What if San Francisco’s Crooked Lombard Street Was Car-Free?

Reinvisiton arguably the most crook street in the world as a playground for pedestrian activities is a lofty longing, for sure. But it opens the door to understanding how giving back roadways to people can liven up asphalt that otherwise only sees car tires go over it.

Silver linings are odious cliches that usually coincide with blind optimism and denials around cherry-picked realities. The pandemic was rife with these metallic undertones — for better and worse. Among those upsides, all of which were shadowed by a global health crisis, San Franciscans explored the city on foot. And bikes. Scooter, too. Both of which were likely electrified.

Car-free street corridors sprouted up across the city; they grew in popularity; they became subjects of controversy and morphed into political topics. As of publishing, seventeen of these automobile-less swaths of road remain — much less than the twenty-five that were created and maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nevertheless, we’re forever grateful that the JFK Promenade is now a permanent fixture in SF’s Golden Gate Park; that the Upper Great Highway is off-limits to vehicles on the weekends (and holidays); that Valencia Street, as contentious as its new poorly designed bike lane is, brightens with street vendors and live music Saturday afternoons and into the evening hours.

But what if we expanded this idea of embracing San Francisco’s innate micro-mobility and density? What if we say, reimagined a portion of Lombard Street, the part often called the “most crooked street in the world,” sans vehicles? What if the City gave it back to the people? Imagine creaking car suspension components replaced with the sounds of breaking bicycles.

It’s an urbanistic wet dream, frankly. However, said vision was recently conjured in an image posted by X user [at]VladSF.

“Imagining Lombard [Street] as [a] place for pedestrians to enjoy,” reads the post continent the image (which we’re assuming [at]ValdSF expertly created. “Bollards at either end that can be lowered for residents with garages or fire access. [Long-term] would be conversions of those garages into [Acessary Dwelling Units].”

The X user extrapolated bustling crowds weaving up and down the traffic-free street, their feet walking over painted murals — not unlike those included in The Golden Mile Project along the JFK Promenade. Pedestrians have easier access to the shouldering gardens, making it much easier to smell the flowers (in a very literal sense). Ask anyone who regularly crosses the intersection at Hyde and Lombard Streets, and they can attest that crowds gathering for picture opportunities there can be overwhelming and impede traffic, specifically in regard to autos coming down Lombard Street. By opening the crooked portion of the street to pedestrians, this otherwise unsolvable issue becomes a non-issue. (Assuming proper traffic mitigation practices are put in place, mind you.)

Plus… it’s just a serotonin-filled landscape to look at: A winding, steep, verdant roadway danced with content humans instead of explosive engine chambers.

Alas, the probability of this portion of Lombard Street becoming a permanent pedestrian fixture is about as likely as GrowSF being forthcoming and honest about its fundraising amounts and alleged “success metrics.” But still, one can still daydream while on a mental walk across San Francisco.

Feature image: Courtesy of X via [at]VladSF

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