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Driving Like a Pro in San Francisco

August 18, 2016 / San Francisco

San Francisco can be particularly difficult to drive in with its one-way streets, steep hills, changing traffic rules, and strict traffic enforcement. As you continue developing your skills and learning the ins and outs of the city, you might find you spend less time sitting in traffic, are able complete more trips each day, and have happier riders. These tips can help you get a jump start on the process.

Timed green lights

A few one-way streets have timed stoplights, meaning you’ll hit one green after another if you stay at a constant speed (often around 25 – 35 MPH). Some of the main timed streets are:

  • Fell (westbound) and Oak (eastbound)
  • Pine (westbound) and Bush (eastbound)
  • Franklin (northbound) and Gough (southbound)
  • The Great Highway (northbound and southbound)

Although there are break points at major intersections, if you can get the timing down on these streets you may be able to complete trips faster. Plus, avoiding stop-and-go traffic is better for your vehicle.

The slow slalom and staying at speed

Some roads, like Franklin and Hyde, are intersected by one-way streets. The slow slalom can help you avoid getting stuck behind a turning car, which could slow you down and even throw off your timing for green lights.

As you approach a one-way street that goes to the right, one effective way to avoid traffic is to move to the middle or left lane and then, move to the right or center lane when approaching a one-way street going to the left.

Turning cars can slow you down

While driving down major two-way streets, such as California or Lincoln, you don’t want to get stuck behind someone trying to make a left-hand turn across traffic. People don’t always hit the breaks or use a turn signal early, so to best avoid traffic you may want to watch for cars in the left lane slowing down as the driver releases the gas. Getting out, and staying out, of that lane until after the intersection will help ensure the smoothest trip.

So can delivery trucks in the morning

Delivery trucks are busy in the mornings. If you’re driving downtown and see the right lane is open, you may want to look a block or two ahead before moving over. The trucks double-park as they make deliveries, and you can get stuck behind one if people don’t let you merge back.

Tips for major destinations

Popular destinations are often congested. You might wind up driving to these places over and over again so it might help to learn a few tricks to save time and avoid tickets.

  • CalTrain CalTrain gets packed with work commuters every weekday. Riders may want to get picked up at the bus stop on 4th, but stopping there can lead to a nearly $300 ticket. Instead, if you want to avoid an expensive ticket, you can pick up and drop off riders on Townsend or Bluxome. Also, if you want to avoid ticketing, it makes sense to be extra cautious not to block the crosswalk or bike lines in the area. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) employees are on foot and can photograph your license plate and send you a ticket without you even realizing what happened.
  • AT&T Park When there’s a game or show, the area around AT&T Park is often a traffic jam and some roads close to private drivers. To avoid the standstill, try to pick up and drop off passengers south of the park near Berry and 4th, or north near Pier 40. A nice trick is to take 4th across the water going south, take a left on 3rd, and drop off a rider by the footbridge on 3rd.
  • Civic Center BART Getting to the Civic Center BART stop can be particularly difficult with the many one-way roads in the area and the restrictions against turning on to Market between 3rd and 8th. It’s against the law to stop on Market, so it makes sense to avoid stopping there if you don’t want to get a ticket. But, you can look for the white-curb areas near Grove and 8th or McAllister and 7th.

Common entrances and exits

Large buildings can pose potential problems when someone requests a ride from inside the building, and you’re sent to the back alley instead of the main entrance. Remembering the common entrances and exits for the major hotels, office buildings, hospitals, and convention centers can help ensure the smoothest pickups.

Hidden signs and transit lanes

You may know the regular rules of the road, but there any many exceptions within San Francisco. The limitations for turning on to Market is just one example. On Mission, new transit lanes and rules limit left turns and mandate some right turns between 14th and Cesar Chavez. There are also signs that could make it against the law to turn right at a red light during certain hours or when children are present. Sometimes they’re hard to see once you stop, so if you want to avoid a ticket, it makes sense to keep an extra eye out for traffic signs as you approach a light. It also makes sense to avoid the red transit-only lanes and transit-only stops at all times because the buses have forward-facing cameras that will automatically take a picture of your license plate, and you’ll get sent a ticket.

Being mindful of the riders’ experience

The fastest route to a destination may not always be the best route. For example, going through Golden Gate park during the day is often fine, but if you’re taking a lone rider through the park at night, they could get nervous. To ensure the best rider experience it may make sense to ask the rider ahead of time if it’s okay to go through the park, or if they’d prefer you take a different route.

Taking a break

San Francisco has a few good places to stretch, grab a snack, and use the bathroom. The Starbucks at Laurel Village, on California and Spruce, is a popular destination for people who drive with Uber and is open 24/7. Another hangout is the Safeway in the Marina. A tip that applies throughout the city is to figure out the street-cleaning times by your favorite restaurants. For a fun time out, you can rally a group of Uber partners and as soon as the no-parking period ends you can all snag a spot in front of the restaurant and enjoy a meal together. If you’re ready to become an Uber Partner in San Francisco, sign up today.