While the popularity of recreational urban cycling has grown substantially in recent years, it isn’t the first time that groups of cyclists have been a common sight in the streets of Los Angeles. Like elsewhere in the nation, bicycles enjoyed their first peak of mainstream popularity at the turn of the 20th century, making casual group rides one of the most fashionable activities among the city’s young men. As seen in the top photograph, the neighborhoods south of the central city proved to be particularly welcoming for cyclists, due to their relatively flat terrain and light vehicle traffic.
The contemporary photograph shows the later growth of the Spring Street financial district, as well as the destruction of the smaller commercial buildings that once lined its southern end. Save for during special occasions like CicLAvia, it would be dangerously foolhardy to bike northward on Spring Street today; the roadway was converted into a southbound one-way street in 1970.
Source: Baker, Irwin. “Downtown L.A. traffic count up 8% since ’67.” Los Angeles Times. 2 Mar. 1970.
Original photo: “Bicyclists on Spring Street looking north near Eighth Street, ca.1899 – chs-m794.” Title Insurance and Trust/C. C. Pierce Photography Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/assetserver/controller/view/CHS-6389.