Riding the Streets Day 7: May 23, 2010

Finally got some time for a ride on a Sunday morning.  Quite a different way to spend my Sunday morning from days in my past….

Beautiful day – sunny, a few clouds, pleasant, although by the time I finished, it had gotten much hotter.   Today was the Gardenside north area – primarily, the “war” streets, you know, Antietam, Normandy, etc…

Ride Quality

South Broadway/Harrodsburg sucks.  Narrow lanes, narrow gutter, high curb.  And angry people speeding by in cars that have been modified to make as much noise as possible.  Absolutely flying down the road.  In a few more years, I’m sure I’ll be angrily shaking my fist at the whippersnappers.

I expected more of the same when I turned onto  Lane Allen, but no! Thank you city bike people for having a great bike lane there.   Mason Headley also sucks – way too narrow and no bailout options.  The rest of the ride was on suburban streets – safe but somewhat hilly – I was in the valley of the Wolf Run for most of the ride.

Ride took 1:36. 

Saw this at BCTC – dont know what, if anything it’s for, but it is nice.

Neighborhood Character

 All suburbs, all the time.  I know that’s what you think you’re getting here.  But hey – that’s our city.  From Harrodsburg to Versailles, from Mason Headley to Lane Allen, basically nothing but suburbs in between.

The exception being the commercial areas at the corner of Harrodsburg and Lane Allen, the strip down Lane Allen to Garden Springs, and the Gardenside shopping area along Alexandria.   All are about the same vintage in terms of style – mid-60s.  The Gardenside commercial really must have been a model at the time – a shopping center in the middle of a neighborhood.  It’s pretty bleak now – huge, mostly empty parking lots fronting low rise, single use buildings.

There is a large church and school in the middle of the neighborhood and this nice park

The suburbs range from the high end houses along the Lane to some very modest houses on other streets in the area – I saw one that couldn’t have been more than 600 sq feet.  I know because when I lived in the Southland area my house was 780 square feet and that would have looked huge in comparison to the other ones.

Here’s the most tagging and graffiti I’ve seen so far  -well done, and restricted to the abandoned building – not one mark on the occupied buildings surrounding.

Does this sign strike you as polite? – which is nice or…  Desperate?  Demanding?

But all in all, very tidy neighborhoods.  This ride simply reinforced my growing awareness of what this city really is:  a collection of suburban subdivisions.  That leads me to…..

 General Thoughts

  1. I repeat that Lexington has some of the best suburban development anywhere.  It’s compact, green (the color), cohesive, intact.   Our planners did it fairly right over the last 60 years (but only in this regard).
  2. I’m convinced that between our preserved farmland and all our suburban yards, that we could feed ourselves.   I don’t have any proof besides some great conversations with some very smart people (thanks Becca).  But I feel good about our possibilities.
  3. Regarding that – I thought a little about what happens if the oil gets turned off very quickly – what would we eat? It’s very possible given the geo-politics of the world today.   

Just a hypothetical:  Israel attacks Iran this summer. China defends Iran’s rights (it has over $300 billion invested in Iran).   Iran blocks the Straights of Hormuz  preventing Iraqi oil from leaving and perhaps even takes a shot or two at Saudi Arabia. Venezuela jumps in, as Chavez hates us. These are our major oil suppliers. Thus the vast majority of oil that would ordinarily be coming to us would stop.  Suddenly.  Then, picture a Cat 5 hurricane in the Gulf at exactly the same time.   The rigs in the gulf would have to stop production. 

 Now, that is the perfect storm no doubt.  But it could happen.  And actually there is a combination of things in there that are much more likely.  

 If this did come to pass, do we have a plan?  Nope.  The food in the stores in the city would disappear within 3 days as the gas for the trucks stopped flowing. How do we feed ourselves?

 Gas prices – if we could get any – would go through the roof.  This would have enormous financial consequences for the city government that sends vehicles out across the city each day.  The school system racks up 18,000 miles a day! So the choice would be between keeping things rolling as they have, or….what….?  That’s the problem – we don’t have a plan.

 Oil enables us to dig coal (or “run coal” as the, um….friends of coal put it…).  Thus the price of coal would shoot up nearly instantly.  That has implications that we have never contemplated, not just for our personal lives, but, for example, how we use our commercial and institutional buildings, or how we get our water to us from 37 miles away.

 The next mayor is going to have to address this very serious vulnerability.   And that’s just the short term vulnerability.  Peak oil is still lurking – the only reason it hasn’t bitten us worse is the economy is so weak that we simply cannot increase our demand.  If we ever do, prices will shoot over the longer term.  If we don’t, we’ll be mired in a perma-recession.   The old world is screwed either way.

 Yes, all kind of heavy for a pretty Sunday morning.  But hey, somebody has to think of these things.

 4.   Which leads me to:  is there anything more sad than a carnival on a Sunday morning?  Everything is closed. Nothing is moving, flashing, making noise.  No kids pulling their parents around.   No teenage couples making out everywhere.  No carnies trolling for every last dollar (that makes it sound like they have cousins on Wall Street.)  

We’ll apparently there is a carnival that is going on in Gardenside.  Which I thought was strange.  This isn’t a holiday weekend, nor is Gardenside really known as a carnival destination.   The only thing that came to my mind is that there has been a surge in carnival production companies lately, and that any weekend and any parking lot is fair game, old rules about holidays, annual festivities, or good locations be damned.   I  guess we’ve gotten to the point where we have more carnies than festivals.  So they’ll just make it happen.

 5.   Another day in the suburbs and I saw ONE kid.  Hell, I didn’t even see much evidence of kids.   Could it be that what is happened is that the parents who raised their kids in these neighborhoods simply stayed on.  In effect, most of the suburbs I’ve ridden through have had one generation of kids so far.  There seems to be very little turn over.  It’s no wonder then that the new and better schools follow parents further out – there’s simply no room for new families in the existing suburbs.  Which leads me to,

6.  The suburbs inside New Circle Road are the ideal.  Wide houses on wide and deep lots.  Very low density.  But that is a reflection of a much different time.  A time of rising wages, stable economy, abundant energy.  We are now entering the time of scarcity.  How will we design our city to reflect that reality?  

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