My fondest memories of San Francisco are the ones I experience on my bicycle as I’m shuttling myself through the sometimes busy, always dirty streets of the city.
As a cyclist, I’m in a constant battle with drivers. I dangerously skid into the car lane when careless Uber drivers pull in front of me on Valencia to drop off passengers. I squeeze my brakes as hard as I can when yet another car cuts me off to quickly turn right at an intersection. And when I pedal down a crowded street…I can only hope that the drivers are thoughtful enough to look twice before swerving into the sad, unprotected bicycle lane.
The worst streets to bike on are the poorly kept ones. There are two types of poorly kept roads: the ones that are perpetually under construction, and the ones that are littered with broken glass and trash. Both are tricky, but in different ways: the former requires you to tenaciously pedal next to deafeningly loud construction vehicles as they pump smoky exhaust in your face, and the latter requires you to magically learn to have one eye looking ahead and the other eye scanning the ground so that you can avoid riding over the remains of shattered car windows and not get killed in the process.
But this isn’t a rant against San Francisco, or biking — in fact, quite the opposite. When I’m on a bicycle, I accelerate through the small San Francisco neighborhoods as if I’m watching a lecture video on 2x speed. One second I’m huffing and puffing up the hills of Noe Valley and the next I’m surfing through the Mission with dozens of other bikers, skateboarders, scooters, and whatever new “last mile” mobility device that is now cramming itself into the bike lanes.
The best part about biking in San Francisco? The Golden Gate Bridge and its beautiful unpredictability. One day I cross the bridge enshrouded in fog and covered in goosebumps from the slap of the wind against my skin, and the next I coast across it in a slick layer of sweat from the sun powerfully beaming down. On the sunniest days, biking across the bridge feels like flying above the most beautiful planet on the most beautiful part of the Earth; on the cloudiest days I have nothing but the loud blare of the ferry fog horn to serve as my north star.