San Francisco is known for its steep hills, its earthquakes and its trolleys, among other things. But it’s also known for having the world’s most twisty, curvy street, which is also home to some of the nation’s most expensive real estate!
Lombard Street is famous for its eight hair-pin turns which create a dramatic zig zag down a steep hill, known as Russian Hill. Lombard Street is actually quite long, running from Presidio Boulevard to the Embarcadero, but the famous segment is just a block long, running between Broderick Street and Van Ness Avenue.
Lombard Street has an incredibly steep 27 percent grade, which was found to be too steep for vehicles when the street was built around the turn of the century. It was also a hazard to other wheeled vehicle, from bikes to wheelchairs and beyond. (For a point of reference, a 5 percent grade is typically considered steep, which places Lombard Street’s 27 percent grade off the map!)
So with these dangers in mind, in 1922, Lombard Street got a makeover that made it the most crooked street in the world! At the time, the street was owned by a man named Carl Henry and it was he who decided to revamp its design.
Paved with red bricks, the world’s most crooked street is about 600 feet long. Drivers make their way through the switchbacks that span the 400-foot length of hill at a speed of just five miles an hour.
Today, the one-way street serves primarily as a tourist attraction and it’s an issue that has created a fair share of traffic issues. In fact, San Francisco natives formed a Crooked Street Task Force in 1999 to address the traffic problems that were stemming from the super windy road. They proposed starting a tour bus service to drive tourists down the world’s most crooked street, but the idea never caught on.
The Crooked Street Task Force even considered closing Lombard Street to cars entirely, but ultimately, this suggestion was shot down. So they implemented some more modest restrictions, like a summer parking ban, higher parking fines and a ban on traffic on major holidays to give Lombard Street’s residents a break from the constant stream of sightseers.
Lombard Street’s fame has resulted in sky high real estate prices on this winding section of the San Francisco street. It’s even been home to some famous residents, including Impressionist painter Rowena Meeks Abdy and the cast of MTV’s The Real World San Francisco. The twisty section of Lombard Street has also been featured in lots of films and even video games.
One thing is for sure: Lombard Street has become a San Francisco icon and a must-see (or rather, must-drive) destination for fans of the world’s most crooked street!