By Anna Belle Peterson.
Tourists in San Francisco have plenty of options to get around the city – BART, Muni, rental cars. But more and more visitors are choosing to see the city in a different way: from the seat of a bicycle.
San Francisco’s mild climate, compact geography and new, protected bikeways make the city ideal for bicycling. Among locals, ridership has increased 58 percent in the past four years, according to the San Francisco Bicycling Coalition, and the numbers of bicycling tourists are increasing as well.
Ginsburg helped to initiate the new ParkWide service, a bike rental program that allows visitors to rent out a bike in one park and drop it off in another.
“The idea is to make renting bikes easier,” Ginsburg said. ” We’re basically creating a network of bike rental locations.”
The program, which launched Oct. 11, combines three different bike rental companies (Bike and Roll, Bay City Bike and Blazing Saddles) and is starting out in Justin Herman Plaza and two locations in Golden Gate Park. Locations in Marina Green and Union Square will open in the next few months.
The new program is similar to bike-share systems in cities around the world, including Paris, Montreal and most recently New York, which will launch city-wide next summer. Ginsburg says he hopes that one day San Francisco will be among these world-class cities with extensive bike-share programs.
“By starting it in our parks, we think that it is a concept that can quickly gather momentum and grow,” Ginsburg said.
Laurie Armstrong of the San Francisco Travel Association says she sees that momentum and growth. Armstrong says that many of the city’s returning tourists are trading their rental car for a rental bike on their second and third visits to the city.
“San Francisco is famous for its beautiful scenery and views,” Armstrong said. “A bicycle gets you up close and personal.”
That chance to get an up-close look at the city is what makes tourism on bike different. Riding a bike through the city gives tourists the freedom to wander off the well-worn tourist path.
“Biking gets you inside the neighborhoods,” Armstrong said. “It gives you a feeling of what it’s like to live here.”
Though not yet Amsterdam, San Francisco is gaining a reputation as a world-class bicycling city. With the new, separated green bike lanes along Market Street and proposed routes to connect the entire city, the reputation is growing.
But biking around San Francisco isn’t just for tourists. Ginsburg hopes that locals will also use ParkWide and explore their city’s parks by bike.
“Biking is becoming an increasingly popular mode of transportation. It’s the perfect way to see San Francisco,” Ginsburg said.
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.