BARTable by bike: Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach on a sunny day. Photo courtesy of California Beaches.

Editor's note: BART is currently running reduced service, but we are dispatching long trains even though ridership has been significantly reduced. We are doing this to ensure our riders can properly socially distance from one another. If you plan to ride BART, see our feature, Tips for riding BART during COVID-19.

Before heading out, make sure you understand local requirements on social distancing and wearing a mask. Alameda County and San Francisco city health officials require residents to wear face coverings any time they leave home and get within 30 feet of anyone not living in their household. If you need a mask, check out our feature, Bay Area businesses selling masks during COVID-19

Difficulty

• Beginner-intermediate

Terrain

• Mostly flat, about 14-18 miles total

Cautions

• The route includes a couple of short, steep hills. Make sure your gears are in good working order for the ascent and that your brakes are tuned up for the descent.
 
The Great Highway is closed to cars and open to bikes from Lincoln Way to Sloat Blvd. Photo courtesy of BARTable staff.

Introduction

There’s now an exciting mostly car-free route between the Ferry Building and Ocean Beach. It’s ideal for cyclists and part of SFMTA’s Slow Streets Program, which is designed to limit through traffic on certain streets and allow them to be used as a shared space for people traveling by foot and by bicycle. Enjoy plenty of space to spread out along this mostly flat, very scenic route from the Bay to the Beach.

What to bring

Comfortable riding shoes, helmet, water bottles, sun protection (hat, sunscreen), extra layers or rain gear (just in case). A smartphone is handy for maps and looking up information or taking photos. And, of course, your Clipper card. Make sure to download the Ride with GPS app so you can easily reference the route.

How to get there

From Embarcadero Station, the ride begins on Market St. The street has a wide bike lane in both directions and the road is flat on the nearly two-mile section between Embarcadero Station and the turn onto Page St.

As you turn off Market St and pass into the Lower Haight, you will encounter your first hill, just past Octavia Blvd. In a city known for its steep hills, this one is not particularly challenging, but it’ll be sure to get your heart rate up. Don’t get discouraged — once you’ve reached the top, it’s a long gradual descent through Golden Gate Park to the beach.

Route

Highlights of the ride

Car-free Market St

Since Jan. 29, 2020, Market St — between Main St near the Ferry Building and 10th St near Van Ness Ave — has been car-free. In an effort to create safer streets and prioritize pedestrians, the City made the change. SF Muni buses still operate on the street but are mostly separated from bike lanes through transit boarding islands.

Market St has gone car-free. Photo courtesy of CNN.

Lower Haight 

With its mix of vintage Victorians, hip record shops, colorful murals, and affordable restaurants, the low-key Lower Haight has attracted artists, musicians, and young professionals for decades. The Slow Streets route along Page St is quieter and more bike-friendly, but if you're looking for businesses ride over to Haight St between Webster St and Divisadero St.

A handmade Slow Street sign outside The Page in the Lower Haight. Photo courtesy of BARTable staff.

Haight-Ashbury

With roots in counterculture, the Upper Haight—historically a collage of artists and creatives with a village sensibility—is all about innovation and social experimentation. Like in the Lower Haight, Page St is a quiet, residential thoroughfare. For all the action, head one block south to Haight St between Central Ave and Golden Gate Park.

The Grateful Dead House is two blocks off Page St at Ashbury St and Waller St. Photo courtesy of Reddit.

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is a huge urban park consisting of more than 1,000 acres of public grounds. It’s 20 percent larger than Central Park in New York City and is the third most-visited park in the US. Traveling through the park by bike is a great way to experience its miles of green lawns, paths, lakes, and 7,000 kinds of plants. The park is also home to renowned museums such as the de Young and California Academy of Sciences and they have recently reopened to the public.

John F. Kennedy Dr is very wide and provides lots of space to socially distance. Photo courtesy of BARTable staff.

Ocean Beach

Picture a 3.5-mile stretch of white beach with few tourists and no high-rises. It's just you and the waves and the seabirds at Ocean Beach, on the westernmost border of San Francisco, adjacent to Golden Gate Park. Great for strolling and flying kites, but the water is frigid and the currents are hazardous for all but the most experienced surfers.

All green lights from here. Photo courtesy of BARTable staff.
 

On the Great Highway, experience the tranquility of what was once a busy road with fast-moving cars. The two-mile stretch from Lincoln Way to Sloat Blvd is completely free of motorized traffic and is open to recreation. Want to make the Great Highway a permanent car-free open space? Support the Great Highway Park Initiative and get involved!

Visit bart.gov/bikes to check BART’s bike rules, then strap on your helmet and get out there!

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