A Few Good Hills

You may have heard that “San Francisco is hilly” or that there are “a lot of hills in San Francisco”.

Those are gross understatements.

This “city” is teaming with giant, steep and incredibly treacherous hills! And the crazy part is, everyone here goes about their day as if it’s completely normal to park your car on a 23% grade or hike-up the equivalent of the Appalachian Mountains to fetch a cup of  coffee!

So Steep, they added staris!

So Steep, they added stairs!

San Franciscans have adopted a series of intricate guidelines, rituals and even laws that help them adapt to the terrifyingly vertical landscape. Here a a few to keep in mind:

1) Navigate in Three Dimensions



In San Francisco, it’s not sufficient to know your way along a standard X-Y axis. Here you always need to consider the Z access before you set out on any journey. Otherwise, a simple trip to the tattoo parlor could strand you on the top of a freezing cold windy peak or at the base of an impenetrable cliff!

The good news is, there are a few well documented Hill Avoidance Routes (HAR’s), like The Wiggle, which effortlessly brings bike-riding hipsters between The Mission and Golden Gate Park.

2) Parking

Curb your wheels...

Curb your wheels...

Evidently, from time-to-time, parking brakes fail and cars have been known to careen down the aforementioned steep hills of San Francisco, subsequently smashing into buildings, other cars and people. This is not a good thing.

So the “city” of San Francisco has a strictly enforced, and easy to remember, “curb-your-wheels” law: If you’re parked on the right side of the street, facing up a hill, turn your tires to the left and set the emergency break (or use the easy to remember abbreviation: RSFUHTTLSEB). If you’re parked on the left side, facing down a hill, you’ll of course turn your ties to the left (or LSFDHTTLSEB).

3) Views

Actual view from an actual hill

Actual view from an actual hill

OK, so once you get to the top of hill there’s often a really nice view. That is if you survive the hike, or your bike has incredibly low gears or your car recently got its clutch replaced.

Good luck!


About adamahata

On February 5, 2008, after 15 amazing years in New York City, I got married, changed careers, and moved out to San Francisco. All within a three-week period, and with very little preparation. This blog is for those of you who follow me out to San Francisco (or have been here for a while and are still trying to figure this place out). You're not in Kansas anymore Dorothy.
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1 Response to A Few Good Hills

  1. ac says:

    A better way to remember how to curb your wheels is:

    (think Superman)
    Up Up and AWAY!

    When you’re facing UP hill point your front wheels AWAY from the curb. Because it’s not always “left” such as if it’s a one way street and you can park on the left side.

    The opposite is true if you’re facing downhill
    Down Down and In.

    Thanks to my Driver’s Ed teacher Mr. Stickles for this wonderful trick.

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