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Renting a Bicycle in San Francisco

Rent a Bike, Tour the Waterfront and Ride Across the Golden Gate Bridge

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Renting a Bicycle in San Francisco
San Francisco Travel Association Photo
Because of it's compact size and abundance of sights, San Francisco is relatively easy city to tour by bicycle. For those who want to stay well clear of the city's notorious traffic, the waterfront provides a car-free way to enjoy the city and visit several of its top sights and destinations. Visitors can even bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge and visit Marin County, then take a ferry back to the San Francisco waterfront, where most of the bicycle rental agencies are located. Bikes can usually be rented by the hour, half day or day.

Where to Rent a Bike in San Francisco

Most of the city's bicycle rental agencies are clustered around Fisherman's Wharf, and it will impossible to miss them once you are there, here are a couple of the larger outfits:

  • Bay City Bike: Three wharf locations and over 12 years in the biz. (415)346-2453 www.baycitybike.com

    Alternatively, and to make sure that you can actually get a bike during the summer high season, you can reserve your bicycle online and save a bit of money in the process.

    There are also a hand-full of bicycle and skate rental shops near Golden Gate Park, which is another excellent place to explore on two wheels, but this article will concentrate on the San Francisco Waterfront and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Touring the San Francisco Waterfront by Bicycle

    Once you have your bicycle, you will want to get out of the Fisherman's Wharf area as soon as possible. The best way to do this is to cruise north on Jefferson Street to Aquatic Park, where a bay side trail winds along a small beach and terminates in a curving pier.

    Before getting to the pier however, take the trail to the left, which climbs up the the cliff and brings you to the verdant tranquility of the Great Meadow at Fort Mason. Down below, the historic military fort now houses several museums and a great vegetarian restaurant.

    Continue past Fort Mason into the Marina District, one of San Francisco's more upscale neighborhoods. Here you have the choice of riding down Chestnut Street, which is lined with shops and cafes, or continuing along the Marina Green, a waterfront park that has a bicycle trail. Whichever path you take, stop to check out the Palace of Fine Arts, a replica of an ancient Greek Temple and one of San Francisco's top landmarks, before you leave the area.

    Continue riding into Crissy Field, a wildlife reserve and one of San Francisco's largest waterfront parks. You can visit the Farrallones Marine Sanctuary Visitors Center here and stop for a coffee and a snack at the Warming Hut cafe and bookstore.

    Continue past the Crissy Field Marsh along Old Mason Street and into the Presidio National Park, until you are almost directly under the Golden Gate Bridge. From here a bicycle path (Bicycle Route 202) leads up to Lincoln Boulevard, which leads to Fort Point and the entrance to the bridge itself.

    Biking the Golden Gate Bridge

    During the week bicyclists share the pedestrian walkway on the east side of the bridge with walkers, but on the weekend they get the other walkway - on the west side of the bridge - all to themselves. Slower bicyclists should stay to the right as the fast riding professional types often like to whiz across the bridge at top speed. Stop in the middle of the bridge to admire the San Francisco skyline, the bay and the Marin Headlands, all spread out before you.

    Biking into Marin County

    Although many will turn back after crossing the Bay Bridge it is just a short and scenic ride down Alexander Avenue from the bridge to the charming waterfront town of Sausalito. This is an excellent place to grab lunch, do a bit of shopping and give your legs a rest from pedaling for a bit.

    Returning by Ferry to San Francisco

    From the Sausalito waterfront, two different ferry companies cross the bay to San Francisco and they both allow bicycles on board. The Blue and Gold Fleet returns visitors to Fisherman's Wharf, so be sure to take this one if that is your destination.

    Those that want to plan ahead and save a bit of money can buy the WharfPass, which includes a 2 hour bike rental (More than enough time to get to Sausalito from the Wharf) as well as a Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise plus admissions and savings on a slew of other Wharf activities and attractions for one low price.

    The other ferry, the Golden Gate Ferry, takes passengers to the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace, about two miles away from Fisherman's Wharf (another nice bike ride) on the waterfront.

    Guided Bicycle Tours

    Another option for visitors is the guided bicycle tour of the San Francisco Waterfront, the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin County. Most of the Bicycle rental agencies located at Fisherman's Wharf do offer guided tours and there are even special Electric Bike Guided Tours for those who don't feel like pedaling the whole way.
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