If you love zipping through streets and experiencing urban sights and sounds in the way only a biker can, San Francisco might just be the place for you. Rated the second-most bike-friendly city in the U.S. by Bicycling Magazine, San Francisco holds top scores across the board, boasting a 35/40 for safety, 28/30 for friendliness, and an 8/10 for culture. The love for two-wheel transport is widespread in the city; some researchers estimate that 82,000 trips are made via bicycle every day. Cycling is all but a way of life for those who call the city home — and why wouldn’t it be? It’s easily affordable, environmentally sustainable, and personally enjoyable.
The city wasn’t always quite so bike-friendly. In 2010, San Francisco didn’t have any protected bike lanes at all. In the years since then, however, it has built a total of ten, which equates to roughly 20 miles of peaceful riding. City planners intend to add on these achievements in the future by investing $120 million in bike-related improvements between now and 2021. Even those without bikes of their own can get in on the cycling craze; today, rental stations for Ford GoBikes can be found on practically every other block, standing alongside Jump e-bikes and electric scooters.
Like any other city, though, San Francisco does have its infrastructure flaws. Public enthusiasm for services such as Uber and Lyft have contributed significantly to roadway congestion and bike lane clogs. Some city researchers estimate that the rideshare platforms have brought over 20,000 additional vehicles into the city’s streets. The influx has proved problematic for cyclists, who often have to swerve out of the bike line to avoid collisions with illegally-parked Ubers or Lyfts as they take on or drop off passengers. Organizers are aware of the problem and are actively working to solve it; today, the city has a phone line dedicated to resolving bike lane-associated parking complaints.
San Francisco isn’t a perfect haven for bikers, but it’s certainly a home. Cyclists today have more opportunities than ever before to safely commute, exercise, and explore the city on two wheels. If you live in San Francisco and haven’t taken the city’s bike-friendly design for a spin, drop by your local rental station or bike store! Who knows — a short ride through the city’s vibrant streets might inspire you to take up cycling long-term.
Before you kick off, though, here’s some advice for the road.
Be Smart About Your Routes
San Francisco’s swooping hills are nothing to scoff at. As one writer for Curbed described the travel paths, “Forty-five-degree hills will remain 45-degree hills, and wide boulevards designed for speeding automobiles will remain parking lots during rush hours, and lawless raceways the remaining eighteen hours of the day.”
A word of advice — don’t try to fly down a vertical incline. The city has a multitude of safer, mild-incline switchbacks and bicycle thoroughfares. These aren’t difficult to find; typically, street signs and lane lines will clearly indicate where you should bike. However, you can use maps like this if you ever need guidance.
Take Measures Against Theft
If you’re a cyclist, the last problem you want to deal with is theft. Limit your risk by investing in basic protections such as a U-lock, and make sure to thread the device through both the frame and one wheel when you secure it. You can also register your bike with the city and receive both a numbered decal on your bike and a place in a public database. This service is free to use and may help you recover your bike after a theft.
Be Mindful of Basic Safety
Like any other city, San Francisco is perpetually striving to improve. While the city’s bike lanes are useful and secure, many streets are still beset by potholes and construction. These conditions can make biking difficult in some regions of the city — and while some initiatives have been proposed to improve cyclist safety in high-risk areas, they haven’t been wholly implemented yet.
If you’re going to bike in the city, you need to know your safety basics. Be aware of high-traffic areas and try to reroute around them if possible. Then, brush up on your turning signals and familiarize yourself with on-road cycling rules. Always remember that you are sharing the road and don’t have sole custody of the bike path; eventually, you will need to deal with cars cutting into your lane. Be prepared to adapt!
San Francisco is a city that needs to be experienced on two wheels at least once — so what are you waiting for? Grab a bike and start riding today!