Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Lombard Street, San Francisco, California
Lombard Street is best known for the one-way section on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, in which the roadway has eight sharp turns (or switchbacks) that have earned the street the distinction of being the crookedest (most winding) street in the world (though this title is contested - see "See Also" links). The switchback's design, first suggested by property owner Carl Henry and instituted in 1922, was born out of necessity in order to reduce the hill's natural 27% grade, which was too steep for most vehicles. It is also a serious hazard to pedestrians, who are accustomed to a more reasonable sixteen-degree incline. The crooked section of the street, which is about 1⁄4 mile (400 m) long, is reserved for one-way traffic traveling east (downhill) and is paved with red bricks. The speed limit in this section is 5 mph (8 km/h).
In 1999, a Crooked Street Task Force was created to try to solve traffic problems in the neighborhoods around the winding section of Lombard Street. In 2001, the Task Force decided that it would not be legal to permanently close the block to vehicular traffic. Instead, the Task Force decided to institute a summer parking ban in the area, to bar eastbound traffic on major holidays, and to increase fines for parking in the area. The Task Force also proposed the idea of using minibuses to ferry sightseers to the famous block, although residents debated the efficiency of such a solution, since one of the attractions of touring the area is driving along the twisting section of the street.
The Powell-Hyde cable car line stops at the top of this block.
Famous past residents of Lombard Street include Rowena Meeks Abdy, an early California painter who worked in the style of Impressionism.