Marty Hajovsky makes a keen observation.
Bike trails in the Houston area are all-too-frequently a joke at best and dangerous, hazardous, life-threatening situations at the worst. I’m sorry, but painting a solid white line in the drain gutter on a busy street and calling it a bike lane may get the city federal funds for such things, but no matter how you look at it, this is not a safe and economical way to bike commute around Houston. It may be a boon for the surgeon community who get paid to stitch these people who get injured there back together again, but when i see one of those things, I feel like John Rhys-Davies in Raiders of the Lost Ark (“Very dangerous. You go first.”)
But the worst part to me is that this situation obscures the fact that the city has some very functional and safe trails in the Houston Bikeways Program, many of them in fact. The Katy/MKT trail and the White Oak Bayou trail are two near to and in the Houston Heights that spring immediately to mind. I have recently ridden them both and have long been wishing that somehow or other they would hook up. Enter the Bayou Greenway Intiative.
For those of you not familiar with this little problem. The White Oak Bayou Trail extends from Watonga in the northwest all the way along White Oak Bayou to the corner of Ella and West 11th in Timbergrove and back. Along the way, it dips under a few streets, stops at others, but most importantly, is not crossed by unregulated traffic. However, it abruptly ends at Ella and West 11th. The Katy/MKT trail, on the other hand, starts at what would be West 7th (which doesn’t exist over there) at Lawrence Park just next to the North Shepherd Street bridge and continues all the way to UH-Downtown.
So how could they hook up? Look at this Google map right here. Through an open fence gate the other day, I walked from the Katy/MKT trail at Lawrence Park along the old railroad bed west to White Oak Bayou. Then I followed the bayou along all the way to West 11th and the White Oak Bayou Trail. Not once did I encounter a single impediment that would prevent the construction of a tiny spur to connect the two paths. All it takes is will.
The Bayou Greenway Initiative calls for the construction of just such a connector.
I didn’t quite follow what Marty meant when I first read this, but after emailing him and zooming in to the correct location on that Google map, I figured it out. Here’s what he’s talking about:
I think he meant to say “TC Jester” and not Ella, but never mind that. The red line in the lower right is the end of the MKT bike trail, which is labeled “Height Bike Trail” by Google Maps. The blue line is the White Oak Bayou trail. The purple line connecting them is more or less the path Marty walked, which as he says is completely off the street grid.
I recently got a bicycle and have started riding it around the neighborhood. (I hadn’t owned a bike in nearly 30 years. Fortunately, that old expression about something being “just like riding a bike” is spot on.) I prefer the trails when possible, for the same reasons given above, and my reaction the first time I rode the MKT trail to its terminus at Shepherd was “They should make this thing go farther”. I’m delighted to hear that this is in the plans – as Marty says, it’s a no-brainer. I doubt I’ll ever ride it all the way out to Jersey Village (!), which is as far as it will eventually extend, but it’s nice to know that I could.
I should add, if you’ve never taken the MKT trail, you really should, whether by bike or on foot. Between Yale and Shepherd is a part of the Heights you’ve probably never seen. On my blogging to-do list is to take my camera with me on a ride and shoot some pictures of the sights. I have this slightly grand photography project in mind that I’ll never have the time to do, but maybe on a slow day I’ll create a Tumblr site for it and see if I can convince some other
suckers bike-riding neighborhood enthusiasts to contribute to it.