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Published August 3rd 2014
Is Lombard Street Really 'The World's Crookedest'?
Image credit linked below
Lombard Street is a long road situated between Embarcadero and the Presidio park, where it becomes a main artery, channeling traffic to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, U.S.A. The street is famous for a small section near the top of Russian Hill, between Hyde and Leavenworth streets, where the hill is so steep (27°) that it was too dangerous for most vehicles to drive down. Between 1922 and 1923, this part of Lombard Street was transformed into a switchback, with eight sharp turns. Cars can only drive one way (downhill, east-bound), towards Leavenworth Street.
The crooked block is 180 metres long (125.7 metres in a straight line); the sign at the top of the hill recommends a speed limit of five miles per hour (eight kilometres per hour).
The sight of cars maneuvering down the winding road has become a popular tourist attraction. When I was there, we had walked to the area; the Powel-Hyde cable car is an option, which stops at the top of the hill. If you're keen to have a go at the drive, be sure to check if it's open before making plans to get to that area; they often close due to the traffic congestion caused by tourists on major holidays.
From the top, you have a view down Lombard Street; you can see all the way to Fisherman's Wharf and even Alcatraz. As mentioned, the tourist attraction aspect of this street has become quite the bane of the bylaw officers in the area, with decades of controversial debates regarding traffic restrictions and closure of the road altogether over major holidays.
Even though Lombard Street is famously known as the crookedest street in the world, it is not. In fact, it is not even the most crooked or steepest street in San Francisco. The steepest street in San Francisco is Filbert street, with a 31.5° slope, while Vermont Avenue at 20th Street claims to be the most crooked. Supposedly Snake Alley in Burlington, Iowa, has even sharper turns. Lombard Street is certainly the most photogenic of them all, especially in the spring and summer when the many chrysanthemums in the well-tended flowerbeds are in full bloom.
After your spin down this section of Lombard Street, you are in the perfect place to visit many other San Francisco attractions. From this area, you are within short walking distance to North Beach, Chinatown, and Fisherman's Wharf, which all have their own attractions.