying the Bridge from San Francisco side before pedalling through the majestic structure constructed in the 1930s

Surveying the Bridge from San Francisco side before pedalling through the majestic structure constructed in the 1930s

View of the Bridge from Marin County, after crossing from San Francisco: Tired, sore bum and dreading the ride back.

View of the Bridge from Marin County, after crossing from San Francisco: Tired, sore bum and dreading the ride back.

This cup of water was a reward from the rental shop owner after the 6-hour adventure. It summed up how I felt while cycling. Tried or not, you just have to make the long journey and get the bike back to downtown after crossing the Bridge, before the shop closing time.

This cup of water was a reward from the rental shop owner after the 6-hour adventure. It summed up how I felt while cycling. Tried or not, you just have to make the long journey and get the bike back to downtown after crossing the Bridge, before the shop’s closing time.

Most of the roads in the city are marked with bike signs. This is a shared lane between cyclists and motorists. As I cycled on this lane, cars have to wait behind me.

Most of the roads in the city are marked with bike signs. This is a shared lane between cyclists and motorists. As I cycled on this lane, cars waited behind me.

One of many different types of signs for bikes and cars on the road.

One of many different types of signs for bikes and cars on the road.

Biking around town, to and from work or just for leisure is a common thing in SF. This lady brought her bike down the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to board the train. Trains allow bike to enter and bikers and commuters have a code of ethics on how to manage with each other on the trains.

Biking around town, to and from work or just for leisure is a common thing in SF. This lady brought her bike down the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to board the train. Trains allow bike to enter and bikers and commuters have a code of ethics on how to manage with each other on the trains.

A bike-only carriage on CalTrain, a train service that runs between San Francisco and San Jose (Silicon Valley)

A bike-only carriage on CalTrain, a train service that runs between San Francisco and San Jose (Silicon Valley)

A biker in CalTrain bike cabin

A biker in CalTrain bike cabin

Bikes neatly arranged in Caltrain's bike cabin, with the riders sitting on the 2nd floor of the cabin.

Bikes neatly arranged in Caltrain’s bike cabin, with the riders sitting on the 2nd floor of the cabin.

A sign on a Caltrain bike cabin to remind commuters that this is a bike area.

A sign on a Caltrain’s bike cabin to remind commuters that this is a bike area.

A picture showing a section of Caltrain cabin layout, with cabins for bikes only and those for commuters only

A picture showing a section of Caltrain cabin layout, with cabins for bikes only and those for commuters only

A bicycle parking shop next to Caltrain San Francisco station. Some bikers would park their bikes here for better safety for their precious bikes.

A bicycle parking shop next to Caltrain San Francisco station. Some bikers park their bikes here for better safety for their precious bikes.

Bikes for sharing for US$9 a day (unlimited rides of 30 minutes each), which can be returned at any of the many such stations throughout the city. Frequent commuters can buy longer period passes at discounts. These bikes are meant for short periods of cycling between destinations in the city. Additional charges apply when a bike is taken out for more than 30 minutes for each cycling trip.

Bikes for sharing at US$9 a day (unlimited rides of 30 minutes each time a bike is removed from the parking bay), which can be returned at any of the many such stations throughout the city. Frequent users can buy longer period passes at discounts. These bikes are meant for short periods of cycling between destinations in the city. Additional charges apply when a bike is taken out for more than 30 minutes for each cycling trip.

The Bay Area Bike Van transporting bikes from station to station if needed or to service bikes.

The Bay Area Bike Van transporting bikes from station to station if needed or to service bikes.

A bike with stolen wheels on a bike parking bay. Unfortunately, bike theft in SF is one of the highest in USA.

A bike with stolen wheels on a bike parking bay. Unfortunately, bike theft in SF is one of the highest in USA.

A securely locked bike, with all wheels locked to the parking bay. Was told the thieves are really fast at getting off with the bike (or whichever parts of it are not secured).

A securely locked bike, with all wheels locked to the parking bay. Was told the thieves are really fast at getting off with the bike (or whichever parts of it that are not properly secured).

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