One of the reasons potential cyclists resist taking that first ride is uncertainty about how to negotiate San Francisco streets and, always, the city's hills. But NOPA is a great location for getting to anywhere else in town. All anyone needs is a little direction and advice.
Bike maps are readily available. You can check the online (and downloadable) "San Francisco Bike Map"to find all the city's currrent bike routes, bike lanes, and bike sharrow (shared lane) routes. This ever-popular guide also color-codes blocks according to their elevation, so you can indeed avoid the hills. (Advisory: Once the onerous restriction on new bike lanes in the city is lifted -- any week now -- 45 miles of new bike routes, lanes, and sharrows will be added to the city's bike network. New maps will follow.)
Best of all join the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and get this free folding bike map. Your'e sure to use it all the time. Other perks with SFBC membership ($35/year) are dozens of discounts at city bike shops, cafes, and Rainbow Grocery. The membership pays for itself in no time, and you're helping support better biking in the city.
Find out everything you need to know to travel by transit and bike throughout the Bay Area at 511.org . How to put your bike on the front of Muni buses, where to position them on BART, the scoop on the Caltrain bike car, and taking your bike on ferries. Once primed with the basics, talk with other cyclists for tips on the best routes.
If you ever need an icebreaker with another cyclist, simply ask "how do you get to work/school/downtown, etc." Cyclists love to talk about the best, quickest routes. Never seem to tire of it, in fact. Must be a bonding ritual.
Special for North Panhandle blog readers: post your query (How do I get there from NOPA?) in the comments and we'll zip you a few options for safe bike travel.
Note: In case you sometimes walk to get from here to there: don't overlook the San Francisco Bike and Walking Map, available here as a pdf. These maps are available in several stores for $2.50.
And, lastly: when will we get walk and bike "fab maps" now available for motorists: washable microfiber fabric that requies no folding, won't rip or tear, washable, and suitable for cleaning iphones, eyeglasses, and goggles!