in November 2019, after the convention of the best Google Maps Local Guides in the world, I stopped for a few days to visit San Francisco. The best of those days was when, with six other guys from all over the world, I rode the San Francisco cycle path that leads from the city center to the Golden Gate Bridge.
The cycling data are as follows:
Length: about 25 km (round trip)
Difference in altitude: 175 m +
Duration: with breaks, half a day
Departure Point: Fisherman’s Wharf – San Francisco
Finishing Point: Golden Gate View Point – Battery Spencer
We rented the bike in downtown San Francisco, from Basically Free Bike Rentals (1196 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133). This business has this brand because the rental money is returned in kind, i.e. the “rental fee” is equal to a voucher to be spent in a large sporting goods store called “Sports Basement Presidio”, which is also the place where we returned the bikes at the end of the day. For example, with the rental money I bought myself a thermal underwear, which I needed for mid-season rides.
The bike rental was a memorable moment, as the manager asked everyone for personal data in order to complete the booking form; however, he was frightened when he heard that there was a girl from Australia, one from Canada, one from the USA, three boys from Brazil, two from Italy; he then asked the Australian girl to do everything herself, even for the rest of the world.
San Francisco bike lanes
The first part of the cycling tour was in downtown San Francisco, when we headed from the bike rental to Fisherman’s Wharf, which is San Francisco’s waterfront.
This very first sector was a mere transfer, given that the famous cycle path runs along the seafront of Fisherman’s Wharf. However, it was interesting because it gave me the opportunity to see the very high regard in which cyclists are held in this complicated and large city. There are:
– lanes reserved for bikes alongside the roads;
– at the crossroads there are flashy horizontal green signs, so as not to forget that there are bicycles.
In the week spent in San Francisco I noticed a lot of people using the bicycle as a means of transport every day; I myself rented a bike to move queekòy to go shopping and visit the Japanese Tea Garden (for the photos of this beautiful garden, click HERE).
I found this city really bike-friendly, as it has an extensive network of cycle paths, as seen below.
Emblematic of the excellent city-bike relationship is this mural, photographed during one of the bike rides.
Fisherman Wharf – San Francisco
Much of the bike path that leads to the Golden Gate Bridge runs along the seafront of San Francisco, and precisely the Fisherman’s Wharf. It is one of the most famous places in the city: for example, from here you can see (and embark for) the Alcatraz penitentiary (for the story of this trip, click HERE).
There are bars, restaurants and shops, including the famous Pier 39, a pier converted into a large shopping center – a tourist attraction.
Near Pier 39 are the piers where the sea lions rest in the sun. A remarkable experience for the amateur cyclist of the Po valley, used to seeing the coypu that populate our banks.
Being a very touristic place, there are street artists and similar attractions. However, it should be noted that the cycle path is wide and quite tidy, and therefore it did not seem as dangerous as many Italian cycle and pedestrian paths, in which the promiscuity between pedestrians and cyclists turns into a source of constant quarrels and stress (as, for example, when traveling along the cycle/pedestrian paths on Lake Garda, or on the Sile Greenway in Treviso).
As you go westwards, the landscape becomes less and less urbanized: the buildings leave more and more space for large lawns and beaches for picnics and days in the sun (Marina Green Park and Crissy Field).
Of course, the Golden Gate Bridge gets closer and more photogenic. We stopped to photograph it a dozen times!
Palace of Fine Arts
Still in the Marina District, the bike path runs alongside the Palace of Fine Arts, one of the buildings erected for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. The architect conceived it as an ancient ruin located around a small artificial lagoon, and is composed of a large 340-metre pergola located around a central rotunda overlooking the water.
We went around the lake and the Palace of Fine Arts, walking through the entire pergola, which was deserted that day. It is a suggestive place; with its columns, and the play of shadows, it represents an excellent location for taking particular photos.
I just took a silly photo of myself with the other Italian boy in the Company, simulating a wheelie .
The Presidium and the statue of Yoda
Close to the Palace of Fine Arts is the large Presidio Park, an immense park located on a hill at the northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula. For bicycle lovers it is an exceptional place because there are villas, hills, parks, all connected by a dense network of cycle and pedestrian paths.
In the Presidio of San Francisco, after having lunch with a sandwich, we resumed our bicycle ride along the cycle and pedestrian paths that seemed to lead to the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge. At one point, I see a strange fountain with a statue of one of the protagonists of Star Wars on it: Master Yoda.
In the evening, in my hotel, I read up and discovered that the statue of Master Yoda marks the hall of the registered office of Lucas Film Ltd., that is the production company of the Star Wars science fiction film saga. The following day, therefore, I returned alone to this place, and asked permission to enter the reception of Lucas Film, where there are models and other memorabilia from the film saga (for the story and many photos of this visit, click HERE).
The Golden Gate Bridge
From the Presidio we took the bike path that runs the length of the Golden Gate Bridge and leads across the San Francisco Bay.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge that spans the channel that connects the Pacific Ocean with San Francisco Bay. Overall, the bridge, including the up and down ramps, is 2.71 km long; the distance between the towers (“main span”) is 1282 m. The height of the two towers is 225 m above the water level. The cables that hold the bridge are 27,572 cables which, added together, lead to a total length of 128748 km (equal to a third of the average Earth-Moon distance, so at least Wikipedia reports). When it was completed in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world and over time has become an internationally recognized symbol of the city of San Francisco.
The bridge can be crossed not only by car, but also on foot or by bicycle for free. The outside lane to the east is reserved for pedestrians, while the outside lane to the west is reserved for cyclists. There is a speed limit with several warning signs that cyclists respect the limits.
Cycling on this bridge is exciting, not only because you can admire the cables and towers that support the bridge up close, but also because there is a pretty good view. It is possible to stop and take pictures, bearing in mind that the experience could be unpleasant for those suffering from vertigo since the void under the bridge is 67 m.
Golden Gate View Point
Once on the other side of the bay we turned left to go to the viewpoint on the bridge, from where all the most famous photos are taken, including those with the clouds enveloping the bridge (NB: the photo below is not mine, the I found on the web).
Here the road climbs, not too steeply, but steadily; I who wore jeans regretted the bike shorts; my friends, less trained, at one point got off the bike and pushed them.
From the Golden Gate View Point the cycle path continues for about ten kilometers, making a loop on the Sausalito peninsula, which offers wonderful views of the ocean. Instead, we – like most people – stopped near the viewpoint until the sunset.
It was almost closing time when we returned the bikes to the Sports Basement shop, where we then used the rental money to buy sports equipment.
We returned to the hotel on foot and by public transport; on the way back we passed the Palace of Fine Arts again, which is even more beatiful in the evening.
As anticipated, my cycling companions and I were guests of Google in San Francisco, which organized a convention with the best 200 Google Maps Local Guides in the world. For more information on this event, and on how the selection took place, click HERE.
Clearly, once I arrived in San Francisco, I didn’t just participate in the work of the Google convention, but I took the opportunity to visit, for instance Stanford, the headquarters of Facebook, Apple and other companies in Silicon Valley, Alcatraz, and the other most important places of the bay. For other articles about this experience (in Italian) click HERE.
For other articles in English, click HERE.