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Baldwin Street, in New Zealand is the world’s steepest residential street

Neil Patrick

Located in the residential suburb of North East Valley, Baldwin Street, in New Zealand is the world’s steepest residential street.

A short straight street a little under 350 metres (1,150 ft) long, Baldwin Street runs east from the valley of the Lindsay Creek up the side of Signal Hill towards Opoho.

Rising from 30 m (98 ft) above sea level at its junction with North Road to 100 m (330 ft) above sea level at the top, an average slope of slightly more than 1:5.

A house on Baldwin Street Source

A house on Baldwin Street Source

Its lower reaches are only moderately steep, and the surface is asphalt, but the upper reaches of this cul-de-sac are far steeper, and surfaced in concrete (200 m or 660 ft long).

For ease of maintenance (bitumen—in either chip seal or asphalt—would flow down the slope on a warm day) and for safety in Dunedin’s frosty winters.

A tourist descends the street.Source

A tourist descends the street.Source

The street’s  steepness was unintentional. As with many other parts of early Dunedin, and indeed New Zealand, streets were laid out in a grid pattern with no consideration for the terrain, usually by planners in London.

In the case of Baldwin Street (and much of the Dunedin street plan), the layout was surveyed by Charles Kettle in the mid-19th century. The street is named after William Baldwin, an Otago Provincial Councillor and newspaper founder, who subdivided the area.

A view of the street with the street level.Source

A view of the street with the street level.Source

For cars it is a cul-de-sac, but Baldwin Street is linked across the top by Buchanan Street, a footpath following an otherwise unformed (i.e. unpaved) road linking it with Calder Avenue and Arnold Street.

Which are unformed in their upper reaches where Baldwin is steepest.

Car parked on Baldwin Street.Source

Car parked on Baldwin Street.Source

The street is the venue for an annual event in Dunedin, the Baldwin Street Gutbuster. Every summer since 1988 this exercise in fitness and balance involves athletes running from the base of the street to the top and back down again.

The event attracts several hundred competitors annually and the race record is one minute and fifty-six seconds.