A Short History of California’s First Freeway

This month in history: on January 4th, 1940, California’s first urban freeway opened. The Arroyo Seco Parkway, which is a part of the US 101 through Pasadena, has some interesting history. Its right-of-way was originally purchased in the late 1890s for what, we think you’ll agree, was a much more interesting idea.

The California Cycleway was an elevated bicycle highway opened in 1900 to connect Los Angeles and Pasadena. Originally conceived as a 6-mile toll road, the cycleway allowed riders to ride four abreast and, foreshadowing a time when green would emerge as the color of bike lanes, it was painted green. Sadly, it never extended the full 6 miles, and was dismantled in the early 20th century, its right-of-way ultimately purchased to build a highway for automobiles.

Some attempts have been made to take back the now sprawling US 101 for people biking and walking: in 2010, some community members organized an open streets event on the freeway called ArroyoFest. Could there be an open streets revival on that freeway?

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