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Bicycle Travel: Last Minute Escape to San Francisco

10 Jul

Oh, the lazy days of summer. After a fast-paced spring, I spent most of June cocooned at home, riding only for easy trips, and barely writing at all. When relaxation turned to boredom that was headed for depression, I knew I needed to break out of my dull rhythm with a weekend getaway. In a few clicks of the mouse and a quick chat with my husband, my Friday afternoon hair appointment in Burlingame became the start of a micro-vacation in San Francisco. I was halfway up the Peninsula anyway, why not meet Dick on Caltrain and head for the city?

Dinner was a multi-bike share experience that started in North Beach...

Our agenda included bicycling every day: our traditional bike date on Friday night, a ride across town to the Legion of Honor for a Matisse exhibit on Saturday, and ride in the SF Pride Parade with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. So like usual, we loaded our panniers and brought our touring bikes with us on the train.

But unlike most cities we’ve visited, San Francisco has Bay Area Bike Share bikes available and we’re annual members. We had bike options. Which bike we chose for which trip and why answered a question asked frequently when the system launched: “Why would people who have their own bikes use bike share?”

Bike Share on Embarcadero

Security. We were staying at the W Hotel downtown on the same block where our saddles were stolen last year. Even though we knew we’d be going out for dinner soon, we checked our touring bikes in at the bell desk and checked out bike share for our Bike Date Friday at Palamino Restaurant near the Bay Bridge. In fact, we avoided parking our bikes anywhere downtown all weekend by taking bike share instead of our own bikes.

Convenience. There was a bike share station across the street from the W hotel, and one in front of Palomino. There was one by the market where I picked up snacks and breakfast for us, and one within two blocks of 3 course, 3 restaurant meal we had on Saturday. (I admit I chose restaurants closer to bike share for those) The one time the bike station by our hotel was empty, we walked a couple of blocks to another one.

Speed. Stay with me on this one. The bikes may be upright, heavy, lumbering beasts, but docking and undocking them from the station is far speedier than locking and unlocking our own bikes. Especially in the big city where you have to secure not only the frame, but both wheels and the saddle. For the short trips we made around downtown we definitely came out ahead time-wise, even discounting the time searching for a bike rack.

Bike Share at Night

So why did we even bring our own bikes? Why not just ride bike share?

Location, Location, Location! The bike share is limited to the city’s downtown core on the city’s east edge and we wanted to ride out to the Legion of Honor in the city’s northwest corner.

Long-Distance Travel The ride to the Legion of Honor was close to twenty miles round trip which not only would mean a long time on a slow bike, it would mean frequent dock-surfing or high overage charges. Add to that a few long or steep climbs that wouldn’t have been fun on a 50-pound bike, even with its low low gears.

At the end of the weekend our mileage stats were: 10 miles on bike share in nine trips (aqua routes on map), 25 miles on our touring bikes in four trips (brown routes) and 64 miles in two trips by train (blue route). Zoom the map and click icons for details, or click here for a larger view.

What struck me about the way we used bikes was how it paralleled what many people might do with cars: drive to the city in their own car, park it at the hotel ($55 a day!), take taxi around downtown for drinks and dinner where parking is inconvenient or expensive, and only driving themselves to further out destinations like the Legion of Honor. Our touring bike rides were like a personal car trips, the bike share rides were like taxi rides.

It all worked so well we’re already plotting our next weekend escape. Will we bring our own bikes, or will we just walk, take transit and use bike share? It all depends on what city we’re visiting and our agenda.

If you’ve ridden a bike share bike before: why did you choose to ride them instead of riding your own bike? What worked, what didn’t? Did you wish you were riding your own bike instead?

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5 Comments

Posted by on July 10, 2014 in Issues & Infrastructure, Travel

 

5 responses to “Bicycle Travel: Last Minute Escape to San Francisco

  1. humofthecity

    July 10, 2014 at 8:56 am

    That is a really interesting analogy. We haven’t had a chance to use SF bike share yet, because of the issue you mention with coverage, but I keep hoping to travel somewhere where I can try any bike share out.

     
    • ladyfleur

      July 10, 2014 at 9:18 am

      I’d suggest coming down to San Jose and trying them down here, but with the kids you have additional challenges using bike share.

      The other thing I learned was how much I hate one way streets. They make it really hard to get around not so much because you end up riding extra, but because the parallel, other direction street is often not as bike-friendly. Plus you need a cross street to be bike friendly too. In other words, it means the whole grid needs to at least nominally bikeable.

       
  2. Grace

    July 17, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Greetings from Chicago! I have my own bike and a Divvy (our bike-share program) membership. Here’s why I have/use both. My commute by bike is 8.5 miles, and I’m slow, so that means a hour to get from my home on the north side to my bike parking location (which is in another building), to my job in the central business district. I try to do it at least once a week in the summer, but with a young child at home and heavy commitments/long hours at work right now it takes some careful planning. If I take the commuter train, I can grab a Divvy at the train station for the mile ride to the office. If I want to run an errand over lunch – Divvy! If I want to meet a friend after work – Divvy! If I don’t want to subject my bike to the mean streets of the city (thinking both theft and pot-holes here) – Divvy! I just renewed my membership this week – totally worth the $75 annual fee IMO. Peace, out, from Chicago.

     
    • ladyfleur

      July 17, 2014 at 11:09 am

      That totally makes sense to me. If there were bike share stations by my home and by work, I’d probably use it instead of carrying my own bike on the train. Right now the closest station to home is a mile away at the train station, and the closest to work is about two miles away.

       

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