California Cycleway

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The California Cycleway, 1900

The California Cycleway, opened in 1900, was a nine-mile (14 km) elevated tollway built specially for bicycle traffic through the Arroyo Seco, intended to connect the cities of Pasadena and Los Angeles, in California, United States.


The inventor and promoter of the cycleway was Pasadena resident Horace Dobbins, who attracted ex-California governor Henry Harrison Markham to join him in the venture. Together, the two sought approval from the California state legislature, which was ultimately granted (after a first attempt was vetoed) in 1897. The California Cycleway Company bought a six-mile (10 km) right-of-way from downtown Pasadena to Avenue 54 in Highland Park, Los Angeles.[1]

The bark Letitia from Puget Sound was the first boat to arrive at San Pedro laden with the first cargo of lumber for the cycleway in late September 1899.[2] Another cargo of lumber arrived on October 15.[3] A third installment of 460,000 feet of lumber arrived at the port in late October.[4] The company obtained a vacant lot near the railroad and put in a siding at Glenarm street to store the lumber.[2] On November 4, a carload of nails arrived at the site for construction of the cycleway.[5] By November 7, 1899, a force of 15 men began work, placing the first concrete piers of the cycleway at Glenarm street near Raymond Hill.[6] The 820,000 feet of lumber was unloaded for construction starting in November 8; a steam sawmill was purchased as well and was set up in Glenarm street within following week. A portable derrick helped build the path at a rate of about 300 feet a day.[7] By the end of November, about half a mile of frame was completed.[8] In early December the whole frame was nearly complete and workers began to lay the floor and on December 9, the railing was being put up.[9] As construction progressed "little snags (between workers and neighboring property owners) [were] encountered now and then, but they [were] overcome."[9]

The first approximately 1.3 miles (2.1 km) of the elevated wooden bikeway, starting at Pasadena's Hotel Green and ending near the site of the first Raymond Hotel, now the area of Raymond Hill, were opened to the public on January 1, 1900, at 8:30 a. m..[10] The first patrons to go down the cycleway were reverend Otis Bedell along with a party of 12 other cyclists. The Los Angeles Herald reported that during the day nearly 1,000 people rode on the path and estimated that 1,500 trips were made without accident or complaint.[11]

The majority of its route is now Edmondson Alley. A toll booth was located near the north end, in the present Central Park. Had the full route been completed, it would have continued past Highland Park, on through Montecito Heights, crossed the Los Angeles River, passed Elysian Park, and continued to the Plaza in Los Angeles. The full nine-mile run would have had a maximum grade of 3% and an average grade slightly over 1%. At its highest point, the elevation of the roadway was 50 feet (15 m).

The portion built was constructed almost entirely of Oregon pine and was wide enough for four cyclists to ride abreast, with provision for eventual doubling of the width. It was painted dark green and, at night, brightly lit with incandescent lights. The toll was 10 cents one-way, or 15 cents round trip.[12][13]


Due to the end of the bicycle craze of the 1890s and the existing Pacific Electric Railway lines connecting Pasadena to Los Angeles, the cycleway never made a profit, and never extended beyond the Raymond Hotel into the Arroyo Seco. In the first decade of the 20th century, the structure was dismantled, and the wood sold for lumber,[14][15] and the Pasadena Rapid Transit Company, a failed venture headed by Dobbins to construct a streetcar line, acquired the right-of-way.[16][17] Later, the California Cycleway's right-of-way became part of the Arroyo Seco Parkway (Pasadena Freeway).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dan Koeppel, "Cycleway", in: LAttitudes. An Angeleno's Atlas. Ed. Patricia Wakida. Berkeley: Heyday, 2015, pp. 96-105
  2. ^ a b "Pasadena Pedalers Waiting for Cycleway Stuff to Come". Los Angeles Herald. 1899-09-23. Retrieved 2021-01-30.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "Brevities". Los Angeles Herald. 1899-10-17. Retrieved 2021-01-30.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "Brevities". Los Angeles Herald. 1899-10-23. Retrieved 2021-01-30.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ "Brevities". Los Angeles Herald. 1899-11-04. Retrieved 2021-01-30.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Cycleway Progress". Los Angeles Herald. 1899-11-08. Retrieved 2021-01-30.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Cycleway Begun". The San Francisco Call. 1899-11-10. Retrieved 2021-01-30.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "The Cycleway". Los Angeles Herald. 1899-11-25. Retrieved 2021-01-30.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ a b "The Cycleway". Los Angeles Herald. 1899-12-10. Retrieved 2021-01-30.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "Brevities". Los Angeles Herald. 1899-12-29. Retrieved 2021-01-30.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ "Cycleway Opened". Los Angeles Herald. 1900-01-02. Retrieved 2021-01-30.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "Horace Dobbin's Cycleway". California Cycleways. Retrieved 27 July 2010.
  13. ^ Denham, T.D. "California's Great Cycle-Way". Good Roads Magazine (November, 1901). Retrieved 27 July 2010.
  14. ^ Ann Scheid, Downtown Pasadena's Early Architecture, Arcadia Publishing, 2006, pp. 78-79
  15. ^ Rick Thomas, South Pasadena, Arcadia Publishing, 2007, pp. 60-65
  16. ^ Los Angeles Times, Dash into Pasadena in Twelve Minutes, January 1, 1909, p. II1
  17. ^ Historic American Engineering Record, "Arroyo Seco Parkway" (HAER No. CA-265)

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