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Lombard Street, San Francisco, USA

October 2nd, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Lombard Street is an east-west street in San Francisco, California. It is famous for having a steep, one-block section that consists of tight hairpin turns.

Lombard Street begins at The Presidio and runs west through the Cow Hollow neighborhood. For 12 blocks between Broderick Street and Van Ness Avenue, it is a principal arterial road that is co-signed as U.S. Route 101. Lombard Street then travels through the Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill neighborhoods, before terminating at The Embarcadero as a collector road.

Lombard Street is best known for one block 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 United States." (Vermont St. between 20th St and 22nd St near the San Francisco General Hospital may be steeper, but has only seven turns, and is in a much less picturesque location.) The Powell-Hyde cable car line stops at the top of this block.

The switchback 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° slope which was too steep for most vehicles to climb and a serious hazard to pedestrians used to a more reasonable sixteen-degree incline. The speed limit is a mere 5 mph (10 km/h) on the crooked section, which is about 1/4 mile (400 m) long.

The crooked section of the street is reserved for one-way traffic traveling east (downhill), and is paved with bricks. The section was built in 1923 to accommodate the steepness of the slope.

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.

Famous past residents of Lombard Street include Rowena Meeks Abdy, an early California painter who worked in the style of Impressionism.

The street, and the difficulty of driving it, is parodied in the Bill Cosby sketch Driving in San Francisco. It is also parodied in the 2004 video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In the fictional city of San Fierro, based on San Francisco, it is named Windy Windy Windy Windy Windy Street.

Also, in the video games San Francisco Rush, San Francisco Rush 2049, Midtown Madness 2, and Raw Thrills' The Fast and the Furious (arcade game), there are tracks in which the player jumps over Lombard Street. The street is also a playable skateboarding locale in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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