Friday, July 04, 2008

Riding My Bicycle Downtown

I've made it a point over the last week to take a bicycle ride in the early evening, when what has recently been a most oppressive Sun is beginning to set.

I've focused my rides on the Downtown Grand Junction area. I usually pick one quadrant of the area between 1st Street and 12th Street and Orchard Avenue and the Colorado River, and slowly wind my way down each side street, and sometimes down an alley or two.

I usually ride for about an hour, trying to get home before it gets too dark to see me. My bike is black and has no lights (yet).

It's good to get out to see things at a slower, human-powered speed. You are able to appreciate things at this more leisurely pace than you would otherwise.

I've learned several things from my bike rides, and also arrived at some conclusions:
  • The Riverside Parkway is largely complete from Broadway to D Road. The pedestrian bridge over to Riverside from Crosby Ave (by the jail) is very nice.
  • There appears to be a bicycle lane along most of the Parkway, but there are no curb ramps at those places where the Parkway parallels or intersects with the Riverfront Trail. Kinda makes you scratch your head over that one.
  • At dusk, the mosquitoes are formidable down by the river. It's not how many are flying around, but how many layers.
  • There are so many examples of extraordinary things being done with the older, smaller houses that make up most of the residential areas of Downtown. Lush and meticulously maintained landscaping and greenery hide behind pleasantly weathered fence posts; the attractive sound of a water feature in the backyard invites a peek between the slats to see the little Edens that have been carefully cultivated out of the hardscrabble of our desert floor.
  • While there are many homes that have been neglected, there are just as many where the occupants have used even limited resources to create beauty on their own terms.
  • The unique and personal nature of many of these improvements, and the way they complement the varying types of design and construction that exist Downtown, are for me as great an example of the diversity of our community as anything else.
  • That being said, seeing all of this reaffirms my disdain for restrictive covenants and the tyranny of many Homeowners Associations, here and elsewhere. This also goes for any attempt to engage in unwanted gentrification by labeling an area "Historic".
  • The far southern part of Downtown is starting to shed its' industrial heritage. Many warehouse properties are vacant or for sale. There is some industrial improvement underway, but one can almost feel the push to make this part of downtown less industrial and more commercial, especially around the Riverside Parkway. The South Downtown planning documents on the city website both validate my thinking and give me pause.
  • Caution is warranted against gentrifying the South Downtown with new development to the point where all existing residents and light industrial businesses may be forced out.
  • The residential character of the area around Mesa State College is slowly being destroyed by the college's voracious appetite for expansion and construction. Some of this may be warranted, but it's not happening the way that it should.
  • You're taking your life in your hands trying to cross 12th Street, even if the College isn't in session. A pedestrian bridge is long overdue.
As I build up endurance and distance (and it gets a little cooler), I'll start to branch out into other areas that are established or face transition. I'm thinking Orchard Mesa and Rosevale for starters, or as much as an overweight middle-aged male on a single speed cruiser bike with coaster brakes can stand. Judging from the results so far, it's working out. Maybe I'll take the camera as well.

Enjoy your 4th.

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