The Bike Issue: Getting in gear

10 things Bay Area cyclists should know
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1. City Hall has a bike room. For a while I thought only a scant number of city employees rode to work because the racks out front are usually pretty barren. Then I came across a storage room in the basement, near the café, full of bikes. What an encouraging sight. It was opened a few years back by the Department of the Environment, which is tasked with many of the city's greening chores, and is available for all City Hall employees to park their rides safely inside.

2. More than 50 percent of San Francisco's greenhouse-gas emissions come from transportation. Despite this, 20 percent of San Francisco residents polled in November 2007 by David Binder Research said riding a bike did nothing to curb global warming. Au contraire. Bicycles emit zero greenhouse gases (although the rider emits some carbon monoxide from huffing and puffing). A car produces roughly 20 pounds of CO2 for every gallon of gas burned. Gas stations in San Francisco sell about 953,000 gallons of fuel a day. At $4 a gallon, it would take about five months' of fill-ups to buy every San Franciscan a $750 bicycle — and that's a nice bike.

3. Someday when you're waiting for a BART train, take a good look at a system map. It has almost every East Bay bike trail detailed, and many of the trails connect BART stations with recreation areas. "There are a lot of great ways to get out to nature from BART," said BART board member Tom Radulovich.

4. BART is getting more bike-friendly. About 15 percent of the 580 trains now have removed seats to create special areas for bikes. (Look for the cars marked "Bicycle Priority Area.") Though some riders would like each train to have an entire car dedicated to bikes (Caltrain's approach), a BART spokesperson told me that it would be difficult because cars are added and dropped throughout the day to handle fluctuating ridership. Soon more stations will be outfitted with bike lockers, for rent at a couple of pennies an hour with a BikeLink pass (for information, go to www.bikelink.org). Later this year, the Embarcadero Station will be getting an entire storage room (like City Hall's, and again, partially funded by the Dept. of the Environment.)

5. One BART oddity: That groove running beside the stairs at the 16th and Mission station is to wheel your bike up and down rather than carrying it. Who knew? Not me. It's a pilot project, so if you use it and like it, let BART know by calling (415) 989-2278 and the transit agency might install some more.

6. A San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (www.sfbike.org) membership provides mad discounts, and not just at bike shops. Get 10 percent off at Rainbow Grocery and 50 cents off beers at Hole in the Wall — and that's just the beginning.

7. Make sure you write down your bike's serial number so it's easier for the cops to track your ride if it gets ripped off (see "Chasing My Stolen Bicycle," 2/13/07, for more on bike theft in San Francisco). How do you find these magic digits? Flip your bike over and copy the number stamped on the bottom bracket where the pedals go through the frame.

8. Distant lands like Larkspur, Mill Valley, and Muir Woods are all much closer when you mix the bike with the boat. Marin has an amazing network of bike paths, and the Marin Bicycle Coalition (www.marinbike.org) has a map that one-ups San Francisco's. (It shows the direction of the hills, not just the grade.) And ... the ferries have bars.

9. DIY is the way forward. The three-class series at Box Dog Bikes (www.boxdogbikes.com), which covers flats, replacing cables, and truing wheels, is cheap and goes into enough depth that I no longer feel like there are certain parts of my bike I'm not supposed to touch with an Allen wrench.