San Francisco, California, United States of America
A city built on forty three hills and with classic sights including the winding vertical descent of Lombard Street, San Francisco is not necessarily the first city that springs to mind when cycling is concerned. Most people associate San Francisco with its street cars, but look closer and there are a number of excellent cycling routes around this city and neighbouring Marin County. Some of San Francisco’s best known attractions, including Fisherman’s Wharf and Golden Gate Bridge, can be explored on a bicycle. Areas such as Chinatown and Castro are wonderful places to cycle through to get a taste of the atmosphere and to see some of the interesting architecture in San Francisco itself. Increasing numbers of people in San Francisco are using bikes and the city has developed bike lanes called Crosstown Bikeways. They also have events, such as Sunday Streets, where cars are not permitted to use certain roads.
In San Francisco there are several companies that rent bicycles and cycling gear. Some are based around the main piers and have several types of bike for hire. Companies in San Francisco ensure the bike is suited to the rider and make adjustments as needed, as well as observe people riding before they take off through the streets, and give a safety briefing. In San Francisco, there are also free cycling lessons held for new cyclists and talks on bike maintenance, which are run by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The Coalition also issues safety advice on best practice whilst cycling and the website gives details of any cycling related events in the city.
Getting to know a city is a wonderful experience on a bike and taking a guided tour is the perfect way to learn more about San Francisco. There are plenty to choose from and one of the most popular is a guided trip around San Francisco Bay. Starting on Pier 39, the tour takes in the home of the San Francisco fishing fleet and crosses Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most famous bridges in the world. Carrying on into Marin County, the tour visits charming Sausalito with its colourful houses, cafes and houseboat community. Cyclists can then take the ferry back to San Francisco. The San Francisco Bike Coalition has also recognised that some people prefer a self guided tour and have produced several guides and maps for cyclists to download. There is also an online tool on their website that gives directions from one part of San Francisco to another for cyclists. In Golden Gate Park there are lessons in how to ride a segway, for those looking for something a little different, and one of the most popular sports in the park is bike polo, which attracts several fans.
Cyclists in San Francisco are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a good cycling route. One of the best ways to see giant redwood trees is to take the cycle track in Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Marin County. The park has a number of good campsites and is a beautiful place to ride. Another alternative is to cycle under Golden Gate Bridge itself, as there is a car free path at the Marin side of the bridge that is a good trail. For a real challenge, cyclists might like to choose to cycle down the most crooked street in San Francisco, which is Vermont just at 20th-21st on Portrero Hill. With a spectacular view of the city from the top, this is a challenging cycle requiring good brakes and a steady nerve. The Presidio, with its palatial houses, is another great area for cycling, with many historic spots and some great views across San Francisco Bay. Cycling in Golden Gate Park, with the smell of eucalyptus wafting in the breeze, is a wonderful way to spend a summer day while perhaps stopping to explore some of the museums and gardens in the area. San Francisco has a surprising amount to offer cyclists and with a wide range of good restaurants and hotels, Alcatraz, and even a tram ride or two, there is plenty to do at the end of a great bike ride.
(Image by cking on Flickr)