By Michael Tanner
This is apart of our Bike About Town column, which appeared in The Chronicle on June 2, 2011.
Here in the land of the fog, summer isn’t necessarily beach season. But the salt-air definitely beckons in the land of the Barbary Coast, dock-squatting sea lions and the crab fleet, not to mention a portion of the 500-mile shoreline bike route known as the San Francisco Bay Trail. And your bike might be the best way to put the bay back in your Bay Area experience.
You can even see underneath, at one of the Bay Trail’s premier roadside attractions, the Aquarium of the Bay, on June 18 as it throws its first Bike to the Aquarium Day. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition will provide free valet bike parking from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and pedaling patrons will receive half off admission. Aside from the usual chance to view a range of bay residents – from tiny anchovies to massive sevengill sharks – in their watery homes and witness lunch time for the bat rays, the event will feature a Bike Expo with raffles and demonstrations, as well as a showcase of electric bikes.
Pedaling to Pier 39 is actually a uniquely appropriate way to get in touch with the maritime environment. Because the Aquarium is a certified green business, dedicated to preserving the bay environment in all its forms, according to the Aquarium’s Kati Schmidt, a cycle commute not only “speaks to our mission to encourage people to use sustainable transportation,” but by riding there along the Embarcadero to the institution’s Beach Street locale, patrons will be “enjoying the above-the-water views of the bay and then taking a dive beneath the waters of the bay at the aquarium.”
If afterward you haven’t come to empathize with the bay’s fauna, you can join the tourists in downing crab cake sandwiches and other deep-fried denizens of the deep at nearby Fisherman’s Wharf. Or satisfy your appetite for adventure by taking the Blue & Gold Ferry to Angel Island for 360-degree bay views from its 5.5 miles of bike path.
Sticking closer to home, follow the Bay Trail west past Fort Mason and along the Marina to Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge.
“It’s a nice way to see how the landscape of the bay changes as it goes from the baylands out the sea and connects to the bay itself,” Schmidt says.
Following the trail across the bridge, you can take a side trip to see the fuzzy patients on shore at the Marine Mammal Center, a rescue organization for injured and distressed seals, sea lions and their aquatic colleagues. The center is near Fort Cronkhite at the end of Bunker Road in the Headlands.
Another few miles from the bridge sits our final maritime edification station, the Army Corps of Engineers’ Bay Model, a 1.5-acre working model of the entire bay and delta tidal system. Find it in the industrial flats off Bridgeway Avenue in northern Sausalito, and get a gull’s-eye view of how the whole thing comes together. Feel free at this point to put your new knowledge into practice by riding the ebb or flood back to San Francisco on the Sausalito Ferry.
Reconnoiter your best route for Bike to the Aquarium Day with the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Bike Mapper tool ( www.sfbike.org/mapper). Find out more about the Aquarium of the Bay at www.aquariumofthebay.org. For more information about the Marine Mammal Center or to make reservations for classes, go to www.marinemammalcenter.org. Explore the Bay Model at www.spn.usace.army.mil/bmvc, and get an overview of the entire Bay Trail at www.baytrail.org. Ferry schedules are listed at www.goldengateferry.org and www.blueandgoldfleet.com. And to learn more about plans to improve the Bay Trail route, see www.connectingthecity.org.
Bike About Town is presented by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a 12,000-member nonprofit dedicated to creating safer streets and more livable communities by promoting the bicycle for everyday transportation. For more biking resources, go to www.sfbike.org.