Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Diverse Bicycles and Street Names

A nice sighting on Hodge Road. Watch out for those speedhumps!

Where's Hodge Road? The glut of streetname-worthy personages in Princeton's history has caused many streets to adopt a Zelig-like quality of switching identities every couple blocks. Hodge Road begins its life in the eastern lowlands as Tyson Lane, but quickly grows restless during its slow climb, abandoning that name after only one block in favor of Littlebrook Road, then quickly changing names again, becoming Rollingmead Street. Its passage across the threshold of Snowden Lane seems a fitting time to adopt yet another alias, Hamilton Ave, perhaps to better fit in to a neighorhood populated with Harriet, Hornor, Harrison and Hawthorn. This Hamilton persona continues for a surprisingly long stretch before the street--excuse me ... Avenue--gives in to old impulses and flirts for a brief time with the name Wiggins Street. At Witherspoon, it senses another historical shift and takes the proud name Paul Robeson Place before settling on Hodge Road for its final blocks. Hodge ends at Elm Road, which if you turn right will soon become the Great Road, whose greatness may not be clear in the eye of the beholder.

Some have speculated that the tradition of name changing could have played a key role in confusing the British during the Revolutionary War, and has served to intimidate potential invaders, and benign newcomers, ever since. With the development of GPS by government researchers, New Jersey and Princeton in particular has lost this protective web of confoundment.

While traveling from Tyson to Hodge, you may as a Princetonian of highly advanced discernment wish to point out to fellow travelers the subtle differences in road width, surface texture and overall bearing that distinguish a Lane from a Street and an Avenue from a Place. Also, a tip for those lost and searching for a particular street in Princeton: just keep going straight. You'll probably find it.

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