// It’s Not All About the Bike (Lane)
Posted on Monday, August 27th, 2012
Written by Nick Moore
According to Bicycling.com, San Francisco is the 8th most bike-friendly city in the country. Oakland, where I live and bike, ranks 40th. As with many such lists, miles of bike lane is the primary criterion. San Francisco has many more miles of it, but, having ridden around both cities, the comparison strikes me as somewhat irrelevant. Because my question is this—all else equal, in which of the two cities would you feel most comfortable riding? [Note: If your reaction is, “Oakland—why would I ever want to go there?” or some variation on that fearful/dismissive theme, you’re politely granted permission to stop reading. Such sentiments prove either you haven’t been there lately or the strength of your attachment to pre-conceived notions renders you effectively blind to the manifold charms of the capital of the East Bay. Or both.] Most of Oakland’s streets don’t offer bike lanes, but the vast majority don’t really need them—there simply aren’t many cars to compete with.
Population density can be a pretty revealing statistic when it comes to the road. San Francisco’s is more than twice that of Oakland (about 17,000 residents per square mile to 7,000), and the disparity is particularly evident when one is trying to navigate the hostile traffic between Golden Gate Park and the BART corridor on Market. Especially when one compares this harrowing, potentially traumatizing experience with the leisurely pace of surface streets in Temescal or Grand Lake, neighborhoods with a similar relationship to downtown. This is not to say that Oakland doesn’t need more bike lanes—it does. But its relatively lightly-trafficked streets, many of which lack bike lanes, are far more conducive to the kind of meditative, meandering ride that I enjoy. While San Francisco might be institutionally friendlier toward cyclists—with regard to its designated bike lanes, valet bike parking, and other amenities—I’d contend that Oakland is more comfortable. I’d also go as far as saying it’s more pleasurable, but I’ll save that argument for a later post.