In New York City, where dooring is a bloodsport, Transportation Alternatives hands out medals for bravery just for riding to work. Though I miss the Brooklyn Bridge views, bike commuting in San Francisco is a joy.
I bought a map that color codes the hills in pink and red, and marks bike paths of every flavor. I live on a red hill, the kind where you stop for a rest halfway up and see a roadsign that notes that, whatever about that last one, this next block is a HILL. Trucks are not advised on my HILL, and I dismount before I am dismounted.
But once I get to basecamp, on Precita Street, it’s a straight, flat shot to work, and the weather is always mild. It could be Amsterdam, riding on generous bike lanes past crumpled junkies. San Francisco bikers are a relaxed and friendly tribe, swapping notes at the traffic lights and warning out-of-towners away from the hilliest routes. Here, I feel like a full road-user, not SUV prey, at least until the Oakland cars roar off the freeway onto Brannan Street. I wear my dork gear proudly: reflective jacket, reflective velcro clips for my jeans, reflective stickers on my helmet. (At night I arrive in bars with squashed hair and smudged hands, carrying a bike seat, saddle bags, and a helmet. Hel-lo, San Francisco. Come to mama.)
There’s a bike cage in the parking garage at my office building, and we have full showers and lockers upstairs. On a good day, there might be eight bikes, though the hundreds of car spaces are full.