Bicycling in San Francisco
- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
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San Francisco is known for its treacherously steep hills, so it may be surprising to see so many cyclists. This is actually a great city for biking—there are ample bike lanes, it's not hard to find level ground with great scenery (especially along the water), and if you're willing to tackle a challenging uphill climb, you're often rewarded with a fabulous view—and a quick trip back down.
BikeMapper. The regional 511 SF Bay transit website has an online app that allows you to plot your ride on a map and choose either the shortest or the flattest bike-friendly route. San Francisco, CA. 511. bicycling.511.org/maps.
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has extensive information about the policies and politics of riding and lists local events for cyclists on its website. You can download (but not print) a PDF version of the San Francisco Bike Map and Walking Guide. San Francisco, CA. 415/431–2453 Ext. ext. 308. www.sfbike.org.
Where to Rent
Angel Island. From April through October you can rent mountain bikes on Angel Island for $12.50 an hour or $40 a day. San Francisco, CA. 415/435–5390. www.angelisland.org.
Bay City Bike. With three Fisherman's Wharf locations, Bay City Bike isn't hard to find. The shop has an impressive fleet of bikes—many sizes and types—and friendly staff to help you map your biking adventure. Daily rates run from $20 to $68. 2661 Taylor St., at Beach St., Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA, 94113. 415/346–2453. baycitybike.com. 501 Bay St., at Taylor St., 94133. 415/346–2453. baycitybike.com. 1325 Columbus Ave., between Beach and North Point Sts., 94133. 415/346–2453. baycitybike.com.
Bike and Roll. You can rent bikes at this national outfit's locations for $8 per hour or $32 per day; discounted weekly rates are available, and complimentary maps are provided. 899 Columbus Ave., at Lombard St., North Beach, San Francisco, CA, 94133. 415/229–2000 or. www.bikethegoldengate.com. 353 Jefferson St., between Jones and Leavenworth Sts., Fisherman's Wharf, 94133. 2800 Leavenworth St., at Beach St., Fisherman's Wharf, 94133. Pier 43½, Embarcadero at Taylor St., 94133. Hyatt Regency, 5 Embarcadero Center, outside, ground level, 94111.
Bike Hut. Known for its mom-and-pop–style service, the Hut is a small rental, repair, and used-bike shop. Hourly rentals go for $6, daily rentals for $22. Pier 40, SoMa, San Francisco, CA, 94124. 415/543–4335. www.thebikehut.org. Closed Mon. and Tues.
Blazing Saddles. This outfitter rents bikes for $8 to $9 an hour ($32 to $105 a day), depending on the type of bike, and shares tips on sights to see along the paths. 2715 Hyde St., at Beach St., Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA, 94109. 415/202–8888. www.blazingsaddles.com. 433 Mason St., at Post St., Union Square, 94102. Pier 41, 94111. 465 Jefferson St., at Hyde St., 94109. 2555 Powell St., at the Embarcadero, 94133. 1095 Columbus, at Francisco St., North Beach, 94133. 721 Beach St., at Hyde St., North Beach, 94109.
Dylan's Tours. Operating out of North Beach, Dylan's conducts two-hour guided tours of San Francisco ($50)—longer ones take in the city plus Muir Woods and Sausalito ($65, plus $7 Muir Woods admission)—in air-conditioned mini buses. Dylan's also rents out bicycles—just $22 for 24 hours, the best price in town. 782 Columbus Ave., at Greenwich St., North Beach, San Francisco, CA, 94133. 415/932–6993. dylanstours.com.
A completely flat, sea-level route, the Embarcadero hugs the eastern and northern bay and gives a clear view of open waters, the Bay Bridge, and sleek high-rises. The route from Pier 40 to Aquatic Park takes about 30 minutes, and there are designated bike lanes the entire way. As you ride west, you'll pass the Bay Bridge, the Ferry Building, a view of Coit Tower near Pier 19 (look inland), and various ferries and historic ships. At Aquatic Park there's a nice view of Golden Gate Bridge. If you're not tired yet, continue along the Marina and through the Presidio's Crissy Field. You may want to time your ride so you end up at the Ferry Building, where you can refuel with a sandwich, a gelato, or—why not?—fresh oysters.
Keep your eyes open along this route—cars move quickly here, and streetcars and tourist traffic can cause congestion. Near Fisherman's Wharf you can bike on the promenade, but take it slow and watch out for pedestrians.
Streetcar tracks can wreak havoc on skinny bike tires—and the bicyclist perched above them. Watch the ground and cross the tracks perpendicularly.
Golden Gate Park
A beautiful maze of roads and hidden bike paths crisscrosses San Francisco's most famous park, winding past rose gardens, lakes, waterfalls, museums, horse stables, bison, and, at the park's western edge, spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. John F. Kennedy Drive is closed to motor vehicles on Sunday (and sometimes Saturday), when it's crowded with people-powered wheels.
Get a map of the park before you go—it's huge.
As Fell Street intersects Stanyan Street at the park's eastern entrance, veer right to begin a 30- to 45-minute, 3-mile ride down John F. Kennedy Drive to the Great Highway, where land meets ocean. Take a break and watch the waves roll in at Ocean Beach, or cross the street for a drink or a bite to eat at the casual, tree-shrouded Park Chalet (behind the Beach Chalet). Extend your ride a few more miles by turning left, riding a few blocks, and connecting with a raised bike path that runs parallel to the Pacific, winds through fields of emerald-green ice plant, and, after 2 miles, leads to Sloat Boulevard and the San Francisco Zoo. On exceptionally windy days, expect to encounter blowing sand along this route.
The Marina Green and Golden Gate Bridge
The Marina Green, a vast lawn at the edge of the northern bay front, stretches along Marina Boulevard, adjacent to Fort Mason. It's the starting point of a well-used, paved bike path that runs through the Presidio along Crissy Field's waterfront wetlands, then heads for the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond. To do this ride, first take the path from Aquatic Park through Fort Mason to the Marina Green. Continue into the Presidio, and you'll eventually reach the base of the bridge, a 60-minute ride round-trip. To view the bridge from underneath, stay at water level and ride to Fort Point (where Kim Novak leaped into the drink in the film Vertigo).
If you want to cross the bridge, take Lincoln Boulevard to reach the road-level viewing area and continue across the bridge (signs indicate which side you must use). Once you're across, turn right on the first road leading northeast, Alexander Avenue. After a 10-minute all-downhill ride, you'll arrive on Bridgeway in downtown Sausalito, where you can rest in a café. After a little shopping, board the Blue & Gold Fleet's ferry (the ferry terminal is at the end of Bridgeway) with your bike for the half-hour ride back to Fisherman's Wharf. If it's overcast, foggy, or windy, don't bother doing the Golden Gate Bridge bike ride—the wind can feel downright dangerous on the bridge, and the trip is only awe-inspiring when you can take in the view.
Angel Island State Park
Angel Island. A former military garrison and a beautiful wildlife preserve, Angel Island has some steep roads and great views of the city and the bay. Bicycles must stay on roadways; there are no single-track trails on the island. The café is closed mid-November through February, so bring your own grub then. San Francisco, CA. 415/435–5390. www.angelisland.org.
Blue & Gold Fleet. A ferry operated by the Blue & Gold Fleet runs to Angel Island from Pier 41 and takes 20 minutes one-way; the fare is $17 round-trip, which includes park admission. Ferries leave once a day at 10:10 am weekdays and 9:45 am weekends, returning at 1:40 and 3:20 on weekdays, and 11:20 and 5:20 on weekends. High season runs from May through October. It's wise to book in advance, if possible, or get to the dock early. Ferry schedules are subject to change, so call or visit the fleet's website for up-to-date info. Twenty-five bicycles are permitted on board on a first-come, first-served basis. Pier 39 to Pier 41. 415/705–8200. www.blueandgoldfleet.com.
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