After surgery following a bad back injury about 12 years ago, Glendale resident David Eisenberg faced a seven-month rehab that involved essentially relearning how to walk.
From the get-go, Eisenberg’s physical therapist told him the key to recovery was staying active. Laying down in the face of pain only causes more problems, the therapist said.
“I took them seriously, and walked,” Eisenberg said. “So far it’s kept the back problems away, and I’m very happy with that.”
Eisenberg, now 70 and sporting a cane, continued to walk. And walk. And walk. On average, he surmises he still clocks in about 10 to 20 miles on any given week.
Recently, Eisenberg realized he’s walked on nearly every street in Glendale, where he’s lived since 1985. Now, he’s turned putting his feet on every street in Glendale into a personal mission.
“Besides being able to accomplish a goal, being outside is just so much more pleasurable than sitting around in the house,” said Eisenberg, explaining the rationale for his pedestrian pursuit.
On a warm day in June, Eisenberg had walked 5 to 6 miles by 1 p.m. Later in the evening, he intended to walk a 2-mile round trip to a meeting on the Los Angeles River.
Eisenberg habitually leads Sierra Club walks and has climbed the group’s list of 275 mountain hikes — known as 100 Peaks — at least four times each. Over and over again, he returns to the Diederich Reservoir, one of his favorite trekking spots, in the Brockmont area. To date, he guesses he’s been on about 90% of Glendale’s streets.
(Eisenberg’s passion for the outdoors is longstanding; he recalled climbing his first “official mountain” — Mt. Washington in New Hampshire — when he was 16.)
With so much ground covered already, what’s left is mostly dead-end streets at this point, he said. It’s now his mission to go and “pick them all up,” strategically, he said.
After putting proverbial pegs on a map, Eisenberg reckons he has about half of the city’s dead-end streets to go.
“When you have a route and you’re walking a loop and here’s this street and the sign says it doesn’t go through, and you think, ‘Well, I’ll just keep going on my route’,” Eisenberg said of his previous tendency to avoid the dead-ends.
Now Eisenberg’s thinking of recruiting others to tackle the city’s roads to nowhere — by leading a Sierra Club walk expressly dedicated to the dead ends.
He’s done one before, in the Brockmont area, “and it kind of drove participants nuts,” said Eisenberg, chuckling.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Eisenberg has become passionate about pedestrian safety. For the past several weeks, he’s been a familiar face at Glendale City Council meetings, urging local leaders to do more to protect residents that prefer two legs to four wheels.
In some ways, it’s an act of self-preservation. At a June 4, meeting, Eisenberg told council members he’s faced several near-death experiences while out walking. During his comments, he singled out the intersection of Maryland Avenue and Doran Street as particularly problematic.
His prodding seems to, at least tentatively, have paid off — or tapped into an existing local zeitgeist.
“I know our public works director [Yazdan Emrani] was taking notes as to those intersections,” Mayor Ara Najarian said after Eisenberg’s comments.
“Knowing just a little bit about street light, traffic light timing, it is a complex series of variables,” Najarian added, and directed Emrani to look into Eisenberg’s specific complaints.
On June 11, just a week after Eisenberg told the council more needed to be done to prevent motorists from running red lights — and other safety suggestions — council members voted to allocate $90,000 to update the city’s pedestrian plan.
Not long after that, Bradley Calvert, the city’s assistant director of community development, asked Eisenberg if he’d like to join a pedestrian safety committee the city is in the process of launching. He accepted the invitation.
“I think Glendale knows that they have a problem, and I think the solutions they have will help, but I also think that it won’t hurt to go and remind them that they have the problems and the solutions.”
Some improvements have been made over the years, he pointed out: There are bump-outs on the walk areas near R.D. White Elementary School that shrink the crossing area and slow drivers down; big yellow-and-white circles on the sidewalk on Brand Boulevard offer safety tips; and there was recently an art contest among the city’s elementary schools centered on pedestrian safety.
But more can be done, Eisenberg said. Without better public transportation, Glendale residents will be deterred from even attempting to navigate the city on foot, he said as an example.
Meanwhile, in 1911 when the Angeles chapter of the Sierra Club was founded, participants of the group’s inaugural hike were able to take Pacific Electric’s now-defunct Red Cars to Altadena. They hiked a route through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and came down Sycamore Canyon, or what we know today as Chevy Chase Drive.
“That would not be possible these days,” Eisenberg said. “There’s no really direct bus [there any more].”
As Eisenberg literally strolls toward the finish line of his goal, he stresses that it’s really about the journey. He hasn’t given himself a deadline and said the weather will dictate how long it will take.
Reflecting on his passion for walking and recently becoming a septuagenarian, he said, “I just hope I can keep it up.”