Pedaling Peoria’s pavers. Or, biking the bricks

20130508-092403.jpg

You don’t see a lot of new brick residential construction in Peoria.

When you do, the brick often appears only on the side of the home facing the street. Sometimes it’s limited to narrow columns on either side of the garage door. For people of modest means in Illinois, an all-brick home is too expensive to contemplate.

You’re more likely to see masses of brick used in the construction of big-box stores. But when you consider the building setbacks, huge parking lots and anti-human scale of factory commerce, you realize that the best attributes of brick–beauty, strength and permanence–are overwhelmed by the same steroidal mercantilism that promotes consumption over consideration.

20130508-092526.jpgFortunately, there’s a place where the historic qualities of brick still reign: the street.

I’ve been riding over several blocks of pavers on my way to and from downtown Peoria. The surface is a bit rough compared to an asphalt road, but my bicycle has wide, forgiving tires.

Car traffic is light on this street for a number of reasons. Homeowners and renters park on both sides of a relatively narrow right of way. Stop signs are numerous. Houses and mature trees, vertical elements that naturally slow traffic, guard the street on both sides.

Plus, the road surface has an evolutionary feature that discourages higher traffic counts: modest undulations developed over decades. These gentle brick waves 20130508-092226.jpggive drivers useful feedback on their speed. And drivers slow down, not because of a sign or the possibility of a police car, but because the street itself imposes a natural limit.

This segment of my commute has been patched over the years, sometimes successfully (with brick), sometimes not (with asphalt). But the street continues to serve its residents, and the passing person on a mountain bike, very well indeed.

If only more such corridors had been protected against modern road construction techniques.

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About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
This entry was posted in History, Infrastructure, Report from the road and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Pedaling Peoria’s pavers. Or, biking the bricks

  1. Erik says:

    I hate to bring my love of the Dutch into this… nah, who am I kidding, they do an excellent job of bikes on bricks. They have preserved and continue to place new bricks (can you believe it?!) where repairs are needed.

    Where I lived (my website header) is not the exception of a small, hidden dreamland where this can happen, no, it’s implemented across the entire country. With streets in such ragged condition (see: recent article in Journal Star regarding newish road) I often wonder what Peoria’s landscape would look like had they just made the needed repairs to the bricks and taken a different route? Pun intended.

    • It’s said you can’t swim in the same river twice. I think they say that because one day you’re surrounded by water from upstream, and the next day, that water is miles away, headed for the Gulf. But maybe they say that because one day you learn something about the river that causes you to stick to shore forever after.

      Whatever.

      My point is this. When there’s money for repairs, blacktop roads get a new surface. The country roads I bicycled in 1985 aren’t there anymore. They were replaced by newer rounds of hot goo.

      The brick street I first rode in the late 1970s? It’s still there, for the most part. I just took the photos. A few bricks have been replaced by bricks harvested from some other street in town, but most of them probably saw me when I could really ride.

      I keep thinking I should mark the date on one of the bricks and try to find it again when I’m in my eighties. Kind of like marking box turtles down in Joplin, Missouri.

      None of this has anything to do with the Dutch. I thought I’d get back to them during this reply, but I can’t quite make it happen.

      But I do like the idea that someone, somewhere, is doing a great job of maintaining their brick.

  2. lardavis says:

    Ah, the repetitive unit of clay masonry. So humble, so reliable.
    If it was good enough for OZ, then it’s good enough for me.

    • Best of all, no flying monkeys in Peoria unless, that is, you actually start paying attention to the man behind the handlebars. Because I often see things in the air that I can’t identify right away. Most of them turn out to be birds or airplanes, but I can’t tell you for sure that one of those things wasn’t a flying monkey. Guess I’m flying monkey agnostic, that way.

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