I’ve had to spend most of the last week and a half in downtown Los Angeles, hanging around the Central Library. When I was young this would have been a terribly boring location—not the Library itself, as I’ve always been a bookworm, but the neighborhood. Now, though, I could hardly wait for breaks so I could get outside and explore Flower Street, Seventh Street, the Maguire Gardens at the west end of the library (once a parking lot!), the Bunker Hill Steps, and, well, just about everything.
I even walked one of the old pedways, elevated sidewalks that were supposed to channel pedestrians about and keep the streets safe for cars. That hasn’t happened, of course; fortunately, much of the area has been re-redesigned with street life in mind, and walkers abound everywhere. Homeless folk mingle peacefully with office drones, pompous managers, school tours, tradespeople, and no small number of tourists. There are many times more people in the crosswalks than on the bridges.
The Pershing Square subway stop, of course, brings hordes of human beings who then get about on their own two feet; and around the corner on Seventh is another stop where the Red and Purple subway lines join with the Blue and Expo line light rail routes. This means generally happy swarms of people walking…and bicycling.
In fact, bicycles are prominent, rolling the lanes or locked to the numerous bike racsk—which are not quite numerous enough, as two-wheelers are also locked to just about anything else that a U-lock or chain can embrace. Though you don’t see much of that in the break-time aerial heading the column, when you’re at ground level you see bikes, bikes, bikes.
Old rusty cruisers, ’70s bikeboom relics, shiny Linus commute bikes, carbon playracers, mountain bikes burdened with milk crates for and aft, armies of fixies everywhere, and even the occasional cargo bike. Just yesterday I saw what looked like a homemade flatbed bakfiets being pedaled serenely up Fifth Street in company of a fixie, both their riders sporting the messenger look and most likely, in that district ringed with law offices, actually at work.
Fountains, sculptures, bikes, and happy smiling faces all around, and the air clean after a rain. Not your daddy’s old Downtown LA, these days. Sometimes things do get better.