Alumni Avenue Traffic Calming

Alumni Avenue is a fairly pleasant street to cycle on due to low traffic volumes, this is perhaps why the street is a designated bike route. However, this doesn’t mean the street couldn’t be made better for cycling or benefit from traffic calming devices. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) is planning some traffic calming along Alumni Avenue as part of Northeast LA’s part of the Los Angeles Bike Plan. While plans for bike lanes on Colorado Boulevard and North Figueroa Street are receiving a lot of attention at the moment, the LADOT hopes that traffic calming for Alumni can be implemented in the not too distant future as well.

As I’ve contemplated the prospect of bicycle infrastructure on Alumni Avenue, I’ve often thought about how traffic calming can be implemented on the street and have the greatest impact. Primary goals of implementing traffic calming on residential streets in the LA Bike Plan, as is proposed on Alumni Avenue, are to make cycling comfortable and to discourage cut-through motor vehicle traffic.

In my experience, there isn’t terribly much cut-through traffic on Alumni Avenue itself. There are, however, a considerable number of drivers that use Avenue 45 and Avenue 46 – streets that intersect with Alumni Avenue – as shortcuts between Eagle Rock Boulevard and York Boulevard. The below map shows how these streets are used as shortcuts:
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Walking to the store at the start of rainy season

Walking to the grocery store after the first rain of the year! The sky is so nice, the air so fresh.

The start of rainy season is always a happy moment. Months of summer city dust are washed off every surface, and everything sparkles, even the sidewalks. You can see the plants breath.

But other than that, every rainy season is different. It is always a new story unfolding.  Some rainy seasons start with a deluge. Others are more polite, even timid. Some appear to be stingy… until  you’ve given up hope. Then they really surprise you. The year I planted poppies to compare land use in three different neighborhoods, the sky gave us rain every two weeks, as if on an irrigation timer. After that I felt like good friends with the rainy season. Continue reading

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Rules for bike commuting

My first rule of bike commuting: never bike when I am in a rush.

Biking can be risky enough as it is, and feeling rushed causes one to deliberately take more risks. Moreover, being in a rush makes me focus too much on my destination, which then makes the commute seem interminable. The whole pleasure of biking is to enjoy being in the moment. Each moment.

So I will never rush to work. I will look at peoples’ yards and plants. Which houses are now for sale. Which are being prepared to be flipped. I will stop to look.

When I go fast, it will always be only for myself, to feel my muscles work, wind in my face, well-tuned bike beneath my feet.

Biking to the office can help me smile through an entire day of humiliatingly mundane work, because it just makes me feel that good.

Another rule: never bike to work unless I have a ton (at least 16 oz) of my favorite drinks to enjoy after I arrive at the office. This means coconut juice or other nectars from El Super, coke, or a thermos of homemade lemonade or sweetened tea. I am a great believer in sugary drinks in my water bottle holders. The return commute is often needlessly painful if the sugary drink rule was ignored.

I am convinced many people associate physical activity with pain simply because they don’t know the value of eating and drinking beforehand, and  sugary drinks afterward. The human body is a wonderful machine that needs to be maintained in the same way a bike or car has to be maintained.

My favorite bike commuting season comes twice a year: in the fall and spring. Daylight lasts into the early evening (so I don’t need to fiddle with bike lights), but temperatures are cooler so my coworkers don’t see me purple-faced and sweaty.  I am very much looking forward to the start of commuting season.

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Beth Ellenwood Newhan’s “accepted mode of transportation….”

Originally from Iowa, Mrs. Beth Ellenwood Newhan settled in Eagle Rock in 1902. The Ellenwoods’ home was situated on the corner of Hill and Ellenwood, and their property encompassed 32.5 acres around. After marriage, she moved a short distance to Central (Eagle Rock Boulevard) north of Colorado.

In Beth Ellenwood Newhan’s memoir at the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society, it is recorded:

At one time the family attended the services of the Methodist Church in Glendale at Brand and Wilson… In those days walking was the accepted mode of transportation in Eagle Rock. As an example the Ellenwoods walked to and from church. Glendale no less, and they would often bring friends home with them, hike to the Eagle Rock and back, and afterwards walk back to Glendale with their friends.

In the days when the expanse north of Colorado was punctuated with streams and spring brought wildflowers to be picked by the bouquet; walking to Glendale, then to the Eagle Rock and back to Glendale before returning home might not be an unpleasant way to spend a quiet Sunday, especially if the end result was to spend time with family and friends by connecting the dots to a favorite picnic location such as the Eagle Rock Park.

By the end of each Sunday, according to Google Maps, the Ellenwoods would have walked more than thirteen miles.

Personally, I really enjoy many things the past 100 years have brought: libraries, schools, Continue reading

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Biking in Northeast LA ca. 1906

Rounding out Eagle Rock’s Centennial Year,  here begins a series of posts about modes of transportation, 100 years ago in Northeast Los Angeles. For the full list of Centennial themed posts, see the above “Centennial” tab.

A trip through Eagle Rock as recounted by Mrs. May M. Blumer…

The women of the valley were having a social and educational club meeting at her mother’s home and Mabel was going out to help serve luncheon and enticed me to go along and help.

There were no street cars here then, but she had a bicycle parked back of a drug store on Pasadena Avenue now Figueroa, so we took the street car from my aunt’s place in Los Angeles to that point. Then in our full and long skirted white dresses with many lace petticoats and high white shoes, white lisle stockings and good sized leghorn hats, we set out– I on the handle bars.

All went well for the civilized part of the ride along Pasadena [Figueroa] Avenue, but when we cut down on the dirt road there were many rocks and rills and the hillside seemed very steep as we went over the handlebars many times with bike and all rolling into ditches on the way. But it was dry dirt, and we carefully brushed ourselves off and went on arriving not too late…

(Source: Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society)

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Above all…

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard 1813-1855, from Jan Gehl’s “Cities for People”

Don’t think I know anything about this Danish philosopher, except an off color anecdote about him that may be little more than urban myth. Despite my ignorance about this topic it is nice to know that in my love of walking and exploring, I have something in common with a great philosopher.

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some simple things that make me happy

  • Having several free hours in front of me, the air is cool, the sky full of colors, and I can take a walk knowing I can go anywhere I choose to go, stopping any time I feel like it
  • Surveying my neighbors’ yards which are like folk art. People who don’t think of themselves as ‘artists’ express more than they know about themselves through how they arrange their front yards
  • This month, every other day or so, a single bloom each morning, gifted by my ruellia cutting. This tiny bit of color from this humble plant always feels unexpected. I started this cutting about six months ago. Already, it feels like a good friend.
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The Roadside Gardening Club

This post on The Next Small Thing embodies a little bit of the spirit of the late John Stillion, I think.

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the value of design in the public realm

I grew into a job (or rather, a job grew around me) where I use design to help plant people to communicate with the public. My colleagues who inquire into the secrets of plants for a living do not necessarily love to address the public. In this context, design mediates between plant people and a broader audience, and I’ve always thought of my design work there as a kind of public service. Design give voice to ideas that otherwise may seem dry and obscure. Design helps shape experiences to render them readable, stimulating, and manageable.

A couple years ago, however, a colleague who felt threatened invoked the word “designer” in a way that curdled my blood. The word, which I’d always Continue reading

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Not that we would be condoning this….

I picked up a book from the library last week, “The Great Neighborhood Book” by Jay Walljasper and Project for Public Spaces. Here is an excerpt discussing the origin of woonerfs:

… residents of one neighborhood were fed up with cars racing along their streets, endangering children, pets, and peace of mind. One evening they decided to do something about it by dragging old couches and other furniture out into the roadway. They positioned these objects in such a way that cars could pass, but only if they slowed down. The police soon arrived on the scene and had to admit that this project, although clearly illegal, was a good idea. Soon the city itself was implementing similar plans of its own, called woonerfs (Dutch for “living yards”), on streets plagued by unruly motorists.

One can only imagine the response of politicians and engineers if these neighbors had meekly come to city hall to ask permission to partially block the streets. They would have been hooted right out of the building. By taking direct action, however, they saved their neighborhood and brought comfort and civility to cities around the world.

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