Going the distance
Luckily, plenty of the city's structural landmarks are easily accessible within a fairly non-strenuous downtown circuit, which encompasses the cream of the Top 25 San Francisco buildings as named by The Chronicle. A self-guided route, available as a map on the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's Web site
, proceeds from the historic Hallidie Building in the Financial District, through SoMa and the Civic Center, past the Curran House in the Tenderloin and back to the Xanadu Gallery by Frank Lloyd Wright off Union Square.
But the traditional street grid of San Francisco makes almost any part of the city a great place to explore. "The car-accommodating engineering of the last century was only able to mess up small parts of the city—most is still oriented to the pedestrian and the cyclist," explains Baker. "That's why it's such a great place to live."
And as it gets better for riding, he insists, it gets better for everyone. Citing the Danish urban designer Jan Gehl, he says, "A city that is sweet to its cyclists is sweet to its people. There is a reason people pay more for a place that's great for humans unencumbered by 6,000 pounds of machine, even if it is hard to park sometimes."
This is part of the reason that the AIA is encouraging people to take this weekend's house tour by bike. Not only does it let participants view the city from a different perspective, according to the AIA's Helen Wong, but "sustainability is also a concept we're promoting."
You'll also be saving $10-$15 off the ticket price and be designer cool. "A lot of architects are also urban cyclists," according to Baker. "It's a better way to look at architecture than driving."