Many people ride bikes to work in downtown San Francisco. It’s nowhere near as bad as big cities like Tokyo or Bangkok. However, rush hour is no picnic.
I would get to work by 7:30 a.m. to beat the crowd, or arrive at 10 a.m. In the summer, due to heavy fog, a late arrival may be better. Most people take BART or Muni, but that costs money. Cycling is free.
Google maps has bicycling routes for San Francisco. Select “bicycling” under “More” in Google maps to see green lines designating bike routes or lanes. Another source for this information is SFBike.org, “Maps and Reference.”
Businesses. Bank of America, PricewaterhouseCoopers, PG&E, Gap, Levi Strauss, Bechtel, Industrial Light and Magic, Charles Schwab, Craigslist, BitTorrent, Wikipedia, Yelp, Yammer, SalesForce.com, CNET, Chronicle Books, Flickr, etc.
* Avoid rush-hour traffic. Market Street sees gridlock. The combination of cars, pedestrians, light-rail rail tracks, and buses make commuting a hassle. Motorists are also much less accommodating during rush-hour.
However, the off-peak riding experience is acceptable. Most of the streets are in decent shape, although downtown San Francisco will never be a smooth ride.
* Know the hills. They’re killer. Streets like Gough going south, or Taylor Street going north, have grades up to 18 percent. While I like Page Street for riding east-west, it has a couple of steep hills (12 percent) a block or two long, riding west. If you’re in shape, it won’t be a problem. I gray-shaded the hills on the map, but it’s an approximation.
* Take one-way streets. Traffic is less chaotic. Wide streets are better than narrow streets. Howard Street is as good as it gets.
* Avoid Chinatown, due to congestion. Same goes for Market Street. It has a bike lane, but it’s crazy downtown.
* Golden Gate Bridge. Commuters over Golden Gate Bridge to downtown have two good options: ride through the Presidio or stay along the shoreline north of Fort Mason. If you take the Presidio, you’re headed to Greenwich Street. It has light traffic and it’s mostly flat. Doyle Drive will be replaced in the coming year(s), so the Presidio will be less accessible.
Ride to Polk and turn left. Polk has a moderate hill going south. Take a right on North Point Street, which is mostly flat to The Embarcadero. Turn right (no right on red here!). The Embarcadero is busy, but has bike lanes. Be sure to claim your right to the road, especially at right turns.
The real gem, not noted on bike maps, is Battery Street. It’s one way from The Embarcadero and flat — one of the best streets for riding to the business district.
Muni buses go everywhere in San Francisco and they have a front rack for two bikes. BART is accessible to bikes, but not during rush-hour. Ferries let you bring your bike for free.
The SFBike.org map shows bicycle parking areas. Personally, I would try to bring my bike into the office.
Caltrain. There are one or two cars for bikes per train, one in the rear of the train, and one farther up. About 80 bikes can be accommodated, but the trains are often full during rush hour.
Riding from the train station to downtown, I recommend Townsend to Third Street, which is one way. Take Fourth Street coming back, also one-way. Beware of the triple-right turn on Fourth Street at the 101 on-ramp! You need to be in the first left lane with a straight/turn arrow.
I have marked on the map some of the roads I prefer for commuting across the city and to downtown. Veteran San Francisco commuters will have their favorite routes. Enjoy your ride.