SFMTA Considers Restricting Cars on Crooked Lombard Street

Photo: Aaron Bialick

The “crookedest street in the world” block of Lombard Street is a world-famous tourist attraction, but the resulting car traffic causes congestion and safety problems and may lead the SFMTA to ban tourists from driving that stretch.

In an attempt to reduce pedestrian injuries and blocks-long car queues, the SFMTA Board of Directors on Tuesday will consider several summer trials to allow only “local” cars on two blocks of Lombard. The restrictions would apply on eastbound Lombard, between Larkin and Leavenworth Streets, on Saturdays and Sundays from June 21 through July 13, and on Friday, July 4. The SFMTA will consider longer-term, even permanent, restrictions after monitoring the impacts.

According to an SFMTA report [PDF], the push for restricting tourists from driving on curvy Lombard came from the residents who live on it, as well as District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell. The effort has support from Russian Hill Neighbors and the Lombard Hill Improvement Association.

“In prior years, this portion of Lombard Street has experienced a number of vehicular collisions, pedestrian injuries, and residential property damage,” the report says, also noting “chronic congestion in the summer months” that reaches three blocks back to Van Ness Avenue, where queued drivers “can delay regional transit and vehicular traffic.” At the entrance to the crooked block, drivers also often block the Hyde Street cable car.

“Residents are also concerned about the mixing of large pedestrian crowds… with vehicular traffic,” the report notes, listing several crashes with railings, pedestrians, and fire hydrants on the block within the last few years. In one incident, a speeding driver reportedly crashed into a retaining wall, rolled the car over and fled on foot.

A queue of drivers waiting to drive the “crooked street” stretches down two blocks of Lombard, from Polk to Hyde Street. Photo: Aaron BiIalick

In January, SF Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius reported on the issue, which has been debated for several decades:

“Every summer day it is screeching tires and burning clutches all afternoon,” says David Crimmins, who is working on the issue for the Russian Hill Neighbors. “You’ve got engines revving, oil dripping and all kinds of mayhem. With the smell, no one wants to open their windows.”

“We’ve had an incredible amount of incidents with people walking down the middle of the road,” says Supervisor Mark Farrell… “The crookedest street has been in icon in San Francisco for years, but when it takes an hour and a half to get to your house, it becomes a neighborhood issue.”

According to Nevius’ article, the city has considered options like banning cars on the block completely, but neighbors don’t want to be blocked themselves, and allowing only residents access to a public street is illegal.

The SFMTA report says the agency would monitor the pilot car restrictions and consider “temporary street closures on a more regular basis or, more long-term, seek State legislation to allow the City to gate Lombard Street so that only local traffic can drive down the Crooked Street at all times or when deemed necessary.”

SFMTA staff is scheduled to make a presentation on the temporary car closures to the SFMTA Board at its meeting at City Hall on Tuesday at 1 p.m., where the board will consider approving them.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    If the proposal is to eliminate all cars from Lombard St, then I agree with you. I took it that in this particular thread though, the proposal under consideration was on restricting car use to local residents.

  • neutral_corner

    Actually, the neighbors themselves pair for the maintenance and upkeep of the planters and gardening that makes the street such a tourist attraction. Nobody’s lining up for hours to drive down Vermont Street.

  • neutral_corner

    Oh, another poor Socialist trope. Cry me a river, Stalin.

  • Dominic

    i love revving my motorcycle going down the hill :DDD

  • Look at Stanley Roberts’ segment, and you can imagine how trying it must be to live there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deX92UMLXdc&feature=youtube_gdata

  • neutral_corner

    What are you talking about, Stanley? These neighbors knew what they were getting into when they bought their places! Why, 30 years ago, they should’ve foreseen mobile phones with social apps and video cameras, and the role they’d play in affecting tourist behavior.

  • neutral_corner

    There’s no issue with restricting access, now. No need to privatize the street. Street closures happen all of the time.

  • Grindsmygears

    Why is there not more emphasis on the pollution the idling cars create. They just sit there on the hill burning up fossil fuels! Its insane to watch.

    Perhaps they could consider a fee to tourists. This would at least deter the throngs of cars. Or what if it was pedestrian only?

  • Ha!

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

SFMTA Open House: Lombard Street Improvements

|
From SFMTA: Join us at our second open house to learn about proposed improvements to Lombard Street! The city looks forward to making great change along Lombard Street, the gateway to San Francisco. As a first step, safety improvements along with utility upgrades are being coordinated with the Caltrans repaving project to ensure residents and visitors are safe to enjoy the area […]