Hum of the city #1

I’ve written before that I call this blog Hum of the City because I fell in love with the sounds I could only hear when there weren’t cars rushing by. I noticed these all the time when we were in Copenhagen, but only rarely in San Francisco.

This morning we stopped as usual at the intersection of Stanyan and Oak/Fell in Golden Gate Park on the way to school. This is a ferociously busy intersection for cars, with eight lanes of traffic running east/west and six lanes running north/south, plus two cloverleafs. We have to move into the (partially protected) bike lane marked in the east/west center lane to enter the Panhandle path. This intersection makes me edgy, and it’s so noisy we can’t talk there.

There is a moment in the light cycle, however, when all the cars have to stop and the roar of car engines dies. In that moment this morning, I suddenly heard the squawking of San Francisco’s wild parrots. They don’t usually come so far west!

And then the lights turned green, and it was like they were never there at all.


Filed under commuting, family biking, San Francisco

6 responses to “Hum of the city #1

  1. sho

    those last few sentences are beautiful.

    I’m struck by how quiet my neighborhood can be (e.g., Thanksgiving day). Listen and you can hear the motor vehicles zooming on Route 2 (~1 km away). I wonder about the effects of noise pollution on health and stress.

    • We have the exact same experience on holidays, especially I think because we’re right behind a hospital. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we suddenly hear birds and kids laughing. I’m sure they’re always there.

  2. Jim

    Those guys used to thrive on Dolores, then hopscotched their euphonious racket up Market when the palms were planted a few years back. Don’t recall ever hearing them as far as Stanyan tho.

  3. Very Zen. Nice. — (and in the back on my mind). I read about an expansion of bicycle lanes in NYC. It said they were ‘protected,’ and I’d have a minor dispute about that as compared to my years of living in the Netherlands — BUT, in fact I was very impressed and pleasantly surprised at what they did; having the bicycle lane actually next to the sidewalk very good…the adding of color nice. Article at:

    • Fortunately for me there are almost never pedestrians walking in the bike lane at Oak/Fell entrance to Golden Gate Park, although to my amazement they do sometimes walk on the raised center median that protects the left edge of the bike lane.

      I do really like having car/bike/pedestrian infrastructure at different levels on major streets, though, so it’s obvious when you’re “trespassing.” Although on quiet side streets in Copenhagen it seemed that having no separation, not even a sidewalk, effectively slowed everyone to walking speed. I wish there were a better understanding of why different things work and where they work.

      • Jim

        “although to my amazement they do sometimes walk on the raised center median that protects the left edge of the bike lane.”

        My GF and other friends used to live NorPan; God the drunken nights tightroping that back in the day.

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