One of the reasons I’m quite smitten with San Francisco is because of the bike culture here. People don’t just bike, they bike. I bought a bicycle basically right when I moved here and pedaled all over this ding dang city. Going to a job interview? Bike. Heading to the bar? Bike. Getting groceries? Bike. For a while I was literally never hopping on the bus (which is awesome because the bus is Sketchville, USA).
Alas, in the past few months I’ve been a slacker. Why? Well, a few reasons, but honestly, the big one is because I didn’t have air in my tires. That’s a silly excuse, I know, but there are exactly 0 bike shops in my neighborhood where I can pump up my tires. And yes I could just pop that puppy on a bus and take it to a shop somewhere, but then I reason that I might as well just take the bus without my bike.
Well finally, I decided to stop being lazy while complaining about my first world problems and just get a tire pump. I went to my fave bike shop in the city, Performance Bicycles (on Brannan–talk to Joe, he’ll hook you up) and picked one up. I’m back to
poppin’ wheelies cruisin’. It’s pretty damn cold here, and January will probably be worse, but it’s nice to be biking around the city again. It has been refreshing and I’m happy to be back on two wheels.
Obviously, using a bicycle for the majority of your transportation doesn’t work for everyone. I have a friend who’s a makeup artist, and it wouldn’t be possible for him to put all his supplies on his back and pedal around. There are other folks I know who live in Pacifica, but come into San Francisco or the East Bay for work. So I totally get that and respect that some people need cars or have to take buses to get around. The point to this is not to convince you to sell your car and go buy a bike (although, if you do, you’re awesome!). I simply know that I fell in love with bike culture when I moved here, and that in starting to bike again I’ve been reminded why.
* Look, I’m multitasking! Just like I enjoy hula hooping while watching Netflix, I enjoy biking to get places. Especially to get to places where I am going to eat. It’s like the calories don’t exist.
* I arrive at my destination actually awake. In the past few years, I’ve noticed that I get really, really sleepy on public transit and in cars. Something about it just makes me groggy. However, when I arrive by bike, I’m alert. Additionally, my thinking time on my bike is more productive than when I’m just sitting watching the blocks go by.
* Bikers are super friendly. I’ve had countless conversations started up between myself and another biker, simply because. Because it’s a nice day. Because their rear light is out. Because they want to say hello. Yesterday some woman commented on my shoes and we discussed biking wardrobes before parting our separate ways. I suppose it’s just that people are generally kind and open-hearted, but on the bus people close themselves off from the crazies (and in turn, everyone) and in a car you’re unable to have those human connections. So, it’s a good reminder that people don’t suck.
* It’s faster. Honestly, I believe that in any city, biking is the most efficient way to get around. I know some people will argue that point, but to me, efficiency in this sense combines speed, ease of travel, and cost effectiveness. For me to get downtown, I can bike for about 30 minutes, or hop on the bus and maybe get there in 40 or more. I’m then also planning my life around the Muni schedule, hoping that there isn’t traffic, praying that the bus isn’t packed to capacity, going out of my way to get cash for fare, etc etc etc. Even with all the hills, biking in San Francisco trumps all. Oh, cars, you say? I say they’re expensive, traffic sucks, and good luck with parking.
* It’s healthier. Obviously, I’m exercising, so it’s healthy, but I’m also not on the bus which has GERMS EVERYWHERE OMGGGG.
* Parking is awesome, all the time. I snatch up a parking spot right in front of my destination every single time. No circling blocks hunched over a steering wheel, no utter disappointment at discovering a fire hydrant or driveway. It’s so awesome to leave a place, too, and just hop on my wheels right out front and ride away.
* It’s a wonderful community. People who bike have special events and they rally together to create safer streets in the city. People who drive don’t have “I Drive my Car to Work” club, and bus riders don’t get together every last Friday of the month and travel on Muni someplace à la Critical Mass. It’s not a perfect community, but even just riding alongside other bicyclists makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger. It also makes me wish we all wore matching leather jackets and were heavily tattooed and had cool nicknames for each other. But anyway.
* It’s gratifying. This is the big reason for me, although I can’t completely explain it. There’s something I really appreciate in the self-reliance I experience when I ride a bike. My own two legs get me there. I climb the hills, I make the turns, I do the work. And that feels amazing.
Other thoughts? I’d love to hear them, so please share! 🙂