Friday, February 26, 2010

friday favorites: hanbury road, london

Thanks to my pal Jacob for the tip.

This week's favorite comes to you from London, UK, via a fantastic article from the Next American City that talks about the correlation between traffic speed and pedestrian fatality. Incredible stuff:
  • 5 percent of people die when struck by a motorist going 20 mph
  • 45 percent of people die when struck by a motorist going 30 mph
  • 85 percent of people die when struck by a motorist going 40 mph
  • When cars exceed 20 mph, the comfort level of cyclists and pedestrians drops significantly

Thursday, February 25, 2010

melrose avenue + gower street

You know why LA is so full of paradoxes? Because it's so paradoxical! Seriously, look at this street. There are well-known, if few, signs of life: the moderately-famous Astro Burger, right across from the world-famous Paramount studios. We see a hip home furnishings store; we notice a cocktails sign. And yet, most of the sidewalk is "dead" space: no buildings interface with those walking; most pedestrians (man, that word bugs me) won't be able to see the globe atop Paramount, which is built at car-scale, like a roadside castle. With billboards. These buildings-that-are-not-really-buildings (i.e. where are the entrances?) are the kind of thing that gives LA its confusing quality, like that one Twilight Zone episode where a couple finds themselves marooned in a suburb entirely built out of fake props: real, but not; substantial, but empty; ostensibly built for humans, but almost devoid of them. I say it a lot, and I'll say it again: Ballardian. Curiously, narrowing this part of Melrose doesn't help its livability but does reveal what it actually is: a back alley. See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

crenshaw boulevard + martin luther king, jr. boulevard (I)

MLK Boulevards around America get a bad rap. They run through poorer areas, forming scar lines across neighborhoods with histories of gentrification and racial tension. Chris Rock has cracked jokes about the street name, saying "it ain't the safest place to be." All this criticism seems unfair + overly harsh; just minutes from the location in this photo, for example, you can find The Jim Gillian Recreation Center, of LA's nicest parks featuring tennis courts, soccer pitches, baseball diamonds, and putting greens, as well as the massive Crenshaw Plaza shopping mall. Here at street level, however, it's a tough sell — seven lanes flow fast + furious past long, "dead" stretches of buildings that either lack interfaces for foot traffic or sit aloof behind intimidating parking setbacks, effectively killing street life. And everyone knows that a lack of street life breeds suspicion + fear, like the street crosser hiding his face in the before photo, or the mistrustful bus-watcher to his right. I'm just a photographer, people — and if I were one among hundreds of people on another, better-populated street, you wouldn't even give me a second glance. See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

reader request: colorado boulevard + mount royal drive, eagle rock

Thanks again to Ramon Martinez for the location request.

Eagle Rock prides itself on being LA's hometown, a cozy village just a few minutes away from the bustle of Los Angeles proper. But it was tough for me to get that sense while snapping pix along its main thoroughfare, Colorado Boulevard: a speedy + sometimes fatal dragstrip (four people and an unborn baby died on this "small" local road in August 2008) that is a never-ending source of frustration for local traffic enforcement officials struggling against that classic paradox of sprawl — a city that tries to act country, with denizens pretending their hardest to enjoy a stroll alongside six lanes of 50mph traffic. Colorado, which at Townsend represents the historic core of Eagle Rock, once boasted streetcars linking it to the rest of the Southland — streetcars that once justified such a wide street. But why pretend? Why not re-imagine Colorado at a human scale, to bring it back to its Mayberry Street roots? See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Monday, February 22, 2010

reader request: eagle rock boulevard + yosemite drive, eagle rock

Thanks to Ramon Martinez for the location request.

It's easy to imagine the famous Red Car trains running along this stretch of Eagle Rock Blvd., like they once did back in the day. In fact, a train line down the middle of this road would make sense, given its width. Without the train, however, it feels lonely + placeless; the dedicated left-turn lane flanked by an extra-wide lane buffer to the left and double-double yellow lines to the right seems like overkill, as if street painters had too much canvas to work with. How great would it be to bring back the trains and return this street to its original sense of scale? See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Friday, February 19, 2010

friday favorites: sitges, spain

Peek-a-boo! That's me popping out of a tiny secret passage in the sunny seaside village of Sitges, Spain.

Every Friday I'll post a favorite narrow street snapshot from somewhere around the world. Got a Friday favorite of your own? Send me your photos!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

reader request: huntington drive + san marino avenue, san marino (II)

Here's another view of last week's reader request from Allison Achauer.

Huntington Drive becomes all but unrecognizable when narrowed down to a single lane, and little details (the clock tower, City Hall's flagpole) all begin to make a little more sense for this quiet, cozy suburb. That cyclist would be a happier camper without cars whizzing by at 55mph, wouldn'tcha say? See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

reader request: sunset boulevard + virgil avenue

Thanks to NS:LA regular Andy Hurvitz for the location request.

It's tough to tell at a glance, but this little crossroads is chock full of goodies: Acapulco Mexican restaurant, Rudy's Barbers, El Chavo Restaurant, Uncle Jer's curiosity shop, and the historic Vista theatre. On paper, it's the perfect place to get a haircut, dinner, and some window shopping fun before a movie. Reality's a little more challenging, with each zig and/or zag across Sunset requiring interminable waits at the huge paralellogram intersection. Narrowing things thrusts street life to the foreground, transforms streethopping into a more sprightly affair, and obviates the need for heavy-handed formalities like that dedicated left turn signage looming above the road like a giant staple — which, when abbreviated, could serve nicely as gateway to let people know they've entered a new + unique neighborhood.See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

6th street + park view street, macarthur park

Another angle of reader Herbie Huff's location request from a few weeks ago, this time with a nice view of Macarthur Park. Currently Park View is an oddball little low-traffic space devoted solely to parking. Narrowed, it practically begs to have kiosk vendors running along that wide sidewalk on the right. See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Monday, February 15, 2010

larchmont boulevard

Why does angled, head-in parking make any shopping strip suddenly feel like Main Street, USA? For some mysterious reason this simple design pattern has a cozy-ing effect, making you feel like you've stepped out of your car and into a small upscale village retreat. Larchmont's width, however, is still prodigious enough to elicit a single odd design choice: notice the little red dot in the photo's dead center? It's a stop sign, and it marks the only officially sanctioned spot to safely cross back + forth — a telltale clue that city planners deemed the street too fast for safe jaywalking. Weird to build a shopping village in such a way, no? If I were a store owner, I'd love to be located on a the street narrow enough to encourage more traversing by shoppers, all zigzagging back and forth along dozens of impulsive desire lines. See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Friday, February 12, 2010

friday favorites: the narrowest street in the world

See that teeny gap between buildings in the center of the photo? That's Spreuerhof Street in Reutlingen, Germany, officially the narrowest street in the world, at only one foot wide! Photo above by Jadzia.

Even more pictures over at Damn Cool Pics, including this one:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

abbot kinney boulevard, venice

To me, Abbot Kinney represents the apex of haute California culture: hipster entrepreneurs lazily skate by on longboards past boutique shops and cutting-edge architecture on a road dense enough with street-facing touch points to create a modern village bubbling with life, morning to evening. Walking this street is still a one-sided affair, however, with ever-circumspect pedestrians checking over their shoulders for cars, who tend to use this straightaway as a shortcut from Main to Venice Blvd. Didn't they ever hear that patience is a virtue? Stripping out a few lanes would keep those cars in check and let this Westside gem shine that much brighter. See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

reader request: huntington drive + san marino ave (I)

Thanks to Allison Achauer for the location request, who writes: "One street that has always struck me as ridiculously wide is Huntington Blvd. in San Marino. It's all very fancy, of course, with a gigantic grassy median, but the two sides feel like opposite shores of a vast lake!"

Idyllic, sleepy San Marino is bisected by Huntington Avenue, a street named after old-California royalty that features a cozy string of shops as well as an adorably teeny city hall building facing an ornate town clock across the street. But you'll need field binoculars to check the time on that clock, separated as it is by Huntington's eleven (11!) lanes — that's wider than the Arroyo Seco Parkway! Allison's not the only one who's confused by this crazy width. What did San Marino's residents have in mind for this street? A parade? Express transport for Saturn V rocket engines? Anyone?

Narrowing Huntington down to a properly-sized road brings that charming clock tower closer to whoever might be waiting at that bus stop, allowing them to admire its fine ornamentation — and finally be able to check the time, too. See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

red light stop, green light go, yellow light gun it: large street intersections + pleasure addiction

Image of San Vicente Blvd. & La Cienega Blvd. from Matt Logue's wonderful Empty LA series.

All of us at some point have experienced the Point of No Return: we’re driving along when we spot a green signal up ahead, and wonder: is this a fresh go, or a stale green on the brink of turning yellow? Let's say it does, leaving us to decide: Stop and face a three-minute wait, or just gun it. Now let’s say we choose to sail on through: yes! No long wait for us. We accelerate, our bodies compressed by mild Gs, our forward movement unabated...until we reach the next intersection up ahead.

6th street + lorraine boulevard, hancock park

When I have to take a trip from Mid-Wilshire to, say, Hodori restaurant in K-town (that's Koreatown, dontcha know), I always make sure to take my favorite crosstown drive: 6th Street. Heady + lush foliage spills over the vintage LA homes lining the road, which bends here and there to provide a welcome diversion from the city's usual gridded monotony. A narrowed 6th Street pulls roadside trees closer together to form a dense green tunnel (seen elsewhere in Hancock Park) and just slows everything down, to create a boldly impractical path that lets our lovely jaunt last as long as we wish. See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Monday, February 8, 2010

reader request: san gabriel boulevard near huntington drive, san marino

Thanks to Kathy Rojas for the location request.

There's no denying the charm + beauty of the neighborhoods surrounding San Marino's beloved Huntington Botanical Gardens: impeccable homes of modest grandeur line sunny streets bursting with deep blue-green foliage. This manicured suburbia clearly shows its rural roots, as evidenced by its wide streets — streets I find a little odd. Take this road: it services a sleepy, very low density neighborhood whose residents (unlike their Angeleno counterparts) proudly maintain their sanity by driving at moderate speeds. Despite this small-town character, the road is built six cars wide; it's as if city planners were expecting the Daytona 500 to come barrelling through at any moment. Narrowing the street fits the tone of the area better and has the added bonus of creating tree tunnels, for an even woodsier feel. See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Friday, February 5, 2010

streetfilms' latest video: the new times square

I can't help myself...I actually got a little teary-eyed, this video is just so good. Yes! You can re-invent your surroundings! All it takes is imagination!

Give the fabulous Streetfilms a visit, won't you?

friday favorites: olvera street, los angeles

Thanks to Drew Reed for the location suggestion. 1941 postcard courtesy of zilf.

"I can think of another narrow street in LA, and a live one no less: Olvera!" writes Drew. "It probably doesn't fit your implied criteria as it's closed to vehicle traffic, but at least we have one semi-street that comes close to what you envision."

Not to worry, Drew — just because Olvera is car-free doesn't mean it's any less "real" than any other street!

Every Friday I'll post a favorite narrow street snapshot from somewhere around the world. Got a Friday favorite of your own? Send me your photos!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

3rd street + the grove drive

The Grove never fails to fascinate me. According to developer Caruso Affiliated it is built in a signature, eponymously named "CarusoStyle," which must mean a cartoon style of an original archetype, to paraphrase James Howard Kunstler. There's indeed a lot of cartooning going on in this photo.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

reader request: grand avenue + 1st street (northwest), downtown

Thanks to Scot Pansing for the location suggestion.

This corner of downtown is wonderland of architectural fancy: in a single city block you've got the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, MOCA, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion + Walt Disney Concert Hall, both pictured above. But this block is actually a quarter-mile square, bound by streets eight lanes wide; the view at street level is dominated by concrete vastlands that can swallow up entire crowds of tourists whole. These two cultural meccas above seem too separated, aloof, privatized. Bringing them closer changes their relationship, making them feel more like two temples within a compound: truly the heart beating at downtown's artistic core. Travelling between the two makes more intuitive sense, and becomes more of an intimate segue and less like simple mall-hopping. See it narrowed!
High quality prints available

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

individuality, capitalism, + lawn care: upon reading ted steinberg's "american green"

Perfection in lawn care is like a spike through the heart of spontaneity.
(pg. 223)

Everything about Ted Steinberg's measured argument against lawns makes sense: they waste water; their grass, far from being part of native ecology, is just another Scotts/Monsanto cash crop monoculture nourished by lazy government and kept on life support by poisonous chemical sprays; the mowers tending them spell injury + pollution. The lawn, this great green enforcer of social conformity, originated from upper class mimicry. Plus it's just a huge chore.

There are tons of contradictions surrounding the lawn — why do so many get so OCD over something so un-fun? — but for me its biggest paradox is that it has become a government-mandated aesthetic. The government tells people how far to set back their property, how much of their yard must contain grass, when they can water, and so on, and everyone's kinda...okay with it. Normally when the government tries to restrict things like our speech, mobility, or sexuality, we protest with great vigor — but when it comes to our homes, we tacitly agree to what is effectively a municipal dress code. Where are the angry chants against big government? Or are they being drowned out by leafblowers?

Monday, February 1, 2010

camden avenue + massachusetts avenue, westwood

Loafing around one day I stopped to eyeball the width of one of my neighborhood streets: four and a half car widths edge to edge, check. (Counting car widths has become this tic of mine.) But I realized I've only been counting asphalt, and not the other factor that adds to LA's already wide streets — the property setback.

About the Photographer

Los Angeles, CA, United States
Writer, designer, and urban planning geek.

Got a location idea or photo submission? Send it to I'll post it to the blog or even run out to shoot it myself.


Other sites by David Yoon
Personal site

Kindred Spirits
Tom Baker, LA Without Cars
James Howard Kunstler

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SIFT Angeles


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