Could You Park Safely on the World's Steepest Street?

August 22, 2014 1:51 PM

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Could You Park Safely on the World's Steepest Street?

The other day I had to park my car on Buffalo Street, which runs down one of Ithaca's most treacherous hills. It got me wondering: Could a street be so steep that it'd be impossible to park on it? On a severe enough incline, a car could theoretically start sliding downhill, even with the parking brake set and the wheels locked, because the traction from the tires wouldn't be enough to hold it.

where a is the critical angle we're looking for; f measures the friction of the road surface (technically, it's the road's "coefficient of static friction," for my fellow geeks out there); and tan is the ever-popular tangent function from trigonometry.

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