San Francisco

‘Bring Your Own Big Wheel' Rolls Down San Francisco's True Crookedest Street

The annual event draws kids and grown-up kids to Potrero Hill every Easter Sunday, where they fly down Vermont Street on plastic tricycles

NBC Universal, Inc.

There's no getting around it: San Francisco is weird.

And nearly every Easter Sunday, the city reaffirms its weirdness with an event that could only take place here.

Though Lombard Street has long claimed the title of "crookedest street in San Francisco," longtime residents know the city's true crookedest street is the lesser-known Vermont Street in Potrero Hill, snaking its way down a steep hill with hairpin turns.

It would be the perfect place to go skiing, if only San Francisco had snow. But lacking that, the creators of this annual event came up with the next best thing: Bring Your Own Big Wheel.

By most accounts, the event was first held in 2000. It's run by volunteers, and advertised mainly by word of mouth. Organizers obtain a permit to close off Vermont Street for a few hours, and line the curbs with hay bales. Pads and helmets are optional, but signing a liability waiver is required: you ride at your own risk.

Spectators show up far in advance, staking out spots with blankets and camping chairs. The kids ride first, at 2 p.m. Then come the grown-ups — riding kid-sized trikes and toy cars — and that's where the real spectacle happens. While the kids often make it down the hill just fine, there's a certain truth to the saying, "the bigger they are, the harder they fall." The grown-up portion of event is pure, hilarious, gravity-fueled chaos.

The organizers only stipulate one rule: all vehicles and their wheels must be made entirely of plastic. The scraping sound of hollow plastic wheels clattering along rough concrete echoes through the neighborhood, along with the cheers of the crowd gathered on hillsides and stairways. Because it's San Francisco, it should be no surprise that many riders come in costume, and get fully into character as they fly down the hill.

In 2023, the cast of costumed characters included several Easter bunnies, at least two nuns, a human BART train, two police officers on a high-speed chase (with sirens blaring), Rocky Balboa complete with his boxing gloves, and an inflatable T-Rex with a bad habit of chewing on other riders' heads. It would be easy to go on about them all for many more paragraphs, but Bring Your Own Big Wheel is a spectacle that's hard to fully grasp through words alone — so check out the video above to see it for yourself!

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