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Photos: A San Francisco street race for ‘adults who never grew up’

Adults in costume ride children's toy bikes downhill, surrounded by cheering spectators.
Adults jostle past each other on tricycles for the annual Bring Your Own Big Wheel race on Vermont Street in Potrero Hill on Sunday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

San Franciscans of all ages gathered Sunday for an annual tricycle race on what they say is the city’s curviest road—and it’s nowhere near Lombard Street.

Dozens of people bumped and jostled past one another to see who was the fastest on three wheels going down a serpentine stretch of Vermont Street in the city’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, a tradition that's gone on for more than 20 years.

It was Sergio Lamar’s first time riding in the Bring Your Own Big Wheel race, but he was more than ready.

“I’m one of those adults who never grew up,” Lamar said.

A person in an elf costume races downhill on a toy tricycle, looking amused, as onlookers watch.
People race down Potrero Hill during the Bring Your Own Big Wheel race on Sunday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

After having spent 15 minutes trudging uphill in a bulky Chewbacca costume holding a yellow tricycle, the 42-year-old said his participation in the downhill race was years in the making. Lamar said he has wanted to go ever since he first heard about it eight years ago. Despite all the buildup—and the evident risk of crashes—Lamar was unperturbed.

“There’s a little risk to everything,” Lamar said. “But I’ve got health insurance.”

According to the event’s website, the race was conceived in 2000 by "a madman" named Jon Brumit, who came up with the idea after he "happened across a [Big Wheel]."

A person in a furry costume rides a tricycle with onlookers at a street event.
Sunset resident Sergio Lamar, 42, gears up to ride in the Bring Your Own Big Wheel race in Potrero Hill on Sunday. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

"He wondered what he should do with it and much like the apple that fell on Newton’s head, Jon had the vision of riding his newly found plastic toy down Lombard Street," the site reads.

In 2006, 30 people took part in the race, and the following year, the number of participants and spectators numbered in the hundreds, according to the website. Shortly after, the Lombard Street race was shut down, and organizers moved the event to Vermont Street in 2008, where it has remained since, the website said.

The site does not explain why the race occurs on Easter, other than that Brumit chose to ride down Lombard on a tricycle on Easter Sunday.

A person is on the ground next to an overturned tricycle, appearing to have fallen.
A person falls off their tricycle during the Bring Your Own Big Wheel race in Potrero Hill. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Though started by an adult, Sunday's Bring Your Own Big Wheel race was far from an adults-only affair, with the street chock-full of families with kids, especially toddlers.

Kit Urkov, 4, said this year was her second time at the event.

People ride down Vermont Street for the annual Bring Your Own Big Wheel race in Potrero Hill on Sunday. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

“It’s a race,” Urkov said, when asked why she enjoyed riding down alongside dozens of other children on her silver tricycle.

Her father, Owen Urkov, was more descriptive in explaining why he enjoyed rumbling down the serpentine road on three plastic wheels.

“It’s insane chaos, but it’s a blast,” Urkov said.

Is it dangerous?

“Absolutely,” Urkov said. “That’s the fun.”

Sitting astride two rainbow-colored tricycles, Annie Acheson, 15, said racing down the hill this year was her idea. Acheson had gone down the hill three times that afternoon, and she was getting ready to go a fourth time.

“It’s fun because it challenges you, but if you mess up, people won’t make fun of you,” Acheson said.

Two people are smiling on a sunny day, one on a small toy bike, both wearing colorful, quirky outfits and helmets.
Annie Acheson, 15, and her mother, Amanda, 51, get ready to tricycle down the curviest street in San Francisco during the annual Bring Your Own Big Wheel race on Sunday. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Her mother, Amanda Acheson, 51, was on deck.

“It’s just such a San Francisco thing,” Acheson said. “A lot of cities don’t have weird stuff like this, and it’s kid-friendly.”

Amanda Acheson said she thinks it’s worth the risk for kids to participate in the downhill race, as it exposes them to a cultural event and lets them socialize with other kids.

“Besides, she’s got a helmet,” Acheson said.