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City’s wiggle goes way back

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The Wiggle
An ordinance allowing bicyclists to safely roll through stop signs while yielding passed its first vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday, but failed to collect enough votes to override a threatened mayoral veto.

Who wants to huff and puff on their bicycle over one of The City’s big hills when they can just wiggle instead?

Barely anybody. That’s one reason why The Wiggle — San Francisco’s famous bicycle route connecting the Haight to the Mission — is so darned popular.

The Wiggle winds its way from Noe and Duboce to Fell and Scott, guiding bicyclists (relatively) painlessly through the Lower Haight. While up and over 17th Street may cut it in a car, The Wiggle is the best way to get from the Mission or Castro to, say, the Inner Sunset on a bike.

Bicyclists, as it turns out, are merely the latest group to use and claim The Wiggle as their own. The same basic route has a history of helping travelers bypass hills that goes back hundreds of years.

Natural historian Joel Pomerantz told Bay Nature that the indigenous Ohlone would use the trail to travel between two seasonal villages in the Presidio and the Mission:

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. In the winter they would go down and get oysters and other things from the Bay.

At least part of the route follows a natural stream bed, one of several that used to flow into a lagoon in the current-day Mission.

Years later, Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza likely used the trail while searching for a permanent home for what would become Mission Dolores. Though the Mission ended up in more or less its current location, De Anza would end up diverting much of the water from the stream — which he called Agua de la Dolores — for drinking and irrigation.

Pomerantz has studied the natural history of San Francisco for decades, and is credited with coining the name The Wiggle in an article for the San Francisco Bike Coalition’s Tubular Times in 1994.

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as assistant professor at San Francisco State University.

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