When Family Ride tweeted about Seattle’s only bike lane marker without a helmet (Amsterdamize!) I became briefly obsessed with street markings in San Francisco. I had a memory of a helmetless bike lane marker down in the Mission somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet. In the meantime I realized that there was a minor war apparent in San Francisco’s bike lane and sharrow markings. Ground zero is Golden Gate Park.
From the north side of the park, riding on streets and up the hill behind the Conservatory of Flowers, street markings are dominated by the typical rider with a helmet on a bike. But on entering the park and for several blocks south, the bicycles have cast off their riders. These roads are owned by the forces of Bicycle Liberation. In Golden Gate Park, bicycles roam free.
It is particularly disconcerting to reach the top of the hill and see a free bicycle marker head-to-head with a ridden bicycle marker. I now imagine being knocked off my bicycle by freedom fighting cycles every time I get to the top of the hill. They’ll get me when I’m tired. No helmet could protect me.
There is a demilitarized zone on the north edge of the park where the markers avoid the controversy altogether by simply writing the words, “BIKE LANE.” I realize that it’s unfashionable these days to use words instead of symbols on street markings, but this does sidestep the question of whether bicycles should be ridden. Perhaps one day this area will be the Camp David used to broker out a compromise between humans and bicycles.
San Francisco tries to be respectful of all oppressed minorities. I cannot count the times that I have been asked by non-residents what the Q in LGBTQ, now the abbreviation of choice in the city, stands for. Mostly people get the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender parts (although not always). When I report that the Q stands for queer and questioning, I know that the conversation will take a hiatus while my questioners gasp for air through their laughter. “Questioning?!?” they wheeze. Well, all cities have their little quirks, and in my opinion San Francisco could do worse than recognizing that some people are on the fence. At least this is easier than trying to explain what a Romeo flat is.
At any rate, it seems that free bicycles have made inroads into City Hall, because new bicycle lane markings are now evenly split between free bicycles and ridden bicycles. I have no idea how it will all pan out, but plan to ride my captive bicycle for as long as this is allowed.