I often pedal through parts of Atwater on my way to and from the Pigeon. In fact, I’ve been riding through Atwater at least occasionally for decades before the Pigeon was founded. Its main drag, Glendale, used to be a dreary strip of sullen, low-slung shops squinting against the glare of the wide gray lanes; it was emphatically not a place where one might choose to linger at an outdoor table. If one could find an outdoor table.
How things have changed:
Some might call it gentrification—a serious concern in NELA—but there appears still to be a great deal of price diversity and a wide variety of merchandise and services offered on the strip, far more so than before. What was there years ago served no one, rich, poor, or middling, and I can only imagine that residents drove to Glendale or Silver Lake to shop or grab a bite.
Now it’s a place where neighbors and visitors can linger together, sample a broad spectrum of foods and goods, maybe get to know one another, or maybe just take comfort in tranquil proximity.
Helping this all has been our otherwise much-derided LADOT, which has put in numerous bike racks up and down the strip, granting everyone the option to get there without firing up a noisy, lung-pummeling iron box to do so. With less traffic on the street, walking for nearby neighbors also becomes more pleasant. The bike racks are definitely in use whenever I ride by, holding up everything from older mountain bikes and BMXers to hybrids, roadsters, and swoopy road bikes. Looks like a wide range of neighbors is enjoying the changes.
In the old days, you’d hardly see any faces at all out on the boulevard. How can you have a neighborhood if people can’t at least see each other?
More changes are coming, though: the city is going to rebuild the Glendale-Hyperion bridge, which feeds traffic from Hollywood and Silver Lake into Atwater. I wrote about it a couple of times, here and here.
Now, if LADOT sets this up as just a giant sluiceway for speeding cars, it could take away everything the street has gained in the last few years. But if they do it right, with bike lanes and traffic calming, it could bring more visitors, which, besides just making for a livelier boulevard, would probably bring more jobs for locals as well.
Let’s keep an eye on LADOT as this project approaches. It’s described as a retrofit for seismic strengthening—a good thing!—with no change to speed limit or capacity. But in this city, you can never be quite sure….
And it needs those bike lanes!