As I biked towards the front driveway of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco last week, I saw a line of fancy cars (BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, etc.) waiting for valet parking. I zipped past the queue and handed my bicycle to one of the valets. He gave me a claim check. Assured that my bike would be safe in a locked room, I walked to my business meeting at the hotel. And when I returned an hour later, it took only a minute to get my bike ready to roll.
My experience at the Ritz gave a new boost to my passion for bike commuting. Small but important bike-friendly services can make a huge difference in one’s quest to cut down on driving a car. In the Bay Area, our public transit systems are well-equipped with features that support cyclists. BART, Muni, and Caltrain all have programs to accommodate bikes. In fact, 7% of Caltrain riders bring bikes on board — the highest percentage of any U.S. public transit system.
Caltrain has entire train cars designated for bikes (capacity: 32) and a pedal-power camaraderie among the riders. Passengers on these special cars love to chat about the route they take to and from the train, and what prompted them to become bike commuters. One guy told me recently that he hated driving his car in rush-hour traffic. Another fellow said his car required too many repairs, so he decided to leave it at home in favor of the bike. Another cyclist — notably middle-aged and dressed for the office — said the best thing about biking to work is that “I feel like I’m 12 years old!”
I know that feeling. Along with the environmental benefits and the regular exercise, it’s what has kept me biking to TerraPass (Berkeley to San Francisco and return) every workday for almost an entire year now. Rain or shine. I don’t expect to visit the Ritz very often, but I’m glad to know that the hotel has a place to store my bike.