A San Francisco transit alleycat

SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Resarch) has organized a transit scavenger hunt race from Ocean Beach in San Francisco to the SPUR Urban Center on Mission at Montgomery Street.

Here’s their promotional blurb:

You and a teammate are stranded at Ocean Beach. Armed with only a Clipper Card, your wits and a series of intricate clues that will propel you along on a visual scavenger hunt through San Francisco, can you solve each puzzle, navigate your way through the city and get to the SPUR Urban Center to claim victory before a dozen other teams do the same? This is a race against time, with only your shrewdness (and Muni’s schedule) as the deciding factor between a first and a last place finish.

Clipper Card?

The Clipper Card is the San Francisco Bay Area regional transit pass with smart card technology for use more-or-less interchangeably on SF Muni, BART, Caltrain, SamTrans in San Mateo County, VTA in Santa Clara County, AC Transit in the East Bay, Golden Gate Ferry, and San Francisco Bay Ferry.

Clipper can be loaded up with passes from most of these transit agencies, and you can load them up with cash value that’s deducted for individual rides if you don’t have a pass. On SF Muni, the available options are monthly pass, a Muni 10 ride pass, and cash value for individual rides. Only the monthly can be used for the cable cars (Do any monthly pass regular riders actually ride the cable cars?)

I highlighted “This is a race against time” to point out that it’s a one hour ride on the perpetually overcrowded 5 Fulton across San Francisco. A strong cyclist who isn’t afraid to break a few traffic laws can make that trip in 20 minutes.

The blurb suggests participants will need to use multiple SF Muni bus lines, but I’m using the 5 Fulton example to illustrate that biking can often be faster than taking the bus.

The really savvy travelers in San Francisco will know which segments are faster by bus and which are faster by bike, and maybe combine the modes for the different segments of this scavenger race. If they bring a bike, they run the risk of missing a bus if the bus bike racks are full, and bikes are not allowed on SF Muni rail vehicles. Maybe bring the bike and lock it up at the first segment where the bike becomes a hindrance (and hope it doesn’t get stolen).

I have no idea if using a bike will be considered cheating or not, and, if so, what race organizers will do to prevent cheating in this timed scavenger hunt. SPUR is the type of respected, upstanding organization that would like to avoid association with some of the craziness associated with bike-messenger-style alleycat racing, after all.

Anyway, it’s a cool idea. The race begins Saturday, July 21 at 12:30 PM. Registration and a few other details at SPUR.org.


  1. I was thinking about doing this by bike too. I’ve found there is almost no journey you can take in San Francisco that is faster by Muni than by bike, except for some express routes (if you are a strong cyclist). A solution to the full bike racks problem would be to bring a folding bike. 

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