I remember the first time I was introduced to the Wiggle. I’d been in San Francisco for about two months when my new roommate Shurry and I went for a walk in the neighborhood. As we turned the corner off of Haight onto Scott, she said “…and this is the Wiggle!”
At the time I didn’t really understand the unmistakable reverence in her voice. It looked like any old street to me. Little did I know that one day I too would speak with the same inflection every time I mentioned the wonderful, glorious, sweat-saving Wiggle. And I challenge you to find anyone who doesn’t do the same (excluding people whose names rhyme with Knob Slanderson).
So what is the Wiggle?
The Wiggle is many things. The most straight-forward answer (if that’s your thing) is that the Wiggle is a bike route which runs from the Duboce Bikeway behind Safeway (or Church St. if you are coming from the Mission) all the way through the Panhandle ending at Golden Gate Park. In between, it “wiggles” through the Lower Haight and Western Addition neighborhoods. Here’s a map of the core Wiggle:
This is a great map of the Wiggle because you can see the topography of the area, which is kind of the whole point. The reason we all ride and love the Wiggle so is because it allows us to access our community (anything from the Lower Haight to NoPa) without having to go up and over the giant hills that are Alamo Square and Buena Vista Park. Not only do we avoid the giant hills, but we’re actually following the path of an old creek bed – just like water, bikers will find the past of least resistance.
That’s right – we didn’t start the fire on this one. While the Wiggle is today largely known as a bike route, it has a long, sacred history (which is why we’re working to get it recognized as an historic route by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors). As already mentioned, the space was originally a creek bed. Water from Twin Peaks would come down and collect in a reservoir at the base of the Panhandle; it would then wind east through the sand dunes where the Panhandle now sits and wiggle on down (going underground and popping back out depending on the seasons) to another reservoir where the Safeway on Church and Duboce now sits (the “road” through Safeway’s parking lot is still called Reservoir Dr.). The native Yelamu people had one of their seasonal villages at this site, and they no doubt followed the natural contour of the creek bed on their way to another village up in what is now the Presidio. For thousands of years before the appearance of San Franciscans proper, the Yalamu used the relative natural abundance created in this, what we now call, Channel Watershed to survive, thrive and create meaning.
As if this natural and ancient history weren’t enough, the particular site that Safeway now occupies along the route was once the site of the very first San Francisco Farmers’ Market on August 12, 1943. Here’s a really fascinating account of how this came to be from FoundSF who lifted it from the memoir of one of the key players, John Brucato.
By the third day of the new market over 50,000 people came to cut out the middle man and support their local farmer. Do you think we could ever get that kind of attendance at our local Grove St. Famers’ Market?
The Wiggle started out as a creek bed and home to the Yelamu people, hosted the first San Francisco Farmers’ Market, and is now the most revered bikeway in the city, but another chapter is about to be written. What I love best about the Wiggle is the people who ride it. On what other route do you actively scan the bikers coming the other way in hopes of seeing a friend?
More than anything, the Wiggle is the gateway to our community. As it stands today, it is an implicit rite of passage, a birth canal to our higher selves that we are willing into existence each day. The Wigg Party is here to make this implicit function explicit. We are working to make the Wiggle an historic route similar to the Barbary Coast Trail. This legislation will become the touchstone for the development of all kinds of projects along the Wiggle: edible bikeway gardens, sidewalk depavements, murals, community expression zones, and, at the very beginning of the route, a Gateway to the Wiggle. Over the next 5-10 years, we are going to transform the entire route into a 1.9 mile expression of the beauty, creativity and historicity of our community. People from all over the world will come ride the Wiggle in order to feel a part of what we are about to create here. The Wiggle will become both the inspiration and the outlet for our struggle to move to a sustainable culture in this next critical decade. We Wigglers will be bonded together by this route, our sacred route, and will know that together we can accomplish great things.
And you thought it was just a bike route…