Longtime San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. “Chuck” Nevius is back to actually living in the city that he writes about after years of commuting to 5th and Mission from Walnut Creek.

While I’m not personally a fan of his work, and he’s drawn the ire of the city’s cycling community on multiple occasions, there’s nothing I like more than welcoming people to San Francisco, so: Welcome back to San Francisco, Mr. Nevius!

As a city resident myself, I’d like to offer you some unsolicited advice. Now that you’re out of the suburban nightmare of tangled cul-de-sacs and six lanes to everywhere, how about considering riding a bike?

I know, I know, cycling is probably something you think of as only kids, doped-up athletes, hipsters, the poors and evil “progressives” do. But there’s a lot to recommend it even for a silver-maned, 60-something like yourself. Let us count the ways!

  1. No parking tickets: People seem to think parking tickets are some sort of badge of being a San Franciscan, but they’re wrong. In fact, San Francisco has the lowest rate of car ownership in the state, and is easily in the bottom five in the country. It is impossible to get a parking ticket if you’re riding a bike (or walking, or riding Muni)! And bike parking is becoming easier to find, especially since the bike plan injunction may be lifted as soon as the 22nd of this month.
  2. You live and work in the flatlands: Yes, San Francisco is full of hills. But your commute is from South Beach to the Chronicle building, all in SOMA and with hardly any elevation whatsoever. It’s one of the things that have made the Mission and SOMA so popular for cyclists — anywhere you’d need to go, there’s hardly any hills. Add a Muni Fast Pass and you can have your bike chauffeured to the top of Nob Hill or Bernal Heights whenever you want.
  3. Cyclists will have to start taking you somewhat seriously: I am not a huge fan of the San Francisco Weekly’s Matt Smith — that hit job on employees getting training at the Bay Area Video Coalition was some stupid, prudish bullshit — but I have to give his opinions regarding cyclists in the city some respect since I know that he, himself, is an urban cyclist. Since you’re so big on calling Chris Daly out after his family moved to Fairfield, why not chip away at the self-righteousness you criticize him for by taking his example and joining Smith by becoming a cyclist yourself?
  4. It’s fun and good for you: I always like to point up that there’s no better reason to cycle than the fact that it’s fun and it’s good for you. And you don’t have to have a “One Less Car” sticker or be a member of the SFBC to enjoy going for a ride! Plus, you’re not getting any younger (none of us are) and any physical activity is better than no physical activity. It’s even getting demonstrably safer! Besides, when your ambition gets the best of your ability, you can always rent from local non-profit City Car Share or national, for-profit ZipCar I certainly do. And no, you won’t ever have to wash it.
  5. It’s good material: We know that you pride yourself on giving an everyman’s take of life on the streets of San Francisco. Which is probably why the fact you lived in Walnut Creek had everyone from Gate commenters to the San Francisco Bay Guardian calling into question your credibility as a columnist. But what better way to get a street-level view of life than by cycling? Trust me, it’s an entirely different way to experience a city than in a car, and leads to all sorts of spontaneous “city life” moments that are the perfect grist for a columnist’s mill.

And you wouldn’t be alone in late-Boomer adoption of pedal power. Even aging political extremists like Berkeley’s Mayor Tom Bates are suggesting residents of that city follow his example and go car-free, and as a former East Bay resident myself, it’s a lot easier to do here in The City than it is back in your former home county, especially as AC Transit looks to drastically cut service. Even San Francisco’s fiscal conservative Mayor Gavin Newsom musses his hair once a year for bike to work day, and this is a guy who gets driven literally anywhere he wants to go in a hybrid SUV that has gas mileage low enough to have qualified it for the cash-for-clunkers program.

So there you are: Five good reasons, and none of them even alluded to the external costs of car-centric living like, oh, the epic environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. No need to thank me! From one columnist to another, I’m looking forward to your complaints about navigating the backed up traffic waiting in line for gas at Divisadero and Fell. Don’t let me and all the other car-free San Franciscans down.

An “artist’s” rendering of Chuck enjoying a ride in protected bike lanes down the mostly-car-free-Market Street from the Chronicle building to the Tadich Grill for some martinis and Liar’s Dice with fellow columnist Willie Brown. Original photo by Richard Masoner.

Jackson West has ridden a bike around the San Juan Islands, up and down the Cascades, in Vancouver, Seattle, Brooklyn, Austin and all over the Bay Area. He would be happy to go on a bike ride in San Francsico with Chuck any time to show him the ropes. Have any bike-related questions? Send an email!

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