forgotten history of what might have been, the California Cycleway (bicycle only elevated wood road from Pasadena to LA)

In 1897 bicycling was a fad, a craze. The first of many strange compulsions that caught Americans up in a social movement that seems strange to those same people after it's gone (pet rocks, flag pole sitting, etc)

It was soon swept away by the board track racers, endurance runs, and land speed racing on dry lakes. But there was a time when biking was the thing to do, and LA had an entrepreneur that built 1.2 miles of this bike highway to charge a toll for a quick easy way to get from Pasadena to downtown LA.

He had it all worked out, except for the part where it gets completed while it still was in demand.

found on from a facebook post by but it originates in a 1901 magazine article posted on the

"On this splendid track cyclists may now enjoy the very poetry of wheeling. At Pasadena they may mount their cycles and sail down to Los Angeles without so much as touching the pedals, even though the gradient is extremely slight.The way lies for the most part along the east bank of the Arroyo Seco, giving a fine view of this wooded stream, and skirting the foot of the neighboring oak-covered hills.The surface is perfectly free from all dust and mud, and nervous cyclists find the track safer than the widest roads, for there are no horses to avoid, no trains or trolley-cars, no stray dogs or wandering children." 

the article is written in an antique flowing way, eloquent by todays norm, but it points out some interesting signs of it's time... 5000 cycle inventors, nothing worth riding a bike on in the age of steam locomotive prestige but adobe roads and train track crossings of muddy wagon wheel ruts. The bikes would be smoothy riding above all the horse manure, rocks and ruts on a boardwalk with nothing to interrupt a pleasant Southern California sunny day. If you started in Pasadena, you'd cruise downhill the whole way without pedaling at all due to the 600 feet elevation difference and the 20 miles... it's likely if this had occured it would have been an hour of riding downhill.

Throughout the entire distance from the center of one city to the center of the other it has an uninterrupted right of way, passing over roads, streets, railway tracks, gullies and ravines. At its highest point, the elevation of the track is about fifty feet. The maximum grade in the nine-mile run is three percent., and that only for two thousand feet. Elsewhere the grade averages 11/4 percent.


Post a Comment