The L.A. “cycleway” — oh, what may have been . . .

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LA CYCLEWAY
The elevated Cycleway traveled above the railways and unpaved streets of the city, shown here passing Pasadena’s Grand Opera House in 1902

Sometimes, when you look at failed historical ideas, you see shades of the future. This fascinating posting by Dan Koeppel, An 1899 Plan to Build a Bike Highway in Los Angeles (and Why it Failed) takes us into the pre-automotive area, with a freeway concept using the human-peddled vehicle in the city that would ultimately become the automobile’s best friend.

Of course, the planned bicycle freeway (with toll booths and attractions along the way) failed even though some construction started in 1900 — because the gasoline fuel powered car dominated. The freeway concept, of course, remained.

Now, in an era of global warming and high fuel costs, and with some European influence, the bicycle has enjoyed a resurgence — in many cities receiving dedicated cycling lanes, pathways and services. (Anyone who has been to Amsterdam will understand that there can be effectively bicycle traffic jams — though much less severe than the automotive type.)  However, I don’t think we are quite ready for toll-charging bicycle expressways, just yet. This is an idea that truly was ahead of its time.

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