Riding the Streets Day 14: February 27, 2011

Well, I fell a little short in my goal to ride all the streets inside New Circle Road within one year. I started my quest on February 23, 2010. But as of this ride, I am at least 95% of the way complete. I just have a little more in the Southend area, some downtown streets, and a few around the north UK campus. Places I’ve saved for the last because I knew they’d be easy. On this ride I did the Nicholasville Road corridor along campus and then down to the Southland area. Ride time was 1:43 and the weather was perfect – overcast, mid 50s – great for riding. And it was not windy!

Ride Quality

This overall route is fairly flat, maybe even the flattest I’ve encountered. Except for Nicholasville Road, there was very little traffic. Nicholasville Road itself sucks, like all the major arteries in the city. People absolutely fly and there is very little room between the curb and the traffic lane. Plus, the winter has really beat the road up bad and trying to ride over or around all the broken pavement isn’t pleasant, especially when you’re also trying not to get run over. The rest of the streets in this area are very easy. The neighborhoods around campus were very quiet given that it was a Sunday morning. The streets in the Southland area were also pretty quiet. All in all, a nice and easy ride.

Neighborhood Character

I’ll just say this right off: the neighborhoods to the west of campus – Transcript, Conn Terrace, Elizabeth Street, Forrest Park – all in this area appear to be absolutely destroyed. Don’t believe me? Take a ride on a Sunday morning and all you will see are beer bottles, keg cups, trash, cars parked in yards, muddy yards, broken streets, crumbling housing. This is where many of the “bright young minds” who are going to help UK achieve “Top 20” status live. It’s an absolute ghetto. Higher education may be important to these kids, but it isn’t the first priority judging by the waste.

Hey, I partied – a lot – when I was in school. But I never saw anything on the scale of what appears to happen in this neighborhood. It was just street after street of beer receptacles and trash. This is the failure of UK – plain and simple. Between abdicating its role in providing student housing and its out-of-sight, out-of-mind alcohol policy, our city now has a 100 acre zone of desolation adjacent to the campus.

I don’t have any idea of how the horse may be got back into the barn, however.

I shit you not. A house that is as wide as a driveway. And two windows in the front, none on the sides, and probably a door out the back.  I’d say that there a real high quality of life inside this thing.

Riding on south, the debauchery gives way to gentility of Barberry Lane, and the Parks – Arcadia and Cherokee. Cherokee Park offers one of the finest examples of planning in the city. Sadly, it wasn’t emulated.

The broad swath of the central median and urban forest combine with solid architectural details to create a very pleasing cityscape. And while this street’s land use is single family housing, it could just as easily been multi-family or even office and commercial. Good planning shouldn’t have become the sole possession of those who could afford it.

Further south, we get the quintessential Lexington suburbia. All the great neighborhood streets feeding into Southland Drive represented the best hope for suburban planning: an affordable area, with a strong sense of place, linked to a community based shopping and service center. We didn’t end up moving that model forward, either. It’s kinda sad to see all the things that were done right in city planning here but, for whatever reason, not replicated.

I did see LOTS of vacant office and commercial spaces along Lowery Lane, Burt Road and Regency Road. Could be as high as 20%. And this is in the middle of many viable neighborhoods.

General thoughts

1. Lexington has a lot of small houses – less than 1,500 square feet. I think this has helped keep the city affordable. And charming in its diversity.

2. There is a lot of density on the west side of UK’s campus. But it isn’t in the configuration to make a walkable area. This is a real missed opportunity, as we could have increased the cohesion of the campus by keeping students closely connected to it. Instead, once they are across Nicholasville Road, they are out in the world and their cars are vital to them. And once in those cars, there’s no reason to stay close to campus. UK loses a lot from this dispersion of people at the end of the day and on weekends. The truly great college towns are all magnets. Here, we repel. We could have had a great urban university, instead we got suburban slums.

3. This may seem esoteric, but the picture below illustrates a failure of planning. Differing land uses should never face each other across a street. There is always unnecessary tension when that is allowed to happen. Different land uses should always abut at the REAR property lines. So in this case on Longview Drive, the fronts of houses look onto the backs of shops along Southland. Either they should have backed up to each other or houses should have faced houses.

4. I’m SO glad that you can get basically anywhere in the city without having to use the main arterials. We’ve been provided a ready made set of bike commuting corridors that are parallel to the main streets, but are much safer and more pleasant.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Riding the Streets Day 14: February 27, 2011

  1. Aaron German

    Steve,

    I agree that Lexington is very bikable–especially when you know the right route to take. I have decided to start posting pleasant routes on a blog: “Lexington’s Bike Pathways”, which can be found at:
    http://bikelexenjoy.blogspot.com/

    I would like to post info from anyone who wanted to share their bike routes. If this thing really takes off, the blog will have to be improved. In fact, it may need to be improved if it is ever to really take off. But this is a start. Maybe something will come of it.

    • great idea – can I publicize on my blog?

      • Aaron German

        Yes, please do publicize this. Also, I want to hear from people about how this idea can be improved.

        I think it needs a better organizational scheme than what blogger.com can offer. For example, it’d be nice to sort the paths into different categories, say, the various regions or neighborhoods of Lexington. But I do want to put any money into the site. So, where can we find better website than blogger.com that is also free?

        Also, I think there must be a better mapping program than Route Builder, but have not been able to find one that is as easy to use.

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