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Friday, July 31, 2009

Argentina's rugged Mendoza region rich in wine

The first things I see as I walk out of Francisco Gabrielli International Airport are the Andes - towering, snowcapped, magnificent. The second things I notice as my wife, Georgina, and I head toward the taxi stand, are the airport's vineyards - gnarly and extending nearly all the way up the front doors of the terminal.

Summertime - a San Francisco summer, that is - is the right time to visit Mendoza. The snow piles up in the Andes and offers opportunities for skiing, but seldom accumulates on the dry plain below the mountains. It's a wonderful time, uncrowded, crisp and generally fine, ideal for exploring Mendoza city and the surrounding countryside. Sitting by the fire on a chilly night, a glass of Argentine wine in hand, is a splendid way to pass a winter's night deep in the Southern Hemisphere.

The cultivation of wine vineyards right at the airport could hardly be more fitting. The city and province of Mendoza, tucked away in western Argentina at the foot of South America's highest and most spectacular mountains, produce 75 percent of the wine in Argentina, the world's fifth-largest winemaker. Vineyards are almost as much at home at this airport as the airplanes that bring a growing number of visitors to discover this relaxing, affordable part of the world. Although prices are beginning to creep up, the devaluation of the peso early this decade makes Argentina a travel bargain.

The city of Mendoza, founded in 1561, is the capital of the province, and a prime base for exploring the elegant bodegas - the local name for wineries - that sprout across the arid countryside. Indeed, the bodegas, watered by snowmelt from the Andes through an intricate irrigation system that dates back centuries, are man-made oases in the high, dry plains and foothills.

The next Napa?

We'd been hearing for several years now that this prime wine-producing area of South America is "the next Napa." Well, yes and no. Like Napa and Sonoma, Mendoza produces some very good wines, and like Napa and Sonoma, Mendoza is lovely - but it is much more expansive and rugged, and much less crowded, as well. It's likely to stay that way, thanks mainly to its distance (600 miles) from Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital and largest city, and from Santiago, Chile's capital and largest city (115 miles). What crowds there are show up mainly during the harvest, which runs February to April.

It is our first visit. We hunker down in the heart of Mendoza city, at the Park Hyatt, an 8-year-old hotel in a modern tower rising behind the stately and painstakingly preserved facade of the old Plaza Hotel, a historical landmark. The hotel is well located on the Plaza de la Independencia, downtown.

The Plaza de la Independencia is the biggest and most central of Mendoza city's public squares, filled with heroic statuary commemorating Argentina's wars and well-tended landscaping. We wander through the plaza, past spooning teenagers and sleeping dogs, on our first day in town, getting the feel of the place. We admire mature trees, a handsome fountain and a small modern art museum. Heading off the plaza, we stroll along Sarmiento, a shopping street with smart stores and buzzing cafes.

The cityscape varies from elegant to worn and borderline shabby, all covered by a green canopy of trees. The trees, too, are products of the extensive irrigation that has made this region - which averages just 8 inches of rain a year - come alive. Although Mendoza is a city of 110,000 people, it has the look of a lovely, leafy garden. Wine is so central to Mendoza, even the city sprouts its own wineries. After a short drive from our hotel, we alight in 1884 Restaurant, an upscale eatery attached to Bodega Escorihuela Gascon. The restaurant showcases chef Francis Mallmann's take on traditional Argentine fare. We dine early - 9 p.m., when Argentines are still working up an appetite - feasting on baby goat sprinkled with herbs and washed down with a bottle of aromatic Malbec, Mendoza's trademark red wine.

Big and tannic but also smooth and with lots of fruit, Malbec is an ideal complement to the hearty dishes that dominate Argentina's meat-made cuisine. Argentine beef is excellent, as we expected, on a level with other world-class offerings such as Japan's Kobe beef, Welsh black beef or USDA American prime. But the real eye-opener is Argentina's Patagonia lamb, which is impossibly tender and succulent.

We set off each day with Mendoza native Fernando Paz, a keenly knowledgeable guide who drives us around and translates our English and notional Spanish (e-mail: Visitors need a car to get to Mendoza's gleaming, modern wineries, some of which are an hour or two out of town and can be widely separated. You also need to call ahead and book winery tastings and san francisco tours, as many Mendoza vintners are just getting used to hosting visitors from afar.

We start out at Bodega Salentein, a Dutch-owned winery installed in a striking new steel and concrete, cross-shaped building in the Uco Valley. Salentein has an art gallery, which showcases a variety of paintings depicting traditional Dutch village scenes and modern paintings and sculptures by contemporary artists. The winery also operates an on-site restaurant, a common feature at Mendoza wineries, which encourage visitors to linger after their long drive from the city.

Salentein occupies a spread with inspiring views of the Andes. During our visit in late September - early spring in Argentina - the mountains still hold a mantle of snow. Visible in the distance is Aconcagua, at nearly 23,000 feet the highest peak in the Americas.

We sip and talk wine with one of the bodega's winemakers, then head off to Bodega Andeluna, hurrying to keep our reservation. Unlike most California wineries, Mendoza bodegas require reservations for tastings and san francisco tourism. There are often no regularly scheduled tour hours, so you must be on time; latecomers may find the front gate closed.

It's worth making the extra effort to enjoy Mendoza's wineries. At Bodega Andeluna, another leading winery, four generations of family winemakers have turned out fine Tupungato Valley vintages. Again, the wines are good - rich on the palate and velvety.

Mayan-style pyramid

Our second day of wine-tasting begins with another ride out of town, starting out on Route 40's smooth ribbon of macadam and occasionally venturing onto dirt roads to take shortcuts.

At Catena Zapata Winery, we sip fine vintages in a Mayan-inspired pyramid that rises from the landscape like an exotic apparition. Next, we alight at Vistalba Winery, followed by lunch at La Bourgogne, a classically inspired French restaurant on the winery grounds. I could, I muse, get used to this. Back in Fernando Paz's Town Car, still savoring all this good food and wine, I give silent thanks that he is driving and not me.

We cap our visit at Bodega Zuccardi, a sprawling, family-run winery that offers bicycle rides and walks through the vineyards, another nice Mendoza touch. Deep in the fields, we spy a small table under the vines. Covered with crisp white linen, it is the very picture of sophisticated rusticity.

"We should take a photo of this," I say to Georgina. "Wouldn't it be great to taste wine here, right in the middle of the vineyards where the grapes were picked?"

"You will," our winery guide interjected. "It's your table."

We sit down for a repast of cheese, olive oil from Mendoza's own groves and grilled vegetables - and, of course, Zuccardi vintages. For wine people like us, it doesn't get any better.

Source: sfgate

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hong Kong: 'best place, best taste' is new 2009 slogan...we're talkintravel.

Hong Kong, Best Place, Best Taste is the new 2009 slogan for this cosmopolitan city. The Hong Kong Tourism Board held a dinner last evening at San Francisco’s R&G Lounge,, to announce their Food and Wine Year events.

At the website, you can download 50% coupons for meals and access information about their special promotions including: the Wine and Dine Festival October 31-November 1 at the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade with live music and pavilions offering local delicacies and wine.

No that was not a typo, Hong Kong is not the only the culinary capital of Asia with its own Michelin Guide it is becoming one of the world’s best selling wine areas, thanks in part to wine center, thanks in part to the government waiving the duty on wine. If you’re an oenophile, don’t miss the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair in November.

No trip to this unique spot is complete without engaging in the local s favorite pastime…shopping. During the Hong Kong Summer Spectacular through August,, you'll find sensational discounts and a hip guide to fun fashion events. Lucky magazine,, the premier shopping publication, is currently promoting this bargain hunter's paradise.

Luckily you can keep your strength up to cull those clothing racks with dim sum, rice noodles, fish soup, congee or rice porridge, barbequed meats and tea houses.

To get there, go in style on Japan airlines, or Reminiscent of the old Pan Am days they still believe travel should be luxurious, not a cattle call. Your vacation to Hong Kong will start on the plane when they hand you a glass of champagne before takeoff. Instead of cheers, ay Yung sing ("drink and win"). Visit Hong Kong this year and you can't help but come out ahead.

Source: examiner

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

10 tips to avoid online travel scams

In almost 10 years of business, Ian Ford's online business of selling tickets to Disney World and other attractions has never had as many calls from customers as it is getting now. More people than ever are calling him directly to check out the validity of his website -- as they search for travel deals on the internet.

Not only is the recession driving more people to search online for deals -- including those who didn't need to save money by buying discounted Disney World tickets -- but more newcomers to Undercover San Francisco Tourist are calling to ask about the trustworthiness of the site, Ford said in a telephone interview from his home in Austin, Texas, where he splits his time from his office in Florida.

For customers who ask how safe their money is with Undercover Tourist, Ford said he tells his employees to give the common sense response of having the customer talk to their friends and family and research his company before trusting it with their money.

"Don't rush into ordering from us if you don't have time," he said. "Take your time. Most scams have time-sensitive ordering requirements."

Here are 10 tips on how to avoid online scams from Undercover Tourist:

  1. Check if the vendor is an authorized dealer. Look for an authorized seller seal. Undercover Tourist has contracts with Disney and other companies in Central Florida to sell their tickets, Ford said.
  2. Research online. Do you find any feeback on the site, such as in online forums, blogs or groups?
  3. Check contact information. If there's a telephone number, is the phone answered quickly by friendly staff who are helpful about the product? Is a physical address listed? Can you contact the company via e-mail, and if so, are your questions answered promptly?
  4. Press coverage. Is the Web site mentioned in magazines, newspapers on TV or guidebooks?
  5. What is the refund policy?
  6. Hidden fees -- are there any?
  7. Shipping costs and speed. Are they clear and how long does delivery take?
  8. Web site design. Professional and organized? Easy to use?
  9. Security certificate and VeriSign logo or equivalent. Are the checkout pages secured with a padlock visible in the browser?
  10. Too good to be true. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is, or there's a catch.
Research by calling the site or asking everyone you know about it is the best advice, Ford said.

"Go to the online community. That's the best way to take care of it," he said.

He also recommends paying by credit card to make getting a refund easier if you're scammed.

And if you've lost money and want to try to get it back, or just want to ensure that other people aren't scammed, Ford recommends filing a complaint at, the FBI or the attorney general of your state.

Popular travel scams include paying to become a travel agent, and getting a "free" trip by joining a travel club, he said. The travel club often starts with a promise of a free trip for a $100 administrative fee, Ford said, but then the travel dates you want aren't available but become available for another fee. More and more costs are added to seal the deal, which never arrives.

Like your parents probably told you a few times, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Source: walletpop

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Santa cruz city council

The City of Santa Cruz, California, is situated on the northern part of Monterey Bay about 74 miles south of San Francisco and 30 miles from San Jose.

Santa Cruz is the county seat for the County of Santa Cruz.The City has of an area of 12 square miles and an estimated population of 56,300 (1/1/04 California State Department of Finance). Map of the City.

The University of California, Santa Cruz campus was opened in 1965 and has a population of 10,117 (1996).

The major industries include agriculture, san francisco tourism, manufacturing, food processing, and high tech firms.

About 10% of the land area of the County is devoted to State Parks, several of which are within or adjacent to the City limits. The climate is mild.

The average high temperature is 69 degrees Fahrenheit and the average low temperature is 44 degrees Fahrenheit. Rainfall averages 32 inches per year.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Ray LaMontagne, Wilco, The Academy Is...and more: Daily tour recap

Jam band megastar Phish has cemented its plans to revive its traditional weekend festival. The much anticipated 2009 event, dubbed Festival 8, has been booked for October 30 through November 1, making it the group's first ever three-day festival. The eight-set fest will be based at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, CA, with ticket sales beginning early next week.

As tickets go on sale for the next batch of Bruce Springsteen SanFrancisco Tour dates in the U.S., paperless ticketing initiatives are cropping up at several of the Ticketmaster-operated venues on the itinerary. It is unclear how extensive the paperless plan will be for the Boss's Ticketmaster-sold shows, but so far two concert dates are on the list.

In other news, comedic genius John Cleese has plans for a West Coast sanfrancico tour of the U.S., titled "A Final Wave to the World" or "The Alimony Tour, Year One." Meanwhile, rap mogul Jay-Z has been tapped to make his U.S. festival debut at All Points West as the replacement act for Beastie Boys, who withdrew from the lineup due to member Adam "MCA" Yauch's treatment for cancer.

Those are the complete concert and sanfrancico shuttle tour reports for this Friday, but plenty of other artists have added major updates to their tour itineraries throughout the day. Read on for some of the highlights in brief:

Ray LaMontagne will follow some UK concerts in September with a batch of fall 2009 U.S. concerts. The musician's calendar sets him on the national tour trail on October 15 at Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, MD, with more than 10 shows following it through November 20-21 at Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. The acclaimed performer also has shows set for November 1 at Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA; November 4 at the Citi Performing Arts Center in Boston, MA; November 9-10 at Beacon Theatre in New York, NY; November 12 at Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, IL; and November 17-18 at Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, CO.

Wilco has added a dozen new dates to its 2009 North American sanfrancico tour itinerary. The alt-country rockers start their new stateside run on October 1 at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA, continuing on the road through October 18-19 at UIC Pavilion in Chicago, IL. In addition to a slot on the Farm Aid bill for October 4 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Maryland Heights, MO, the band is also set for shows on October 9 at Palladium Ballroom in Dallas, TX; October 10 at Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, TN; and October 14 at Massey Hall in Toronto, ON, among other dates.

The Academy Is... will be joined by Mayday Parade for the 43-date Alternative Press Tour this fall. Venues have not been confirmed for the lengthy North American run, but dates and cities have been set. The trek launches September 24 in Pittsburgh, PA, and ends November 14 in Cleveland, OH. Other cities on the Academy/Mayday map include stops on September 28 in Chicago, IL; September 30 in Milwaukee, WI; October 4 in Denver, CO; October 9 in Portland, OR; October 14 in Los Angeles, CA; October 18 in Phoenix, AZ; October 22 in Houston, TX; October 29 in Nashville, TN; November 1 in Washington, DC; November 5 in Boston, MA; and November 11 in New York, NY.

A Wilhelm Scream has announced its first wave of North American tour dates for 2009. The national dates will pick up after an August-through-September tour of mainland Europe and the British Isles. Dates are currently scheduled from September 25 at Reverb in Toronto, ON, through October 30 at The Fest in Gainesville, FL. Fourteen shows are booked for the sanfrancico tour leg, so far, including shows on September 27 at Imperial in Quebec City, QC; October 1 at Pyramid Cabaret in Winnipeg, MB; October 16 at The Knitting Factory in Hollywood, CA; and October 24 at The Meridian in Houston, TX. A Wilhelm Scream will kick off the entire international tour with an intimate hometown performance on August 9 at the New Wave Café in New Bedford, MA.

Pitbull will rap his way through 25 U.S. cities on his fall 2009 concert schedule. The action starts on September 16 at Oxnard Performing Arts & Convention Center in Oxnard, CA, wrapping up a little more than a month later on October 22 at the Fillmore in Charlotte, NC. Other concerts on the hip-hoppers playbill include September 23 at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, CA; September 30 at Ogden Theatre in Denver, CO; October 10 at Concrete Street Amphitheater in Corpus Christi, TX; and October 20 at the B.B. King Blues Club in New York, NY. A single performance is slated for north of the border on October 16 at The Guvernment in Toronto, ON.

Mae will take several weeks out of its autumn schedule to tour the U.S. The schedule starts with a September 9 date at Neptune Park in Virginia Beach, VA, before launching into the main part of the tour on September 24 at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC. American concerts are booked through November 6 at Blender Theatre at Gramercy, after which the pop rock group will head over to Japan for a few shows. While Mae is in the Pacific region, the band will stop for a November 28 concert at Pipeline Café in Honolulu, HI, the final date on the current itinerary. Other U.S. dates include Septmeber 28 at The Masquerade in Atlanta, GA; October 6 at Emo's in Austin, TX; October 15 at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, CA; and October 28 at Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago, IL.

Throw Me the Statue is currently pitching its plans for a 22-date SanFrancico Tour of North America. The outing will pick up on August 23 at The Empyrean in Spokane, WA, and conclude its coast-to-coast circuit on September 18 at Luigi's Fun Garden in Sacramento, CA. Gigs are also lined up for August 29 at Subterranean in Chicago, IL; August 31 at Il Motore in Montreal, QC; September 2 at Mercury Lounge in New York, NY; September 79 at Spanish Moon in Baton Rouge, LA; and September 16 at The Loft in La Jolla, CA. Throw Me the Statue's next performance will be July 31 at the KEXP Mural Summer Concerts at Mural Amphitheatre in Seattle, WA.

Source: ticketnews

Thursday, July 23, 2009

BVI Tourist Board sponsors Bank of the West Classic Tennis Tournament

The British Virgin Islands Tourist Board will be a contributing destination sponsor for the 2009 Bank of the West Classic Tennis Tournament. While the top 32 female players kick off the Olympus U.S. Open Series, the British Virgin Islands will be represented at the event as the premier destination in the Caribbean.

The tournament will be held at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA from July 27 to August 2, and will be an opportunity to showcase the BVI by encouraging event attendees to discover for themselves all that the BVI has to offer. The 2009 tennis tournament will feature top female players including Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Elena Dementieva and Jelena Jankovic. The west coast market (specifically including the San Francisco Tour and Bay Areas) will be represented by 35,000 well-cultured, diverse and affluent attendees. The Bank of the West Classic is a locally attended and internationally televised event, which draws an audience of tennis enthusiasts who additionally enjoy travel to exotic destinations.

The BVI Tourist Board North America Marketing Office will be promoting the BVI experience through exposure and interaction with tournament attendees in a 10- by 20-foot hospitality lounge. The Tourist Board team will be engaging all individuals who enter the tent by endorsing last chances on "Summer of Savings" deals, answering any questions about the islands, and encouraging guests to enter in the sweepstakes drawing to win a trip to the BVI.

Sorce: traveldailynews

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tribes urge Utah officials not to develop commuter rail station on site of ancient village

Tribes in Utah are speaking out against a proposal to develop a commuter rail stop on what was once an American Indian village.

In March, Gov. Jon Huntsman signed a bill paving the way for a possible land swap and the subsequent development of the Utah Transit Authority's FrontRunner stop and a surrounding private development.

The five tribes in Utah said Wednesday they plan to deliver resolutions to the governor's office opposing the project in Draper, about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City.

"If this line goes through, we're going to be destroying a lot of history and this is the history of Utah," Jeanine Borchardt, chairwoman of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, said at a news conference in Salt Lake City.

Bruce Parry, chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, said the site is chock full of valuable Indian artifacts from a 3,000-year-old village.

"We've been told they found over 30,000 objects in less than one percent of the area," Parry said. "It's a significant, significant site."

He says the land is also valuable as wetlands and wildlife habitat and he noted an effort by state lawmakers several years ago to protect the land as open space.

The Utah Tribal Leaders Council, which includes representatives from Utah tribes, signed a resolution Wednesday opposing the development and calling for the land to be protected forever by a conservation easement. Councils from Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Nation, the Northern Ute Nation and the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation have also passed similar measures.

Among the objects found on the land are hearths, cooking stones, stone knives and spear points, tribal officials said. The site, which is just north of the state prison, shows signs of farming from 500 years earlier than previously documented in the region. Although its artifacts have not yet been thoroughly studied or inventoried, tribal officials said the site could prove to be among the most significant archaeological sites in Utah.

Tribal officials worry that if the land swap moves ahead, private developers could get control of the site to build offices, condominiums and roads.

They said they no longer want to be left out of the conversation about the future of the land.

"Are we so insignificant that we are overlooked?" said Curtis Cesspooch, chairman of the Ute tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. "I hope that's not the case."

No decisions have been made on the future of the proposed project, UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said. The site that's generated controversy in Draper is one of several under consideration and no swaps have been made.

Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert - who's expected to become governor next month once Huntsman becomes ambassador to China - plans to call a meeting with the transit authority, tribes and other officials to discuss a solution, spokeswoman Angie Welling said.

Source: taragana

Monday, July 20, 2009

Petaluma dominates Healdsburg to win District 35 championship

Petaluma’s Senior Division All Stars try to stay alive in the Section 1 Tournament tonight when they face San Francisco Tour in a 5:30 game at Casa Grande High School.

Petaluma dropped its first game in the double-elimination tournament to North Oakland Sunday afternoon, losing, 17-2. San Francisco lost Sunday’s tournament-opening game to Benecia, 8-0. Tonight’s loser is finished. The winner will paly again Tuesday at 5:30.

Petaluma earned advancement to the Section Tournament by defeating Healdsburg, 8-3, in the championship game of the District 35 Tournament.

After a disappointing 5-3 loss to Healdsburg Thursday, Petaluma methodically took care of business Friday, combining solid pitching with timely hitting and clutch defense to win the tournament title.

Kevin Balke handled the pitching, baffling Healdsburg hitters with a good fastball and a better curve.

He allowed only one base runner through the first three innings and just three hits in the game. He walked one and struck out seven, including three in a row in the first inning.

Blake was forced by his pitch count to leave the game an out short of a complete game.

He was replaced by Brett Creamer, who hit the first two batters he faced, but was saved further trouble by second baseman Scott Mayer, who made a spectacular leaping catch of a line drive off the bat of Healdsburg’s Elliot North to end the game and the tournament.

Mayer’s snare was one of several outstanding defensive plays made by the Petalumans, including an excellent grab of a high pop foul down the right-field line by Mayer. Erik Nadell in center field and Brian Repp in right had extra-effort catches.

Offensively, the Petalumans kept a steady stream of runners parading around the bases.

A lead-off single by Dax Cargill, Mayer’s sacrifice bunt, a single by Nadell and Chris McDaniel’s sacrifice fly produced a run in classic fashion in the first inning.

A two-out double by Cargill, and a follow-up single by Mayer made the score 2-0 in the second.

Four runs scored for the Petalumans in the third, with Conner Bihn, Cargill and Mayer providing consecutive hits.

Healdsburg might have escaped the inning with minimal damage, had it not botched a first-and-third run-down play, allowing a run to score and the inning to continue.

A walk, wild pitch and an error made it four innings in a row with a run for the Petalumans, who failed to score in the fifth, but added a final insurance tally in the sixth on McDaniel’s single and Creamer’s double.

Cargill had three hits and scored twice for the Petalumans. Mayer had two hits and his sacrifice bunt.

Nine different batters produced hits for the District 35 champions.

Source: petaluma360

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gaming 101: What is the connection between San Bruno & Silent Hill?

San Bruno, CA was the initial design inspiration for the downtown portion of Silent Hill 2. Known in the development as Old Neely Street, early development screenshots of the fog-laden Silent Hill show a number of storefronts that borrow liberally from actual shops in San Bruno (see comparison slideshow).

Considering that the town is adjacent to the San Francisco Shuttle International Airport, the use of San Bruno makes sense. This would be the first town Konami developers from Japan would come across if they were in the country to vist Konami's American offices (at the time, they were located in Redwood City). More importantly, San Bruno has been known to attract the occasional fog, though not as much as San Francisco Tour 10 miles north.

It is also understandable that these designs would not make the retail version. Team Silent probably did not want to trouble Konami's legal department in discussing image appropriation with San Bruno's city council. There were also rumors that the building details and the polygonal count was too high for the PlayStation 2.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting More Out of San Francisco’s Carved-up Curbs

In a city strapped for bike parking and sidewalk space, there is an abundance of one commodity: small strips of curb that seem to be of use to no one. As the lifting of the bike injunction in San Francisco draws nearer, it might be time to consider how these carved-up spots of curbside space can serve a new function.

Such spaces between driveways range in size, but nearly every block in the city is littered with stretches of curb too small for even the smallest of cars to park. While pedestrian advocates may not be loathe to lose a car parking spot, this does create a zone of sidewalk that lacks a buffer from the roadway, which is normally formed by on-street parking. As Jane Jacobs describes in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, this buffer zone has an essential function for pedestrian comfort and safety

In lieu of engaging in a gargantuan political battle to begin removing driveways, the first step might be to find a better use for the curb space that's left over. After all, unlike nearly anything else in San Francisco Tours HomeSan Francisco Tours, no one else is using it.

Enter the Bike Arc, a curved bike rack that can actually cantilever bikes from the curb into the street. Part hanging system and part roll-up rack, it's designed to save space and make a strong visual impression.

Jeff Selzer, co-founder of Bike Arc, said they're intended as "a way to park a bike, but more like display it." The racks are intended to put bikes "in a place of honor," said Selzer. "A car gets an entire big spot that's just that car's spot. A bike gets a pole to lean up against, or a tree to lean up against. It doesn't really have a spot that's its spot to park." The bike doesn't touch metal at all, except for the lock itself, and so is less likely to get incidentally scratched up.

The Bike Arc does not allow bike owners to lock their front wheel, which is undoubtedly a security drawback. The aesthetic value of the rack, however, means they're more likely to be displayed in a more prominent - and thus secure - place.

"The security starts because the aesthetic is so pleasing that you're willing to put it right front and center," said Selzer. Businesses "have a tendency to put bikes in the back corner," he said, but this design allows them to display the bike rack prominently, "as opposed to hiding it behind."

Marc Caswell, the program manager at the San Francisco vacations Bicycle Coalition, was more skeptical.

"The design, while eye-catching, seems like a minimal amount of space saved at what I can only imagine is a much higher cost," said Caswell. "In today's tough economic times, and the MTA's laudable commitment to over 500 bike racks across the city in the coming year, the simple and functional U-racks seem like the smart choice here in SF. As long as cyclists lock parallel to the U-racks on the sidewalk, there is little pedestrian impediment at a very low cost."

The Bike Arc racks undoubtedly cost more, with the the most basic model costing three times what the city's standard inverted U rack generally runs. For cities looking to brighten up their commercial strips, however, Selzer thinks the Bike Arc is more economical. "They're spending an obscene amount of money to put a bench in, or a new ornate light pole," said Selzer, noting that the Bike Arc might achieve the same goal while also serving an important function for bicyclists.

In San Francisco, the real benefit of the Bike Arc rack could be to greater utilize the small strips of curb that are so prevalent on its blocks. On some busy commercial streets, the contrast is striking between the scarce sidewalk space for pedestrians, bike parking, trees, utilities and newspaper boxes and the abundant vacant pavement on the curbside between driveways.

Even a few feet of curb space could accommodate several bikes, and Selzer says a full-size car space can be converted to about 20 cantilevered bike parking spots, while leaving nearly the entire sidewalk for pedestrians. The remaining space between the racks and the traffic lane might even be landscaped, like in the Palo Alto Bike Arc installation pictured above.

In lieu of the Bike Arc, the city might find other creative ways to use the leftover curbside space for bikes, not only freeing up sidewalk space but also filling in some of the buffer zone between the sidewalk and the street, which is so often compromised in San Francisco Tour. With the proper alignment, perpendicular to the curb, even the standard inverted U racks might be able to serve this purpose.