Ye Shall Walk Bernal Streets, And Know They Are Steepest

This probably does not come as news to the Citizens of Bernalwood, but there are some pretty steep hills in our neighborhood-on-a-hill. And some pretty steep streets that climb those steep hills too. Yet according to the “official stats,” Bernal’s streets are not the steepest:

Now, if you’re willing to believe that official list, then I have a California balanced budget proposal I’d like you to vote on. Here’s the truth: Independent analysts at the excellent Data Pointed blog have concluded that the official steep list is complete and utter B.S.

And not only that, they have also concluded that several of the steepest hills in the city are actually in Bernal Heights.

And not only that, they also, also concluded that the steepest paved street in San Francisco — and quite possibly the entire world! — is a 30-foot section of Bradford Street near Tompkins, just north of the Alemany Farmer’s Market.

Data Pointed explains:

Bradford Street, climbs eagerly from Tompkins Avenue at twenty-percent grade. Then, after 150 feet, the slope doubles, and the concrete poops out. “Anyone wanna take over?!” it yells.

“I does!” hollers the insane asphalt driveway! And lickety split, there’s a perilous, oil-stained jump to the private property above: not “country club” private, mind you, but theother kind, wherein the gap-toothed inhabitants take mighty unkindly to camera-waving interlopers. […]

Carefully, I scaled the beast and measured it: a solid 30 feet of sustained 41% grade! On such a slope, gravity alone pulls a one-ton car downhill with 800 pounds of force, accelerating it from zero to sixty in 7.2 seconds. Whoa Nellie!

Congratulations, Bradford Street above Tompkins, for, having Bravely Thrust into the Forty-Percent-Plus Frontier, you now stand alone atop the Peak Of Maximum Grades as the Most Tilted Paved Urban Thoroughfare In The World!

In a similar vein, Data Pointed has conducted field surveys on hilly streets around the City, and with said data in hand, here’s how their Steepest Hill leaderboard looks right now. (Annotations added):

Amazing, eh? Four of the 10 steepest streets in San Francisco are in Bernal Heights. Fellow Citizens, this could become an economic bonanza for us all. Consider the opportunities:

  • Bernal becomes a glamorous onsite location for filming leg-burning fitness videos or MTV/Jackass-style reality television shows.
  • Ski Bernalwood could extend lift service to Bradford, to open up some new wintersports terrain.
  •  Heartfelt could become a retail colossus simply by selling t-shirts that look like this:

Because let’s face it: Bernal Heights may not always be the smartest, or the prettiest, or the most popular neighborhood in the world. But we may rest secure in the knowledge that we will always be the steepest.

IMAGE: Top, Bradford’s 41% grade. Photo by Data Pointed

25 thoughts on “Ye Shall Walk Bernal Streets, And Know They Are Steepest

  1. I agree. Supersteep. When they were putting in the new Bradford zigzag stairway up to the dead-end of Jarboe AND the new sidewalk stairs on one side of the street last year, they should have continued those steps ALL the way down to Tompkins. Try to walk this when it’s raining and the street’s slippery! I’d like to be able to get my hands on an inclinometer that’d tell me easily and digitally the steepness of a street so I wouldn’t need to rely on the very few “official” indications of street steepnesses.

    • Quote: “Carefully, I scaled the beast and measured it:
      a solid 30 feet of sustained 41% grade! On such a slope,
      gravity alone pulls a one-ton car downhill with 800 pounds of force,
      accelerating it from zero to sixty in 7.2 seconds. Whoa Nellie!”

      Before anyone starts having visions of the baby carriage pogo-ing
      down the Chicago Grand Central Station steps in Costner’s “Untouchables”,
      the car will reach zero to sixty in 7.2 seconds on Bradford…
      but will need >317 feet to do so, longer than the entire length of Bradford,
      and certainly longer than the 30 foot length measured,
      which translates to 18 mph @ 2.2 sec.
      (friction/aero losses not taken into account).

      In case anyone would like to simulate the slope conditions,
      the 41% grade equates to a 22.3° slope on your treadmill,
      just another day at the office for a Sherpa guide…

      Also. where is this one-ton car?
      Even the (not-so) smart car has a curb weight >1800 lbs,
      and easily exceeds one-ton with Rosie O’Donnell
      or a normal-sized person behind the wheel.

  2. The end of Anderson, where it butts up to the Projects is pretty steep. After that section of street was built (mid 70’s?), but before the houses went in, it was a fun place to get rid of ‘borrowed’ cars. After removing anything valuable, radio, speakers etc. center the car in the middle of the 800 block, put in neutral and give it a little nudge. Ah, the good old days.

  3. The skateboarders who zoom past my house at the base of Ripley at Alabama know our secret…

  4. A few times I have felt like commenting on this blog. Each time I have commented, my name and the comment box are right there, but after commenting I always get this notice that I have to subscribe to this WordPress blog. Again. Each time I comment, even though I have already subscribed to this blog before, I have to do it again. My info should already be there, right? So I should not have to keep subscribing EVERY time I choose to comment on this blog…!

  5. As the owner of the last house on Bradford, both my legs and my car brakes can attest to the cliff-like steepness of the street. Most of my friends have “mastered” coming up the hill, and a few have learned to drive up in reverse to simplify getting back down. I marvel at Recology, UPS and FedEx rambling up and down with nary a care. Some of the postmen appear as if they are ready to have a coronary, some are clearly athletically inclined, barely breaking a sweat after reaching the “summit”. Not sure how the Chronicle finds its way here, but the paper sits on my doorstep every weekend, neatly wrapped in its bag. The foot traffic increases on Saturdays and Sundays, and it is easy to see who has not ventured up the hill in the past – the lenghty pauses and wide-eyed look on the faces of these virgins is easy to spot.

    BTW, I found the comment by Data Pointed pretty hilarious!

    “…to the private property above: not “country club” private, mind you, but theother kind, wherein the gap-toothed inhabitants take mighty unkindly to camera-waving interlopers. […]…”

    Our family dentist would be insulted! He is very proud of keeping our teeth (full sets) perfect and pearly white! And, at Casa Hernandez-Trejo, we welcome photo-ops! You will, however, need to arrange this through our publicist…

      • Have some photos of that portion of the street in the late 60’s before it was paved with ashphalt. It was a DIRT ROAD!!! My father somehow convinced my mom that he could get the city to pave the street, which did happen, but almost 10 years later!

  6. 24th between deharo and rhode island? no way. i ride that all the time and call BS on that.
    But good to see Ripley get props – that is the real deal.

  7. Dear Heartfelt,

    Please make and sell this t-shirt. Please.

    Bernalwood readers.

  8. No way you can run up a 35% grade!

    I’m a big-time runner and run up Prentiss Street TO Powhattan (not above), and I practically come to a standstill towards the top. There’s really no point to running up anything steeper.

  9. I seem to remember seeing a link one time to a city map that allowed you to look up your address and see the measured grade of the steet. I’ve looked for it in the ususal map-type places (i.e. Burrito Justice) but can’t seem to find it.

    Ideas anyone? I’ll keep looking, too.

    • Found this in Datapointed’s post …I think I figured out how to use it when I first saw the post, a year or so ago, but since then the USGS has changed its interface, and now it’s beyond me! Hope it’s what you were looking for, though…

  10. I think the 900-block of Elizabeth Street is getting a raw deal and should have found some inclusion here.

  11. Most of the entries on the Data Pointed list with grades above 31.5% appear to be “unaccepted” streets. In other words, they’re not maintained by the City and can be considered as below minimum standard. (See for a map of what DPW maintains, and what it doesn’t.)

    As for the numbers, if Steven’s a trained surveyor with calibrated equipment, I might buy into his results, as long as he notes that they apply to streets that the City defines as substandard. Until then, I’ll go with the City Engineer’s numbers.

  12. If you can paralell park, it ain’t that steep. There is no reason NOT to call BS on your blog.

  13. the last block of elizabeth street in noe valley, ending on grandview is really steep. there are stairs instead of a sidewalk. you can really winded just climbing up. i have often wondered what the grade is. i think it must be at least 30 degrees

  14. wow i born raise in s.f. bernal heights on the precitia side alabama i notice on the internet says bernalwood how did that happen/ when did it occur ok help .

  15. Yeah, was wondering about Elizabeth’s last (highest) block (up to Grandview); also the highest blocks of 29th and 28th down from Diamond in Diamond Heights. These are supersteep to walk. Howzabout Dalewood up along the west edge of Mt. Davidson Park…? If anyone out there is making a list to check these out…

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