« Dear Rachael of the Future, | Main | The Night of Writing Dangerously! »

Why Some People Don't Drive in San FranciscoSeptember 12, 2010


That is, bar none, my favorite street sign in San Francisco. Click for big and crazy-pants-edness. Which way are you going? (ATTN: NICOLE PEELER: That sign is mere blocks -- BLOCKS! -- from the House of Meat Prime Rib.)

I remember when I didn't like driving in the city. I hated it. I was scared of it. I'm not one of those drivers who worries I'll go the wrong way on a one-way street -- I just didn't know where things were. I was worried I'd accidentally end up on the freeway and shunted out of the freeway into Daly City or something (oh, wait, that happened once).

But somehow, in the past five years or so, I've gotten so that I like driving in San Francisco. There's a kind of thrill to it. When I was growing up, we spent some years in the East Bay, and I remember my dad driving us around the city in one of our many VW vans, careening up and down hills, yelling that old Bill Cosby line, "Come around, idiot, come around!" One of those vans lost its bumper and Dad made one out of wood. I remember thinking that was cool. And he always said that driving in the city took a certain amount of daring, and said that people who drove in San Francisco were CRAZY.

Well, they are crazy, but not including the taxis (who are out of their frikken minds), they're no crazier than anywhere else, and Oakland has WAY crazier drivers. I've lived in Oakland now for thirteen years, and nowhere in the world have I seen some of the things I see there on a regular basis. So when I go to the city, it's almost relaxing in comparison. Sometimes, when I'm a little lost, I get on the tail of a taxi and make their moves, following in their wake, and it's like a carnival ride, all honking and ahOOgahs, and I usually end up figuring out where I need to go eventually.

And I just realized this: I think the reason I'm more relaxed about driving now is the fact that I always have an interactive map in my pocket. When I get lost, I can pull over, figure out where I am, zoom in and out, look at satellite images, and figure it out. Isn't that AMAZING? When we were driving back from Yosemite the other day and took that back road, it wasn't until we were kind of lost that I realized we had neither a cell phone signal nor a California map in the car. So we followed our noses, and asked the advice of a very nice woman at a gas station (just like in the old days!) and found our way home.

But it's nice to be (mostly) unafraid of driving in San Francisco. And I love that crazy-pants sign.


Are you sure that's a street sign? It looks like an illustration on the states of male anatomy from health class than anything else. *squints at it*


ha! I remember that intersection.

I learned to drive stick while living in Cole Valley and totally remember the fear of rolling back down 17th street into the car behind me.. And parallel parking on the top of Stanyan, beyond the market.. but eventually I learned the ebrake trick!

I know where that sign is! It's too many kinds of awesome to name. And, yes, driving in SF is a bit crazy! I've been an Angeleno for over 10 years, and feel like the traffic here is saner than the traffic in Baghdad by the Bay.

My mother would make me drive in the City with my learner's permit, with a stick shift, telling me that a driver's license was a license to drive ANYWHERE and I needed to know how to do it. I am forever grateful.

(Truth be told, the Volvo was probably a better choice for those streets than my father's '67 Impala any day.)

I love driving anywhere! Took my mom for her first trip to Woodland Woolworks yesterday, since we were fairly close by. It is totally in the middle of nowhere. I knew the general direction I wanted to go. She had my phone with the map quest directions (but is pretty worthless as a navigator). Took the scenic route there, then a different scenic route back to the freeway (I wonder where this road goes? Well, it's pointed in the right direction...)Never totally lost, full tank of gas when we started, beautiful country side, and yarn = a perfect adventure!

Gah! That sign is a metaphor for my life!

I lived in L.A. for about 15 months. Coming from NW Ohio, where the roads are long boring two to four lane stretches between cornfields, driving the L.A. freeways was quite an experience. It's why I drive offensively today, LOL!

Maybe I should say "assertively". One cannot debate as they approach an L.A. freeway entrance--they have to size it up as they accelerate and just do it.

That experience came in handy when I visited Nashville, which surprisingly has THE worst, most insane, traffic I've ever encountered. L.A. didn't bother me, but Nashville scared me!

Dallas and Houston have signs like that. I always say I would MUCH rather drive in Chicago than Houston -- but I've never driven in San Francisco or Oakland! But you're right -- I'm not sure how I drove without my GPS and now my iPhone. Plain old maps-- how did they help in the middle of a big city??? I really don't remember at all!

I see you that sign, and raise you the Westferry Circus traffic lights. (Since I can't supply links you'll have to google it. Images are plenty. And no, it's not actually a working traffic light, it's a sculpture in the middle of a roundabout - but, DUDE. The first time you see it, from a car, you freak right the hell out.)

Just yesterday I was musing about how I could navigate entirely competently in San Francisco but managed to get turned around at Stinson (population 486). Sometimes I scare myself :-)

OMG I have been at that intersection! Second time in San Francisco and my girlfriend made me drive! She lived in Novato for years but gets lost in a paper bag! LOL! I am grateful I learned to drive in Melbourne so knew to miss the trams. Still I don't think it's as bad as Vancouver, but what's with those taxi drivers!! LOL!

The thing that scares me most about driving in this area are the interstate on-ramps that double as off-ramps. Seriously, who thought that was a good idea?

I don't worry about going the wrong way down a one-way street, either. But I have, so...you'd think I *would* worry.

My favorite time to drive in San Francisco was early Sunday morning after dropping someone or other at SFO. Peaceful, quiet...and traffic-free. ;)

(DC has streets that are one-way during certain hours and two-way during the other hours. I prefer one-way signs that don't have fine print.)

But if you can drive in SF and park on a hill (a real SF hill) with a stickshift, you can do anything in life. It's very empowering.

Oh lordy yes. When I moved to SF, I was a brand new (18yo) driver from a very rural small town. I learned by driving my boyfriend's car only at 1-2am (somewhat less cars on the road), and by taking the buses during the day ( and being kind of a map freak) to learn my way around the city. I am an EXCELLENT parallel parker, due solely to the fact that I lived in the Bay Area for 12 years. :)

What's so hard about Oakland? What are you saying about Oakland drivers? I only run a few red lights, and only on purpose, the ones that should be green.

I like driving where I already drive, because I already know what the road's going to do ahead and I can concentrate on all those other crazy drivers, without finding out I'm in the wrong lane. Actually, street driving is better than freeway driving any day. You can always work your way back around eventually. Oakland and San Francisco - I may not find what I'm looking for, but at least I can get back home. That water and the hills help with broad context navigation.

(I think I've made it to Daly City by accident once)

For the first several years that I lived in San Francisco I didn't have a car. And when we bought a new one, I was so terrified of getting into an accident that I took a driving lesson. The instructor made me drive over the steepest hills in the city. Now I take macho pride in being able to stop on any hill in a stick shift--and parallel park in places like Bernal Heights.
Oakland *is* scary to drive around, if you're unfamiliar with where you are. The way the streets branch off and blend into one another is baffling and frustrating. And 580 isn't a scary road, but the drivers on it certainly can be.

When I was almost 15 we moved from Phoenix (flat) to Seattle (as hilly as the City, but I didn't know that yet) and I was amazed by the hills. I remember stopping for a red light, it felt like we were at a 45 degree angle and looking at the car in the next lane. A young woman was driving, she had a hamburger in one hand, with her little finger hooked around the steering wheel, and was putting on her mascara with the other hand, looking in the rearview mirror. I was REALLY impressed.

The comments to this entry are closed.