Cycle-ways before freeways
November 9, 2009 9:51 AM   Subscribe

In the late 1890s, a wooden "cycle-way" was built between Pasadena and Los Angeles for bicycle travel before freeways existed. It ran along the Arroyo Seco and though it was planned for the full ten mile distance, only two miles were completed by 1900 as the popularity of the bicycle waned. In 1983 a bike path was built along the stream basin but is both riddled with glass and debris and dangerous to impassible during a rainstorm. For the last 15 years, a group in Pasadena has been leading the effort to restore a bike path between Pasadena and Los Angeles.
posted by mathowie (15 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
A toll bikepath?

Interesting. I wonder if that $1/trip is still a relevant number.
posted by madajb at 10:21 AM on November 9, 2009

As a native of the San Gabriel Valley I'm amazed that there was the idea way before for a path connecting Pasadena to L.A. - unfortunate that pathways now are spare (though not nonexistent; very much so to the contrary) and biking properly (in the street versus the sidewalk) can be incredibly harrowing, what with all the cars and all. The glass and debris commentary on the Arroyo Seco trail reminds me of the San Gabriel River trail on more unkempt days, though. Loooooong way to go for L.A. to reach the bike-friendliness of (say) Portland.
posted by zer0render at 10:23 AM on November 9, 2009

Very cool. Back in the early 1990s I lived in SoCal and rode with a friend on for about 50 miles on a bike path at least partially along a river - details are fuzzy but I think it was another path. San Gabriel River maybe?

The coolest part was when we chanced on an actual rodeo alongside the path. For a long time we watched and tried to understand the Spanish announcer, before rolling onward.
posted by exogenous at 10:27 AM on November 9, 2009

Related: A group called cicLAvia wants to close major L.A. thoroughfares to cars and open them to bicyclists on Sundays. City officials are looking for ways to support the plan, which originated in Colombia.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:29 AM on November 9, 2009

i originally read that as "between Pensacola (FL) and Los Angeles ...". that's a bike path i'd like to see!
posted by msconduct at 10:38 AM on November 9, 2009

Pray conjure a vision of the countenance of those astonished bystanders on the elevated causeway when the unfortunate's penny-farthing flies off the side railing, carrying the hapless into the wasteland below. And be what it would for the unfortunate who lands in one of those fabled tar pits, full of Wilshire crocodiles it is rumored; that truly shall be the end of thee.
posted by crapmatic at 10:43 AM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

Weird, I was reading about cycle paths just two days ago, and came across this very thing. The economics of building that whole structure for toll cyclists just leaves me confused, we're so used to thinking differently about cycling infrastructure (bit of paint, a sign or two) that I find it incredible. Of course, it did fail, but some of its right-of-way later became the Pasadena Freeway, which goes to show just how wrong the cyclepath's builders judged the 20th century. This quote was cute though:

nervous cyclists find the track safer than the widest roads, for there are no horses to avoid, no trains or trolley-cars, no stray dogs or wandering children.

I think if that was all modern day cyclists had to avoid, they would be very happy indeed.
posted by Sova at 10:44 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I always like the planky thump of a wooden bridge, I can't imagine 10 miles of it. Probably the closest I'll ever get to cobblestones.
posted by buzzman at 10:53 AM on November 9, 2009

This would be a fantastic thing. I used to commute between Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles, and found it fascinating (and, it goes without saying, maddening) that it took nearly an hour some days to drive the ten miles. Thank goodness for the Metro Gold Line.
posted by something something at 11:00 AM on November 9, 2009

I wonder why they're not working with Rails to Trails, a nationwide network that converts old railroad tracks to bike and horse paths.

Growing up in eastern Iowa, I had the great benefit of taking advantage of this program, and riding the Cedar Valley Nature Trail nearly every weekend.

Man, was I in so much better shape when I was younger...
posted by thanotopsis at 11:03 AM on November 9, 2009

I've ridden between downtown LA and downtown Pasadena through East LA, it aint bad going Pasadena->LA since its all down hill and one can pull an average of 20 mph.
posted by wcfields at 11:04 AM on November 9, 2009

Hmmmm....exchanging the thrill of taking that bend near Marmion Way at 80 mph for the thrill of possibly being mugged in Highland Park? Thanks, but no.
posted by malocchio at 1:17 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mugged in Highland Park? How weird. That was my neighborhood, 22 years ago. Has it gone bad?
posted by Goofyy at 11:28 PM on November 9, 2009

I'm all for it. Or any way to avoid that 10/101/5 interchange.
posted by Xere at 6:04 AM on November 10, 2009

Mugged in Highland Park? How weird. That was my neighborhood, 22 years ago. Has it gone bad?

Well, I shouldn't denigrate the entire neighborhood, because like much of L.A., it seems very patchy to me. But there are certainly some gangs (like the Avenues) that I wouldn't want to chance across.
posted by malocchio at 7:06 AM on November 10, 2009

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