Riding the Streets Day 10: November 7, 2010

(Boy you sure can get some weird pics on an iphone – if I knew how I was doing this I would open a gallery)

Can you believe that it’s been five months since I last did one of my city rides?  (My goal is to ride every street in Lexington inside New Circle Road in one year – click riding the streets header above for more info)

Well, I have been busy, and all my spare rides have been on the Legacy Trail so far this fall.  What can I say:  I had trail fever!

But when I saw Sunday was going to be beautiful, I mandated that I ride. My friend Phil H. tagged along – had to show the rook what a real biker can do.  (ha) We went “near southside” – Arboretum, Zandale, Landsdowne and Surfside areas.  Bright blue skies.  50 or so.  Perfect riding weather. Rode about 1:30.

I figure I’m about 75% done with every street inside New Circle.   I’ve got one big slice of pizza to do between the west side of Nicholasville to Harrodsburg – the Clays Mill corridor is in the middle – and a stretch of north Broadway area, and need to fill in on the north side where I didn’t get to finish this summer cause of the cut tire.  Then I’m done.  Hope to do it before Dec 31 – but I’ve got until February 21st, 2011 to make it a year.

Ride Quality

This area is mostly residential and not nearly as hilly as other areas of the city. And with the exception of Nicholasville Road, obviously, and, Landsdowne,  Albany and Malibu, traffic isn’t a real issue. The side streets are quiet, wide, and fairly well maintained. A little windy here and there, but that’s becoming the new normal for Lexington.  You may not notice it unless you spend a lot of time outside, but I have this year, what with the Legacy Trail, going to soccer games, and doing these rides. Wind is here.

Neighborhood Character

These areas present the fine face of suburbia found in other neighborhoods in this general area.   Substantial houses, even if small in some cases, treed yards, quiet streets, not too far from anything – the suburban ideal.   As on many of my rides, I didn’t see too many kids in these areas.  Could it be that the people who live there raised their families and then never left?  Probably.  So there will be a turn over in the next 20 years perhaps.

The neighborhoods do seem like they could adjust to the post peak world fairly well.  The streets form a connected grid for the most part, and no place is father than a mile or so from a major thoroughfare (for transit).  The houses seem well made of solid materials.  The yards are large enough to grow lots of food. In the older areas near the Arboretum, the houses are large enough to add carrying capacity.  There are a couple of embedded institutions like schools and churches that could provide cohesion.

Street trees are really needed on most streets.  The power lines are either in the rear or are buried, leaving a great planting strip on the street.  Yet most are unplanted.  Phil asked why I thought it so.  I responded that I think most people accept a neighborhood they way they find it.  If they move there without street trees, it will probably never have trees unless there’s some push.

The areas at the southend of this stretch – along Surfside and Wilhite Drive are examples of segregating density to undesirable areas.  The old rule of thumb in planning:  give single family the best areas, the most protected, quietest, etc, and then go outward with density until the highest density is found next to roads, railroads, commercial areas, industrials zones, etc.   I don’t know how these places will fare in the post peak world.

The fate of the utter shit hole that is Nicholasville Road is much less in doubt.  The drive-to culture of cheapness is waning.  Peak oil will change everything about that street but it’s fundamental nature as a corridor of commerce.  Over time, the street will evolve into a much more finely grained, walkable, and populated area.  Markets for locally grown produce as well as for swapping our accumulated crap will spring up in parking lots, strip mall buildings will become dorms for displaced people or factories to make local necessities, and the road itself will become a transit corridor with major biking lanes.  Over time, the flat spaces of the commercial areas – parking lots and rooftops- may become solar farms.

All this is if we’re lucky.

General thoughts:

1.       I can’t repeat enough just how bikeable our city really is.  We covered the whole stretch within a 2 mile by 2 mile rectangle.

2.      The suburbs have held up well here.  In many cities, first ring suburbs and those close to them are real hit or miss.  Here, suburbia has an unbroken success, at least until the crowding occurs on Wilhite Drive.  That’s a testament to the stability of our city – a good sign in the post peak world.

3.      Beautiful day, few people. Where is everybody?  And no kids.

4.      The Arboretum is really special, and it gets better every year.  Of not many things in our culture can that be said.

5.      We’ve simply got get bikes better announced – more signs, more lanes, – some drivers act like they’ve never seen a bike.

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