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San Francisco: Safety and Getting Around

By Gina Sunie-Lopez

San Francisco is one of the country’s top tourist destinations. While it is a big attraction, it actually comprises a surprisingly small area. Located at the tip of the San Francisco peninsula, it only covers approximately seven square miles. Lucky for tourists and activity seekers, San Francisco is easily explored on foot and by public transit. While “The City,” as it is referred to by locals, is characterized as being dense and compact in populations and architecture, it certainly isn’t lacking in historical attractions and exciting events! There are various things that are important to know about basic safety and ways to navigate The City. By getting to know different methods of travel and basic safety tips, travelers can make the most of their time in the beautiful and eclectic city by the bay.

General Safety

In general, San Francisco is a safe and tourist-friendly destination; however, like when visiting any other major city, it is a good idea to practice basic safety sense. Carry a good street map and perhaps a cell phone so that you can call your hotel if you get lost. Do not carry large amounts of cash or display expensive jewelry. While all major cities have their areas of higher crime rates, those in San Francisco are not likely to be seen by tourists, and for the most part, they are not common areas of travel.

Modes of Travel

Walking. In San Francisco, walking is great way to travel. Your feet can prove to be your best travel partners, as many of the city’s most popular tourist destinations are within walking distance of one another. North Beach, China Town, and Fisherman’s Wharf are all examples of popular destinations that can be easily accessed by walking tour. San Francisco is known for its steep hills, so be sure to keep this in mind when planning your walking trips. The steepness of streets can vary greatly from one block to another. Remember to strap on your comfortable walking shoes!


Public transit. If walking is not one of your interests, San Francisco also boasts a convenient and comprehensive bus, streetcar, cable car, and subway network to get you to your destination. The primary transit provider is Muni, which operates all bus, streetcar, and cable car lines within the city limits. The primary regional transit provider is BART, which operates as a subway line through much of the city. Stations and pick-up points are easily recognizable, while schedule and fare rates are also available via the Internet and station information kiosks. For more information and help planning trips, visit the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s website (http:// www.sfmta.com/cms/home/sfmta.php).

If you are planning to make the most out of your trip to San Francisco by exploring outside the convention area, you may want to consider purchasing a Citypass, which is a Muni-and-attraction all-in-one pass. If you plan on visiting all the participating attractions, you will save more than $50 using the Citypass.

Bicycling. San Francisco is also known for its high volume of bicycle traffic. This can actually be one of the fastest ways to get around the city. If you are comfortable riding in traffic, you will find bicycle-friendly lanes on major streets. There are plenty of quiet streets and scenic paths to ride along, such as the Embarcadero, Golden Gate Park, and the Presidio. More bicycling information is available from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, as well as on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s website. Of course, bicyclists should use common safety sense while traveling around San Francisco. Good ideas to keep in mind are: always wear a helmet, use front and rear lights at night, use hand signals when turning and stopping, and respect all traffic signs and controls.

Taxis & cabs. Taxis are a common sight in San Francisco around all major downtown neighborhoods. Taxis can be hailed anywhere on the street, picked up at taxi stands, or requested over the phone. Note that taxis can be difficult to find in the Financial District (near Union Square) during the afternoon commute period as well as when local bars close at 2 a.m. Local company numbers can be obtained through the concierge desk at the your hotel.

Driving. Getting around San Francisco by car can be challenging because major streets are commonly congested during business hours. Some areas of the city are known for their winding and narrow streets. It is also essential to note that many city streets downtown and near the convention hotel are oneway. It is not uncommon that city drivers end up making several right turns in order to go left! Certain major streets also have restricted-lane driving during business hours, as lanes are replaced with parking zones. Remembering to pay attention to signs and signals is always your best bet when navigating the city by car.

Parking. San Francisco may be known for its challenging parking. Many locals choose not to access public parking because it can be expensive and crowded. Parking information around the convention hotel is available through the concierge station, as well as the Convention and San Francisco Information Center. If you are planning on utilizing the city’s parking amenities, please note that parking restrictions are common for parking time durations and zone specificity. Parking officials take these restrictions seriously, and violations can prove to be pricey. If you choose to park in San Francisco, it is best to take common sense safety measures to keep your belongings and yourself safe. Do not leave items in plain view, and consider the safety of the area and proximity to your destination when parking at night.

Gina Sunie-Lopez is a graduate student at Cal State University, East Bay and the Local Student Convention cochair.