Why was Lombard Street (San Francisco) built that way?

Pictured here. More curves than… I don’t know how to finish that sentence. I usually say “Lombard Street”.

Looks like a nightmare for your average driver, many of who have trouble keeping their cars within two parallel lines on ordinary straight roads. I wonder how many gardens get plowed-into as a result of some driver losing the wheel for a split-second or having a sudden unexpected sneeze.

From the photo it doesn’t look like there are any driveways, at least towards the bottom. Wouldn’t it have been easier just to have no street at all and let these people have nice regular shaped yards?

Is there a sidewalk alongside the street? I’d be afraid to use it.

It’s really, really, really steep. If it was straight, they’d have runaway cars with burnt-out brakes going through the intersection at the bottom all the time, and that’s worth a few smushed petunias to avoid.

I don’t think that’s the reason, as the parallel streets are just about the same.

I always assumed that those flowers weren’t in anyone’s yards, but were just municipal plantings. Can an SF resident comment on this?

It’s not too steep for cars. But it is too steep for horses. Thus the road is built as a switchback, alleviating the pressure on the poor horsey-hoofs. Since most people use cars now, the other streets have long since been converted to plain straightaways.

Man, that must be a nightmare when it snows :wink:

Darn, at maps.google.com the satellite view is obscured by shadow.

I recall that San Diegans have a street in which they take peverse pride at being even more steep than Lombard in S.F., not to mention town in the Andes and Apennines who’d offer the local dialect’s equivalent of “feh.”

IIRC it was featured on a Volvo magazine advertisement to show the tremendous torque available to the driver of one of their turbocharged models, the car pointing uphill to prove the point.

There are short, level driveways into garages that are integral to the houses. There is a sidewalk of multiple flights of steps down each side, but they are essentially straight, i.e. they don’t follow the twists and turns of the vehicular part.

Yes, AFAIK they are maintained by the City and County of San Francisco.

[I used to live on about 5 blocks from the top of Lombard St.]

An August 21, 2003 article in the Los Angeles Times claims that the steepest driveable streets in San Francisco are Filbert, 22nd, and Vicksburg, each of which hits 31.5%

Los Angeles’s steepest street is 28th Street in the San Pedro Area (different from the 28th Street south of Downtown). It has a 33.3% grade for about 50 feet.
Eldred Street in Highland Park is 33% for a much longer stretch.

Lombard street is actually straight. It was made artifically ‘crooked" by “planters” to slow down traffic. (as Antonius Block noted- the sidewalks are straight) There is another street in SF that really is "the crookedest street’ but the residents don’t like tourists there, so it’s kept a secret- not a huge secret mind you. Antonius Block?

That would be Vermont Street, between 20th and 22nd Sts on Potrero Hill. It’s a “blue-collar” version of Lombard St, without the landscaping or hordes of tourists since it’s off the beaten track for visitors to SF. However, it is steeper and twistier. I’ll see if I can dig up a photo.

BTW, we are rapidly approaching convergence with this thread, which was started 33 minutes earlier.

Photo of Vermont Street at 22nd, San Francisco.

Wow, that looks cool . I think I’ll take a ride down that street tomorrow, and tell all my friends. :slight_smile:

Eldred street is only a mile or two from where I grew up. My father told me that when he moved to Highland Park after the war, there was a house for rent on Eldred. He did not rent it, because his car would not climb the hill! Looking from Ave 50 Eldred goes down into a valley level for a bit and then it looks like it goes straight up the side of a mountain. This street is holy shit steep! :eek:

…Pedro Martinez?
…the Playboy Mansion?
…the Mississippi?
…a kettle of snakes at a hula contest?
what? That wasn’t the OP?

The Microsoft TerraServers photo of Lombard: Lombard Street

Cool. There are indeed driveways on Lombard Street, and even an intersection with another street about halfway down.

What’s more, IIRC the back side of the hill pictured is even steeper, and straight. It’s got to be one of the steepest streets in the world.

Droll indeed – but my grandmother-in-law, who had spent her entire life in Connecticut, said the same thing on her visit to SF. She also wondered why they put so many hills in when they built the city.