If you are a tourist, just don’t drive in the city. Don’t even consider it. This is the most unforgiving and forbidding, bat shit crazy city to drive in throughout the entire United States. Oakland is a close second, with the crappiest roads in the country, but nothing beats San Francisco’s hybrid transportation hell with its one-way, dilapidated streets, steep, winding hills, constant construction, horrific traffic and the most aggressive pedestrians and bicycle riders on the planet. If you must travel to San Francisco–and we prefer you did not–don’t drive a car. If, however you insist on doing so, here are some vehicular pastimes that beat the crushing stupidity and corporate mendacity of those tourist traps like Fisherman’s Wharf and The Embarcadero. You might as well learn something from your intransigence.
If you are not above indulging in a bit of schadenfreude proceed to Washington and Jefferson streets where they cross Snob Hill east-west and west-east. Both streets are one way and are cable car equipped. The cable cars, long since abandoned as a means of proletarian conveyance, now cater exclusively to that most despicable of social creatures, the tourist. Get your video ready. Note that in place of four-stop-sign intersections the cable car is granted the right-of-way, making for two-stop-sign intersections, something unexpected and counterintuitive to anyone unfamiliar with San Franscisco’s insane transportation environment. You will watch as driver after driver stops when they ought not to stop, and do not stop when they should. This, despite the prominently posted signs north and south that read Cross Traffic Does Not Stop. It makes no difference, as no-one reads a sign posted below a stop sign, unless it is for a yard sale; but it does make for constant near catastrophes, and the occasional full-on crash. Hours of enjoyment here, much superior to those creepy mobs lined up outside the Full House house, which is not the house at all, merely the exterior that formed a shot for the show. Besides, sitcoms with laugh tracks are the television equivalent of easy listening muzak.
Americans are congenitally allergic to Round-a-bouts. San Francisco is no exception. The Round-a-bout at 8th and Townsend is a shit show worthy of a Three Stooges skit. The physical comedy of vehicles, bicycles, scoots and scooters, skateboarders and pedestrians all aggressively competing for the right-of-way through a circle whose logic escapes everyone is perfectly emblematic of the future Big Tech has in store for us. And this is ground zero of Big Tech in San Francisco, with the offices of Adobe and Air BnB yards from the chaos. They have figured it all out, you see, because an algorithm can never be wrong (only the person who programmed it) therefore everything that derives from the algorithm is right and good. Now comes the pesky Round-a-bout and the many nuanced social cues and codes and all that other stuff that escapes the ironclad logic of the Bit. The logic of the Round-a-bout is straight forward and simple, yet flouted by practically everyone: if you are in, you have the right of way. If you are out, watch out. Exceptions, as always, are pedestrians and bicycles. The point system is always in effect, which is my way of saying Big Tech is Big Stupid.
Set aside time in your itinerary for the onramp to the Bay Bridge at 1st and Harrison and the neighborhood known as SoMa (South of Market). Deeply ensconced within this cradle of plutocracy is the leaning Millennium Tower (fall over already) and the worlds most posh freeway entrance. While you are there let them know we are coming with pitchforks and molotov cocktails, and a particular emphasis on those $5,000-a-month doggy day cares. During rush hour (5am-10pm everyday) watch for Lamborghinis with a right-of-way my Toyota just doesn’t have. They will cheat through that bike lane while pretending to ignore horns blaring around them then park right in the middle of the fucking intersection, stopping traffic in all directions. Taking their time, they will pretend to have misinterpreted the giant sign that reads “Do Not Block Intersection” and the civil code cited below it. Milkshakes are in order.
While not particular to San Francisco, the mantra Look, Signal, (then) Pull out should always apply. Don’t do the opposite–pull out, signal and look as an after thought. Doing the opposite means you will ram your vehicle into mine and I will be forced to exit my vehicle and beat you about the head with a copy of Das Kapital. This elementary principle, so simple and unambiguous, so very difficult to misinterpret, is unobserved everywhere. There is a phrase for doing otherwise: aggressive stupidity.
Don’t stick your phone, much less your iPad, into the middle of your front windshield. Are you daft? You will not be able to take out that Salesforce executive without backing up to finish the job. Furthermore, while you may be able to track your progress through that gps navigation program, you won’t get wherever it is you are going because you will have hit something you ought not to have hit along the way. Those large spaces at the front and sides of your vehicle called windows are transparent for a reason–so you can see through them.
Autonomous vehicles in training are legitimate targets for milkshaking and the old Issac Asimov I Robot conundrum: roll a baby carriage from one direction and an elderly person from another directly in front of the Waymo vehicle and force it to make a decision, thereby exposing bias at work in the algorithm. If it chooses to run over the baby, autonomous vehicles are baby killers; if it chooses the elderly person, it is guilty of geronticide. If it stops altogether, get your milkshake ready.
Two noteworthy tidbits of trivia to keep in mind about the Golden Gate Bridge. First, is that it was Iron workers who died building it and should be honored for it. Architects and engineers can fuck off. Second, the suicide deterrent system currently being installed on both sides of the bridge to the tune of $240 million is emblematic of the priorities of San Francisco’s city leaders. It is far more important to obstruct people trying to die with dignity, and perhaps a bit of notoriety, than do anything about the homeless crisis–which is not a crisis of too few homes available for too many people, but that of the 100,000 empty homes that the wealthy indolent and real estate industry purposefully leave uninhabited. That’s right 100,000 empty fucking homes. Occupation and expropriation are the only solution here.
The Tenderloin District is the last bastion of lumpen proletariat resistance in the entire city. Drive careful through there because God’s children are selling the dope all those Big Tech twits need to make it through their twenty-hour work days while they pray to the crack in the wallet of a Tech billionaire. That’s right, San Francisco’s African-American population has contracted by almost half in the past twenty years, which makes driving through The Tenderloin, Bayview and Hunter’s Point neighborhoods the rough equivalent of visiting a concentration camp or Indian reservation. You are witnessing a program of urban genocide carried out under the banner of Big Tech. So remember, with every floor of a shiny new office building, a tent city is erected in its shadow.
Welcome to the City on the Hill.