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Cyclists © Airman Nathan Doza/Wikipedia
Cyclists © Airman Nathan Doza/Wikipedia

Get To Know The Wiggle, San Francisco’s Favorite Bike Route

Picture of Courtney Holcomb
Updated: 9 February 2017
Stretching from Market Street to Golden Gate Park, the Wiggle is a popular one-mile San Francisco bike route with a rich history. The route zig zags through the Lower Haight and the Panhandle with an average incline of 3%, never exceeding an incline of 6%, allowing cyclists the easiest route to breeze through the city without breaking a sweat.

The Wiggle begins just past Market Street at the Duboce Bikeway, about 100 feet above sea level, before winding in a generally northwest direction to the Panhandle Bikeway, and finishing up near Stanyan Street, about 265 feet above sea level. It’s a useful path for cyclists traveling between some of the more central or downtown neighborhoods and the westernmost edges of the city.

The route sits in what was once the Sans Souci Valley, between the Mission and the Presidio, where a creek flowed from Buena Vista Hill through the Panhandle to Duboce Park. The creek naturally carved the flatter path that bikers use today.

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The Wiggle © Dianne Yee/Flickr

The path has been used for thousands of years, since the Ohlone tribes inhabited the space, as Kelly Hackett explains in Bay Nature. The Ohlone people walked the route to travel between villages located in what we now know as the Mission and the Presidio. According to natural historian Joel Pomerantz, ‘The one at the Mission was like a base camp for summer gatherings for when they came together to gather acorns in the hills, or seeds from the grasses,’ and, ‘in the winter they would go down [toward the Presidio] and get oysters and other things from the Bay.’ Juan Bautista De Anza also allegedly used the route to lead a group of Spanish explorers in the journey to establish Mission San Francisco de Asís, also known as Mission Dolores, displacing and enslaving many of the Ohlone people along the way.

Pomerantz was the first to officially name the route ‘the Wiggle’ in 1994 in the San Francisco Bike Coalition’s newsletter, Tubular Times, but today even most the official signage along the route sports the affectionate nickname.

If you’re interested in exploring the historical pathway, it’s open to walkers and bikers alike. To hear more in-depth details about its colorful history, take a Thinkwalk led by the very same Joel Pomerantz who first officially named the route.

Wiggle Mural at Fell and Scott © Dianne Yee/Flickr

Another way to appreciate the Wiggle is by perusing the murals it has inspired. There is a lesser known mural featuring a Wiggle biker at the corner of Fell and Scott Streets, but the primary Wiggle mural stretches along the Duboce Bikeway. The Duboce Bikeway Mural covers 6,000 square feet, illustrating a biker’s journey from the eastern edge to the western edge of San Francisco. The mural was created by Mona Caron, depicting the Wiggle as the flowing waterway it once was and featuring gridlocked downtown traffic juxtaposed with utopian cyclists, some of them even flying overhead. Caron explains, ‘These characters symbolize the dreamers and utopians who, each in their own unique way, hold aloft the banner of their dreams and ideals for a better life that overcomes the unsustainable mess beneath… To the right of this scene, the whole rest of the mural unfurls as another one of these golden banners, which is meant to express that, what follows, is but one of many constituent dreams for a better world: in this case, the dream of a bike-friendly city where human-powered and public transportation define the streets.’

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Duboce Bikeway Mural © torbakhopper/Flickr