Driving on the Hills

“OH – MY – GOD,” screams my friend Jonathan. He is visiting San Francisco from Chicago for the first time. We are in the neighborhood known as Telegraph Hill due to my sightseeing itinerary. Jonathan is driving a rental Chevy Impala down Lombard Street, which has a 25 percent incline and continues his monologue: “No, I understand everything, it is really a beautiful city. But driving on the hills is crazy! I feel like I am about to take off when we are going up the hill, and what’s even worse – is going down! It’s like a roller coaster that I have to control myself!” “You can do it!” I bravely claimed “Just use your brakes more often!”

In time, Jonathan’s vacation ended and he went back to Chicago. A few days after his leaving, I realized that my hastily delivered advice about the brakes was not the most smartest. Driving on the hills of San Francisco definitely requires specific skills and well-trained driving techniques – skills and techniques that will come in handy all over the place. I got curious and decided to scrutinize that “hilly situation” to get the skinny on up- and downhill driving.

Of course, you just have to know the traffic laws and rules of the road and practical driving skills should be honed with professional instructors. But! There are some interesting safety tips that I came across, while doing an investigation.

So, dear Jonathan, and everyone who is living in the hilly areas of San Francisco or planning to go on mountain roads, please stay calm on steep slopes and benefit from the tips you will see below.

Driving in hilly cities:

– Before buying/renting a car think carefully whether it will be have a manual or automatic transmission. Manual cars are usually more gas-efficient and less expensive. But driving them on the hills may turn into really stressful and tiring business.

– When parked, don’t forget to turn the wheels: towards the curb if your car parked downhill, and towards the road when the car is facing uphill (if there’s a curb). Use the emergency brake. Be sure that the car is in gear if it is a manual transmission vehicle and in park if it is an automatic.

– Change lanes as little as possible; it will prevent you from getting into blind spots on the slopes.

– Always maintain a safe following distance and keep plenty of room around you.

Be careful and have fun!