Monday, October 6, 2014

CycLOUvia 2014

CycLOUvia: Sunday, September 7, 2014
6.6 Miles / 1:15 / 17:15 – 18:30 / Bike

Louisville, and every city in fact, never looks the same twice.  With the wide diversity of weather, local events, and seasonal changes, our city has a fresh face on every day of the year, sometimes more than once a day, depending on the month.  The world is always in a state of change, and watching the shift is one of the most rewarding, intrinsic experiences in life.  

In a recent push by our community, an event dedicated to exactly what I like to do has seen its second year.  CycLOUvia is an annual event dedicated to closing off one of our most important streets, Broadway, to allow pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers, and any non-motorist move down the middle of the street without the hassle of mortal vehicular danger.  

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I’d been working all afternoon trying to fix my bike, going so far as to going out for a new valve and tube for my front tire.  The event ran until 6:00; you can’t close the street off forever, I suppose, but time was running short for me to get there before Broadway reopened to the monoxide-producing traffic of the city.  After giving up and commandeering (well, I mean “borrowed,) my wife’s bike, I charged up the road to meet up with Broadway, the unfamiliar bike pinging and clicking beneath my seat. 

Many cities have a road they call “Broadway,” and it was often just that: the widest street in town to allow the passage of large sizes and volumes of foot and vehicle traffic.  In Louisville, Broadway is the southernmost major east-west street in downtown.  Along Broadway sits the famous Brown Hotel, famous for inventing the very southern Hot Brown dish.  It was here where I joined Broadway and headed west to race the clock.

The portion blocked off stretched west from 9th Street to 26th Street, a solid seventeen blocks of free 
riding.  I intercepted the blockade at 9th Street, hopped off the sidewalk and discovered I had the entire road nearly to myself.  10th Street whizzed by, then 11th and 12th, and I encountered no more than a few dozen souls, a third of which were police officers.  It made for a serene ride.

After coming to 13th, a railroad overpass greeted me.  One thing I love about our city is it shows its age; some people like the new and clean look, and you can still find plenty of that elsewhere in town.  Graffiti has long been an interest of mine.  There’s a certain boldness about it; even just a simple design.  The tag in the bottom right counter found against the support column can be found all over Louisville, and it looks like he or she hit here too.

Presiding over the bridge was this sign, long worn from age and neglect.  Although someone with more years on me could probably tell you, I wonder what the sign used to say.  “Baked Bread?” That might be too long; “Bold,” “Bald,” or even “Bead” or “Bird” Bread, if it was a family name. 

Silently I glided on.  Along the side of the road, vendors were selling food, drinks, and small items like clothing and knickknacks.  People were out on their porches and in folding chairs to watch the “crowds” and enjoy the nice day, conversing with their neighbors and passerby.  Here’s where I stopped, a few blocks short of the end of the road.

By the time I reached 22nd Street, the cops were already starting to roll back the barricade, reopening Broadway to vehicle traffic.  I asked a police officer if they were closing down, as it wasn’t apparent at the moment.  She told me that they were closing early, as they’d gotten a significantly smaller turnout than expected, perhaps half of their projected attendance.  The pictures don’t do the day any justice; cool September winds, a manageable temperature, and a crystal clear sky all seem like great reasons to get outside.  Maybe it was a lack of advertising or I’d just gotten there late in the day.  The trip was still worth it.  As the wave of police cars rolled up the street, I biked ahead.

Thankfully, this allowed me some extra time to explore.  As I passed Dixie Highway, I caught the familiar Brown-Forman headquarters building out of the corner of my eye.  The towering bottle of Old Forester still rests atop the building.  I turned onto the Dixie and rode to get a better shot, but this turned out to be about the closest respectable shot I could get, as a security guard turned me around the moment I got to the gate.

My vantage point flanked two empty plots, one between me and Brown-Forman and one to my right, west towards the sun.  A dilapidated guard post sat in the second plot.  The open space behind it is devoid of anything significant.  Is it possible this was a development project that was planned and started, but was never completed?

A company called New Bridge Development, LLC used to operate it, apparently.  A bit of research uncovered that this development company has been operating in Louisville since the late 1970s, though it’s not clear when or why they gave up this particular project.  By the fading of the banner and the age of the structure, I’d say there hasn’t been much movement on this project since the 1990s.  It might have been a housing block for low-income Louisvillians, as their tagline might indicate.

Open expanses along Broadway seemed to be the norm; this large, gravel-laden plot was probably ready to be developed before being left to the elements.  Factories and historic building surround it, but nothing new yet.

As I rolled back to the beginning of the road block at 9th Street, I decided to pause at the beautiful building the block before.   This charming, historic building now houses the headquarters for TARC, our local bus system.  It’s named after a somewhat archaic moniker for Louisville; it’s letters stand for “Transit Authority of River City,” an homage to a time where the Ohio was our defining feature. 

The building combines a number of unusual architectural styles; the portico is a style I can’t quite place, not quite Art Nouveau or Modern, and a beautiful rose window stands above the overhang, just out of frame.  It’s still used as a stop, as evidenced by the fellow sitting on the bench.
I crossed back into the trafficked portion of Broadway and made my way home.  

Despite the short ride, I saw a lot of the western part of downtown that I don’t get the chance to see.  Although I wish more people had been around to enjoy the weather, it was kind of special, too.  I kind of liked having the town to myself.

Keep going -


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