Riding the Streets Day 5: April 18

Hey, for the first time in forever, I’ve been able to ride two consecutive days.  For this ride I picked out a piece of the puzzle that has been worrying me because it was the second farthest ride I’ll have to make.  Today I covered From Versailles Road at Parkers Mill to Harrodsburg Road at Alexandria.   The Gardenside area, basically. (and this is despite the fact that I got swiped by a hit and run driver on Thursday….scroll down this page to see the details)

Ride Quality

There are a couple of hilly spots but generally much less than in the southeast portions.  Versailles Road sucks until the bike lanes begin at the top of the hill at Cardinal Hill Hospital.  Parkers Mill, despite the “share the road” signs, is a death trap.  No shoulders, deep ditches  – no escape routes.  The rural part of Lane Allen is just as bad.  Other than that, typical suburban streets.

I made it from my house to Parker’s Mill in 25 minutes, via Red Mile Road and Versailles.  Inbound, I made it from Turfland Mall in a little more than 20 minutes.   Rosemont Garden isn’t bad, I used the sidewalks on Nicholasville, then cut across Alumni – which has bike lanes in this section – and through the stadium and LCC campus to Cooper and down Kastle.   Really not a bad trip.

Below is a pic of the Holy Grail in all this – New Circle Road – you can barely see it through the bushes at the end of Georgian Way.   As much as I hate that road, I still love to see it from my bike – it’s such a milestone to see it from so many viewpoints inside.

Neighborhood Character

The neighborhood off Parker’s Mill is a typical suburban area, but with a more rural feel than the areas in the southeast part of the city.   Wide lots, completely different architecture than the southeast, no sidewalks.  Different but the same.

Moving south along Georgian Way, the neighborhood begins to change in character.  Smaller houses, duplex units mixed in, less vegetation.   But still, the suburban ideal is strong.   As I got closer to the commercial areas along Garden Springs and Harrodsburg, the overall character changed for the worse.  Once again, here is more proof that density is simply crowding without urban amenities.  This is nothing but a failure of zoning that says “this area is orange, that’s where the apartments go.”   So we have a very high density area with no walkability, no greenspace, and no urbanity.  It’s no wonder the area has a very rough feel.

General Thoughts

  1. Cliché though it is, Lexington is nothing but a manufactured suburban place.  There was nothing here before, no small villages that growth could cluster around, no crossroads that could impart character.  We are the embodiment of the suburban experiment:  we live in a place made from scratch according to the highest ideals of mid-20th century planning.  And for the most part we did it pretty well.  I rode on streets I’ve never been on in 28 years here – and was impressed with the high degree of unity of the suburban ideal.
  2. I got a sense of “multiple Lexingtons”  today.  Despite the similarity, this area is very unlike the southeast part of the city. And we know that both of these differ from the core and northside.  There are many parts to this place.  What are our commonalities? What can bind us together? (The UK signs everywhere may be a start…)
  3. I wondered what makes suburbia different from the vision of suburban urbanity displayed in Ashland Park.  As with everything, it’s all in the design.  Ashland Park was thought of as an extension of the city, with city things occurring within and near it – mixed densities throughout, close by commercial areas and parks, transit.  The houses are very vertical, with sharp, steep rooflines.  Front porches area real.  Real trees, not Red Maple and Bradford Pear, dominate the landscape.   Urban stuff.

This works.  We can see the living proof today.  But what the suburban planners and builders tried to do, for the right reasons, never really works as well.

Instead of vertical houses, we get wide, low houses.   Instead of front porches, we get backyard  decks and garage doors facing the street.

Instead of walk-to-places, we get “centers”, places that one must drive to.

Instead of an artfully constructed set of street scenes, we get curvy streets and cul-de-sacs.

Instead of a four-plex nestled within single family homes, we get streets with nothing but duplexes and whole areas of apartments.   We could have the same density in other ways.

And on and on.  One of the great planning failures in this city was failing to learn the lesson of the Olmstead Brother’s vision for Ashland Park.  Why did this happen?  It was right in front of the planners of this city.  I think it was the effort to make suburbia manageable – that is, to reduce it to codes and diagrams.

Yes, we live in a city written by lawyers, diagrammed by engineers, and administered by “planners.” .

4.  As yesterday, I got a sense of foreboding that despite the weather, despite the “good news” about all being well, that it’s not.  I keep thinking about the shock that these folks are in for.   What will that mean for our city?  What will that mean for our country?

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1 Comment

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One response to “Riding the Streets Day 5: April 18

  1. Tim

    Generally, this is where my thesis project is located. I used Wolf Run watershed. I’ll have to email you the poster for it.

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