Bikes to Books – A literary cycling tour of San Francisco
There are many ways to explore San Francisco and one of them is by bicycle, along a very special, literary tour, discovering the places where ‘800 and’ 900 famous writers lived and worked in San Francisco.
City Lights: the legacy of the Beatniks
Founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, City Lights is one of the few truly great independent bookstores in the United States. The Beats’ legacy of anti-authoritarian politics and insurgent thinking continues to be a strong influence in the store, most evident in the selection of titles.
The City Lights masthead says A Literary Meetingplace since 1953, and this concept includes publishing books as well as selling them. In 1955, Ferlinghetti launched City Lights Publishers with the now-famous Pocket Poets Series; since then the press has gone on to publish a wide range of titles, both poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction, international and local authors.
Not only Beat Generation
And The City Lights Bookstore is also the promoter of Bikes to Books, a map of San Francisco to discover historical-literaure landmarks, such as the house in which Jack London lived, the editorial office where Mark Twain worked, the house where Isadora Duncan was born, the cafè frequented by William Saroyan, the hotel where Jack Kerouac lived and where he wrote San Francisco Blues, just to name a few.
On January 25th 1988, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a proposal by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Books to rename 12 small San Francisco streets after famous authors and artists who had lived and worked in the City.
On Sunday October 2nd 1988, a ceremony and unveiling of new street signs was held at City Lights Bookstore (which was also celebrating its 35th anniversary). Mayor Art Agnos declared October 2nd to be “City Lights Bookstore Day in San Francisco” and an enormous crowd showed up at City Lights. After a number of speeches by literary notables, the first signs were unveiled at Kerouac Street (between City Lights and Vesuvio’s Bar) and William Saroyan Place (between Spec’s Bar and the Tosca Café).
Twenty-five years later, Nicole Gluckstern, a local author/city cyclist and Burrito Justice, an amateur historian/cartographer, joined forces to devise a bike tour and interactive map connecting all 12 streets and authors, from Jack London to Jack Kerouac, South Park to North Beach. The 7.1 mile tour, which takes between two and three hours to complete, is admittedly not for the faint of heart nor gear.
The map of the bike route is available for sale at City Lights Bookstore and select bikes San Francisco bike shops. In addition to the 13 authors and artists, the maps contains a detailed description of the bike route, as well as over two dozen era-specific points of interests. On the back of the map is a selected, San Francisco-centric bibliography of the 13 authors and artists.
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