A bike movement

Despite its numerous hills, San Francisco routinely places in various top ten lists for ‘best bicycling cities’ in the country and world. It’s about to get better. Read all about the city’s bike infrastructure, bike bars, bike nudity and bike-powered music …

San Francisco’s bike infrastructure, bike bars, bike nudity and bike-powered music.

Above: Bike-friendly bar, Zeigeist.

Despite its numerous hills, San Francisco routinely places in various top ten lists for ‘best bicycling cities’ in the country and world. It’s about to get better. After a long delay, an ambitious bike plan was recently adopted by the local transportation authority that will see major improvements in bicycle infrastructure, including a near doubling in the mileage of bike lanes, thousands of bike racks, signage and motorist education.

San Francisco’s bike culture includes fixed-gear hipsters cheating death throughout the city’s narrow streets and steep hills, and dance-crazed ravers who see their bicycles as an extension of their artistic selves. Then there are  the transportation activists who like to expand the possibilities of biking, including comfort, capacity and electrical generation capacity.

All kinds of people call San Francisco home and the bicycling community is a good reflection of this (was that just a woman cycling by wearing an equestrian riding helmet?). This culture manifests itself in many ways:

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is one of the most powerful advocacy groups in the city. With 6,000 members, the coalition weighs in on all transportation issues, endorses candidates for office, and provides cyclists with extensive member benefits: including topographical maps of the city, discounts at bike shops (aka “cycleries”) and a holiday party/auction every winter.

Bike Parking

Thanks to the strength of this Coalition, many public events—including the SF Giants baseball games—have valet bike parking. You can roll up, hand off your bike to a volunteer from the Bicycle Coalition in exchange for a claim check, and enjoy the event worry-free.

A personal favourite is the ‘bike-friendly’ bar, Zeitgeist. Zeitgeist has been home to a bike and motorcycle messenger crowd for years. Nowadays, there as many hip young things as there are messengers, but you can still roll your bike past the bar into the walled garden and hang it on a hook on the wall next to the picnic tables. No lock needed.

Weather or steep hills got you down?  In San Francisco you can throw your bike on the rack on the front of many of the city’s buses and hop on. You can commute to Silicon Valley on Cal Train, the commuter rail with bike storage cars, or take your bike on BART, the regional train that allows bikes at all times except the height of rush hour, and offers locked indoor storage at many of its stations.

Naked bike ride

Of course, there is Critical Mass as well. On the last Friday of each month, hundreds of cyclists gather to take back the city streets for one night in an event that’s part celebration, part joyride, part political protest. Part of a global phenomenon, the October Halloween ride is attended by thousands of costumed cyclists.

A more alarming critical mass occurred on June 13th, when SF hosted its World Naked Bike Ride Day. This ride protests the use of fossil fuels and supports renewable energy. It’s no foliage-covered park ride in dim light, but one that takes the protestors to the civic centre, down tourist streets, and even past horrified religious zealots on their soapboxes. Head to Golden Bay in March 2010 if you want to be part of a local naked ride in supported of this important message.

Bicycle Music Festival

(See some strategic body painting in pics from the SF ride here.)

Last, but not least is this summer gem: the Bicycle Music Festival was held on June 20th. Bike-powered amplification and musicians on trailers pulled by bikes, performances known as “Live on Bike”, make this one of the wackiest bike event you could come across.

The festival promotes sustainable culture in general and bike culture first and foremost, plus is a wonderful excuse to showcase local musicians.  The website plugs “Start your own BMF in your town”. Not a bad idea.

On yer bike!

Read more of Kate and Ray’s adventures in San Francisco at good.net.nz/blog/kate-and-ray

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