Main Streets In San Francisco

Main Streets In San Francisco – On a cloudy day in 1996, surrounded by a crowd of raucous, screaming residents, David Letterman stood on Filbert Street in San Francisco. Next to him stood a giant, the size of a fridge, box of watermelons; below him, one of the city’s steepest descents loomed wearily.

The host released the latch: down fell, to the dismay of local residents, a green and red cascade of hundreds of fruits, each hurtling down the 65ft, 31% grade as if propelled by rocket power . The stunt was not over. After the carnage settled, a basketball, candy, and 250,000 multi-colored bouncy balls followed suit. (That last stunt would later be recreated for Sony’s famous 2010 ad.)

Main Streets In San Francisco

Main Streets In San Francisco

The hills of San Francisco have long attracted such jokes. But in some of the hilly neighborhoods of the city, any attempt at motor activity – driving, walking, running, cycling – can be just as entertaining. In the words of poet Gary Snyder, one is “never out of sight of [those] wild hills,” especially since the city is only 47.3 square miles. They are as synonymous with the San Francisco landscape as the counterculture of Charles the Fog and hippies.

Streets Of San Francisco Telegraph Hill Editorial Stock Photo

In the United States (and many other countries), the steepness of roads is measured by grade, also known as grade, slope, or pitch. A degree is simply “the tangent of the angle of a surface to the horizontal”; it is typically expressed as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the steeper the slope. You will often see signs on the side of a road, warning that there is a particularly steep slope ahead:

Main Streets In San Francisco

Although there are no laws regulating maximum grade, the steepness of a road is governed by engineering standards and ultimately depends on the natural terrain on which it is built. Roads in a flat place like Minnesota will generally be of a lower grade than those in, say, mountainous Boulder, Colorado. For reference, almost all interstate highways in the United States have a grade of less than 5%; The vast majority of local rural roads are no more than 12%, and 15% is considered by many urban planners to be the best grade for pedestrians and drivers.

, the steepest residential street in the world is Dunedan, New Zealand’s Baldwin Street, which features an average grade of 35% – although Pittsburgh countered that its Canton Avenue has an average grade of 37%. How does San Francisco stack up?

Main Streets In San Francisco

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In late 2009, Stephen Von Worley, a local data logger, began a quest to find San Francisco’s steepest paved public streets.

His first order of business was to create a street-by-street map of the city’s slopes, which he accomplished by “combining OpenStreetmap street traces and USGS Raster digital elevation data.” Although the USGS data was a bit raw – it had a lot of blips and artifacts, and didn’t count overpasses – it yielded something usable:

Main Streets In San Francisco

Filbert Street (especially the section between Leavenworth and Hyde, where Letterman left his watermelon loose) has long been claimed to be the steepest in the city, at a 31% grade. In previous attempts to quantify the city’s most ridiculous proclivities, Filbert always reigned supreme—but those lists were biased toward San Francisco’s touristy, well-trodden neighborhoods (North Beach, Chinatown), and many areas were neglected to to a great extent. Von Worley made it his mission to explore the back streets.

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Finally, after a bit of exploring the city and some scary car rides, he curated a list of the steepest streets he could find. For this list, it included

Main Streets In San Francisco

Paved roads, regardless of their length: some of them were essentially glorious thoroughfares; others were just paved streets where no cars were allowed.

Using Von Worley’s results as a starting point, we started hunting hills and expanding on them. With an inclinometer to measure degree, we started a series of very painful bike trips over a period of three days. Here’s what we found:

Main Streets In San Francisco

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Filbert Street, previously thought to contain the steepest incline in San Francisco, barely cracks the top 10 here.

With a staggering 41% grade, Bradford Street, in the hilly neighborhood of Bernal Heights, is the steepest in the city (at least of those surveyed). Admittedly, this stretch is pretty short: The majority of Bradford Street climbs steadily at a 24% grade before exploding into a 30-foot stretch of 41% paved road. “On such a slope,” writes von Worley, “gravity alone pulls a one-ton car down with 800 pounds of force, accelerating it from zero to sixty in 7.2 seconds.”

Main Streets In San Francisco

“My (completely unproven) theory,” he told us, “is that if you somehow get a high gravity vehicle (such as an SUV) sideways on the 41% section, then swing it the wrong way, it could really roll.”

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Sections of three other streets – Broderick (Pacific Heights), Romolo (North Shore), and Prentiss (Bernal Heights) – all match New Zealand’s world record track pitch. Although, like Bradford, each of these grades is fairly short-lived, averaging 40 feet in length.

Main Streets In San Francisco

This is a huge slope: without friction and without air resistance, the average cyclist would use about 440 Watts of power to climb it. To put that into perspective, this year’s Tour de France winner, Chris Froome, spent an average of 414 watts on the La Pierre-Saint-Martin climb (although admittedly, this was a much longer climb). However, to make it up some of San Francisco’s slopes requires more power than a world-class rider. Many, such as Romolo Street above, were considered too steep for pedestrians to walk up, and steps were installed instead of pavements.

Now that we’ve established how ridiculous these slopes are, let’s see what neighborhoods they’re in:

Main Streets In San Francisco

San Francisco Famous Streets Editorial Stock Photo

Featuring 5 gradients over 25% (four of which are over 30%), Bernal Heights claims bragging rights as the steepest residences in the city. Before the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the neighborhood was largely undeveloped due to its hill. But soon after, traders settled there, and houses were built along some unusually steep plots.

Nearby Russian Hill is home to the famous Lombard Street, known as the “curviest street in the world” due to its eight sharp bends. In 1922, Lombard was built as a straight, paved street with a 27% grade, but with the rise of the automobile, residents complained that it was far too steep to drive up. Clyde Healy, a young urban engineer, soon proposed and implemented the curved design we see today, effectively reducing the maximum grade to 16%.

Main Streets In San Francisco

At 928 feet, Mount Davidson is the city’s highest elevation, yet none of the city’s steepest slopes are located in the surrounding neighborhoods (Miraloma Park, Westwood Highlands, and Sherwood Forest).

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The same goes for Twin Peaks (925 feet): no street in Twin Peaks or Diamond Heights that we encountered exceeds a 25% grade.

Main Streets In San Francisco

In some places, the natural geography of the city seems to have little effect on the street plots. This may be the result of clever engineering: the switchbacks leading to the top are long and winding, and the pitch is never more than 15%.

Only one known person managed to walk all 2,612 streets in the city. Called “F.F. Walking Man,” Tom Graham spent the better part of 500 hours over a period of 7 years counting dead ends, dead ends and unmarked byways, covering more than 1,500 miles along the way. He did not measure, or compile a list of the steepest streets in the city.

Main Streets In San Francisco

Lombard Street Famous Winding Road San Francisco California United States Of America Usa Stock Photo

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to repeat his feat, and as such, the list contained here can only be considered a good starting point for mapping San Francisco’s steepest streets. As we did not attempt a complete and thorough survey, we cannot claim with certainty that our results are comprehensive.

But what we do know is that this city has slopes that can make a 27-year-old writer cry on a bike. Slopes that rise at angles far beyond what city engineers consider ideal or even safe. Slopes that, in true San Francisco fashion, make one question what is possible.

Main Streets In San Francisco

Our next post looks at which dog breeds are most often adopted and which are not. To be notified when we post it → join our email list. Every city has its share of lively streets; those colorful city corridors and lively passageways, which to a large extent, are veins that move the pulse of the city. The soul of San Francisco, those big streets, wide avenues and narrow lanes, all reveal a side of the city that is best explored on foot. Some of the most iconic places in America, these streets of San Francisco will not disappoint.

Streets Of San Francisco Summer Time Blue Sky Editorial Image

Take the Hyde Street Cable Car line to “the crookedest street in the world” – Lombard Street. Weaving left and right along the steep face of Russian Hill, Lombard Street has become famous in films and photographs.

Main Streets In San Francisco

If Lombard Street’s erratic twists and turns and vertical heights aren’t enough, travel two blocks south (left at the end of Lombard’s curvy stretch) and head to vertical Filbert Street. Drive slowly because this downhill grade reaches 31.5 percent, making Filbert officially the steepest street in San Francisco.

Enlivened by local hipsters and urban professionals, Fillmore Street stretches north from the lower Haight neighborhood

Main Streets In San Francisco

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