I recently read Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities. A great book covering political history of cycling in America, why Portland and Davis have succeeded in high rates of cycling, insights from various perspectives throughout and more. The book is short, easy to read, informative, engaging and anyone interested in bicycling as transportation should try to read it sometime. Bicycles aside, it was still an enjoyable book, you’ll likely only skip a few pages if you aren’t into bicycling but just want something good to read.
Now, other than recommending this book and gushing about how much I enjoyed it, I have an ‘Eagle Rock angle’ to add. This was a pleasure read so I didn’t want to take notes or think more than I had to, but there were times when I couldn’t help but to think of Eagle Rock and our local street designs and I would like to share some of those moments here.
“You know, if safety was our societal goal, we’d definitely get rid of automobiles” [Peter Jacobsen, Sacramento Public Health Consultant]
In Eagle Rock, safety, in relation to automobiles in the neighborhood, seems a constant issue. I remember when a driver struck a student heading to ERHS on Yosemite a few years back, there was talk of adding a traffic signal at a crossing which remains only marked with some paint. It seems every so often that a student is unfortunately struck while heading to or from ERHS. I am fortunate that my worst experience involved a car nearly hitting me and my two friends when the driver refused to grant us our right-of-way when walking home. But not even experiences like that should ever occur directly adjacent to schools (or anywhere else).
Things get worse when residents think of Colorado Boulevard. The notorious crash of 2008 and the over 600 traffic citations that ensued after the collision. The cars that crashed into Swork. Daily speeding. Daily failure to yield to pedestrians.
And York Boulevard, even at one lane in each direction managed to foster a crash just over a month ago. I think if safety was the number one goal for Eagle Rock, we could do a lot by reducing space dedicated to cars and turning it over to the community.
“This not-very-rich city had the density to support a more lively street life. Many people are close enough to walk downtown, although few do. And then suddenly… you know whose fault it is? It’s the cars, it’s the manufacturers fault. People will drive as fast as they feel safe. And with all of the sound proofing and hose power and improvements, they feel they can go faster. These roads were designed for 1960′s autos. What we’re left with is old road technology and new auto technology. Now they don’t think they’re driving fast, they don’t think they’re speeding.” [From a city's public works director]
Again Colorado Boulevard springs to mind, when trolley lines where removed. New found space was turned over to cars, a mistake many of us are still trying to reverse. My anecdotal experience consists of traveling with drivers who exceed the 35mph limit (it is a limit not a minimum), as I briefly expressed in this LA Streetsblog article. These are not necessarily bad people, but they just don’t know how fast they are going with all the modern technology in cars. We should engineer the streets so that speeding is not an issue.
“More parents are driving their kids to school and…. high school now has a parking lot crowded with the cars of affluent students who could easily bike or walk but prefer the status of driving.”
Eagle Rock High School, somehow whenever a class year reaches driving age, teens who were previously chauffeured or walked or took the bus now drive themselves. Anyone living in Eagle Rock or Northeast LA really doesn’t have an excuse for driving to school– there’s Metro, DASH, walking, bicycle, skateboard, etc. I hesitate to make this reference, as I risk making others think “we’re not Europe!”, but in the Netherlands I have heard of students cycling up to 15km (about 9 miles) to get to school daily in more harsh weather than we are used to. I guess the only excuse one can make is that it is too cheap, too easy, and too glorified to drive to school, you would be a fool not to do so if you have the ability.
“… the old commercial center, a still pleasant traditional Main Street collection of businesses– although it has been it has been eclipsed in the minds of most residents by the shopping centers on the outskirts.”
Eagle Rock still has many historic buildings along its main boulevards with fun, unique, pleasant places though funnily (or not) enough, our center is also eclipsed newer developments along our ‘outskits’. By the CVS/Mc Donalds/ Vons corner of Colorado Boulevard and Figueroa Street; the Starbucks/CVS development on corner of York Boulevard and Eagle Rock Boulevard; the Walgreens/Starbucks development on Eagle Rock and Colorado; and on the Eagle Rock Plaza on the Glendale/Eagle Rock border.
“they lived in the… old streetcar neighborhood… which has good bus connections and a large number of businesses within walking distance.”
Eagle Rock is serviced by many buses (780, 180, 181, 84, 83, 81, ER/HLP Dash…) and of course Eagle Rock has many businesses within walking distance as it was once a city, and then a streetcar town, accommodating denser design while our town was being built.
“Most of the time it just feels so good to be outside. Some days I’ll find myself riding… and the sun is setting… and you just go ‘My God, we live in such a gorgeous part of the world”
We may not have an ocean view outdoors, but anyone in Eagle Rock can always look to the mountains, the sky, the few remains of nature close to us; go to high points in Eagle Rock and gaze at the urban landscape fused with nature; watch the sun rise or set or watch clouds travel; almost any way you slice it, we live in a gorgeous part of the world, we just need to look with our own eyes. The only problem is, we don’t notice or appreciate our surroundings traveling at 20mph+ in a metal machine that protects users almost completely from nearly any elements of their surroundings. Bicycling, more so than driving, reminds us we are humans and that we live. We get to slow down, and be part of our surroundings rather than obliviously rushing from place to place by car, breathing recirculated air, setting our own temperature, unable to look anywhere than ahead of our bullet-like travel.
And so, I recommend Pedaling Revolution, and I recommend that if you haven’t walked around town lately, or bicycled to get somewhere, do so.