Los Angeles once had bike highways in the sky

cycleway photo
Public Domain California Cycleway

We once wrote that Cycle Tracks will abound in Utopia, but over the years came to conclude that separated, elevated bicycle highways were a silly idea. On Gizmodo, Dan Koeppel writes a wonderful article about the famous California Cycleway, "designed to swiftly and conveniently transport people between a pair of key urban centers: the old colonial plaza in Downtown Los Angeles, and Pasadena, the burgeoning, modern suburb to the north that then rivaled the older city in size and ambition." In 1899 bikes were all the rage and everyone was sure it would be a success. It wasn't; the bike boom ended and the Cycleway was never completed.

Koeppel blames the automobile, noting that "In 1902, an entrepreneur named Ransom Olds introduced a cheap, reliable motorcar, the “Oldsmobile.” A year later, Henry Ford began producing his first internal combustion engines. " Interestingly, an earlier article by Carlton Reid, on a blog titled "roads were not built for cars" notes that the car was not a factor at all, and that the Cycleway was killed by our other favorite means of transportation: The streetcar.

Cycleway newspaper illustration/Public Domain

There’s no proof the advent of the automobile had anything whatsoever to do with the financial collapse of the cycleway. In 1900, motor cars were still fresh on the scene and very few people thought they had a certain future, and certainly not an all-dominant future. It took another fifteen years before automobiles started to dominate in the Los Angeles area.

The streetcars were faster and in fact cheaper than the toll on the cycleway. Even Horace Dobbins, builder of the Cycleway, saw them as the future and "In 1909 Dobbins incorporated the Rapid Transit Company in order to create a fast streetcar line into Los Angeles"- on the route of his cycleway.

Now cycleways are back in vogue; see related links below.

Tags: Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | Biking | Wayback Machine


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