Cars banned from San Francisco’s ‘crookedest street’

Residents who live on San Francisco’s “crookedest street” got their way Tuesday when transit officials approved a pilot closure of Lombard Street between Larkin and Leavenworth to vehicles during certain summer weekends.

The temporary vehicle ban will begin on June 21 through July 13 on weekends from noon to 6 p.m. It will include the July 4 holiday, which falls on a Friday.

Pedestrians would still be allowed to walk on the sidewalk of the street. Taxis could be exempt from the weekend ban. Residents will still be allowed to drive down the “crookedest street in the world.”

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors approved the temporary closure of the two block-stretch of Lombard Street after residents said the popular tourist attraction has become unsafe for pedestrians and causing a traffic nightmare.

Ricardo Olea, a traffic engineer for the SFMTA, said at the Tuesday board meeting that sometimes tourists would stand in the middle of the street to take a photo with the iconic street in background.

Olea also said traffic can get backed up all way to Van Ness Avenue and Lombard Street during the summer with vehicles queuing up to drive down the crooked street.

James Hickman, a representative of the Lombard Hill Improvement Association, said the safety issue is no joke:

“What you essentially have here is thousands of cars a day directed to a tiny one lane, one block, difficult to pass street, that was designed to handle a few cars. It’s like selling 100,000 tickets to a Giants game when there’s only 38,000 seats.”

The transit agency has for years tried to look for possible solutions to the safety and congestion issues but has not come up with anything solid.

Parking control officers direct pedestrian and vehicle traffic during the weekends in the summer but that does done little to solve any of the existing problems, said Catherine Stefani a legislative aide for Supervisor Mark Farrell:

“There are too many cars, too many pedestrians and it is become a significant problem.”

Olea said staff will monitor the pilot to see if congestion does improve and to make sure there no undesired effects from the streets being closed.

If staff or neighbors document any problems with the pilot, the transit agency could end the pilot before July 13.