Hugo and Kezar: A San Francisco Gem of Walkable, Bikeable Streets

Hugo Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Finding great examples of bike-friendly streets doesn’t always mean looking across borders to international cities. Here in San Francisco, gems of physically separated bikeways and traffic-calmed neighborhood streets can be found on an oft-overlooked bicycle route along Hugo Street and Kezar Drive that connects the Inner Sunset to areas east.

Nearly all of my bicycle trips from my Inner Sunset home launch off with Hugo Street. It’s a refreshingly calm stretch of neighborhood-oriented space where a low level of cars travel through at human speeds. A plethora of tree cover and pedestrian space, ruptured by relatively few driveways, creates a seven-block oasis that may leave those strolling and riding through disappointed only by its brevity.

“It’s a little piece of utopia in San Francisco, and it really is a living example of livable streets – I hope the city planners are studying it, because it works,” said Joe Rogers, a radio news editor and Inner Sunset resident who uses the route on his bicycle commute. “A lot of people are surprised. The volume of cars is low, and I think that just lends itself to a lot of people walking around there. It’s just perfect for bike riding. It’s not designed to be made easy for cars to go through.”

“A good number of families with kids on their bikes” visit the street’s Wooly Pig Cafe, said owner Lieng Souryavong. Rush hour on the street means mainly bike traffic passing through, and with a relatively narrow roadway, speeding drivers aren’t a concern, he noted.

“It draws the traffic that I want,” he said.

From Hugo, the designated bicycle route flows travelers onto a physically separated walking and cycling path on Kezar Drive. Despite a somewhat high level of motor traffic using the road, non-motorized users can keep a sense of safety as separation is provided by a curb, planted hedges, parked cars, and even logs. By the end of the road, travelers are connected directly to the Panhandle.

Kezar Drive. Photo: Aaron Bialick

“Usually on half of my commute, I’m not even in the streets. It’s really cool,” said Rogers.

The dose of car-free travel and human-oriented streets is enough to excite me, and I’m sure many others, about getting on my bike, whether it’s to get to work or just the grocery store.

As I ride, a thought consistently runs through my head: If everyone had this kind of invitation and the ability to get on their bike, then why wouldn’t they?

This block of 6th Avenue links Hugo to the calm but lively Irving Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Kezar Drive has a physically separated, mixed-use path. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The transition onto Kezar does bring a minor moment of caution. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Photo: Aaron Bialick