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When Lombard Street turned into Candy Land, it showed how fun car-free streets can be

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So sweet

A winding street decked out in orange, purple, and yellow colors while children dressed in green shirts frolic down it.
Lombard Street dolled up in the pastel hues of Candy Land.
Photo by AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Now that plans are unfolding for Market Street, let’s turn our attention to Lombard Street, which, ten years ago, showed what joy a street can be when freed of personal vehicles.

In 2009, Lombard Street, San Francisco’s second-most crooked rue, got dolled up as a gigantic Candy Land for one afternoon in honor of the board game’s 60th anniversary.

Crews covered the street’s bricks with thousands of interlocking blue, green, orange, purple, red, and yellow rubber mats to look like the pastel-hued game. Adults dressed up as the game’s characters, like Kandy King and Queen Frostine, while kids from UCSF Children’s Hospital acted as game pieces.

“Four teams of six children each ascended the Lombard stairs to the starting line at Hyde,” noted a 2009 SFGate article. Following simplified rules to better adhere to the street, the teams advanced to the appropriate color after a card drawer selected cards with the matching colored squares. “When it was their team’s turn to move, the kids ran, tumbled, somersaulted and slid on their bellies to the next color.”

Team yellow, made up of young patients with chronic illnesses, won the game that day.

One year later, Instagram would come to fruition and, in part, help turn the curvy street into an even more popular attraction, with 610,000-plus Instagram pics hashtagged #lombardstreet bolstering its allure.

In 2016, Russian Hill residents would openly weep at a meeting about the uptick in tourism and vehicular gridlock on their windy strip. The street sees an average of 250 vehicles per hour, with average daily traffic hitting roughly 2,630 vehicles in 2013.

The congestion proved so bad that the San Francisco County Transportation Authority wanted to create a $10 toll on Lombard, which now receives roughly 2.1 million visitors per year. Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed the toll based on the fact that it’s a public street.

It’s a good thing that toll bill died; perhaps it’s time to think about taking a different approach that makes Lombard a fun, enjoyable experience for everyone. Here’s what it looked like that day in August 2009, years before the stretch turned into a contentious mess.

Photo by AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
San Francisco’s Lombard St Is Converted To World’s Largest Candyland Board Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images