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By Monica Simons
Monica Simons is the Online Marketing Manager at Bury+Partners, a leader in the engineering design industry. Monica loves writing about tips and advice on landscape architecture and land use planning design, and showcasing the latest completed design from Bury+Partners.
Whether it’s in the city or the great outdoors, good trails and biking facilities don’t just happen. Sustainable planning and ongoing management are major considerations, but so are trails that are fun and useful. Designers and engineers have to see a trail as something more than a path that takes you from point A to point B and make sure that they meet a number of requirements.
A fully sustainable trail system is possible in both urban and forested areas. Designers have to focus on the entire system, address the unique challenges of the area, and understand the long-term impacts that might result. Whether building a trail for a commute or as some form of recreational initiative, any developments have to be guided by a plan that will prevent erosion, use the natural contours of the land, and manage the riders that use the trail. All of these factors can be addressed by careful design without limiting any of the fun of getting out and riding.
When creating new recreational opportunities, accessibility is a big concern. Designers need to create fun areas that protect natural resources while still remaining open to all people, even if they have disabilities. This applies to walking, hiking, and biking trails, and it must be considered from the initial phases of the design.
They say that there are no shades of accessibility. The facilities are either accessible to all people, or they are not. Why does this matter? Census numbers indicate that 1 in 5 Americans is considered disabled—is significantly limited in one or more life activities. More than that, though, by the year 2030 there will be more than 110 million people above the age of 55, suggesting that there will be more people with impairments to their activity level.
Ideally, biking and hiking trails, and all the related facilities, should be based on the principles of universal design, making them accessible to as many people as possible.
What Requires Consideration
There are a lot of factors that must be considered when designers begin work on new trails or upgrading old paths. These trails could impact vegetation, soil compaction, erosion, water quality, and wildlife, just to name a few. The plan for a new trail has to address all these issues in very specific way.
The first, and best, way to protect the environment from erosion is to design trails that actually provide the experience bikers are looking for. This will automatically minimize the desire to go off trail where the most damage to soil and vegetation can take place. This is also why an active maintenance program is important, because if large rocks and fallen trees are disrupting the trail, bikers and hikers tend to find their own.
We have to locate the trails as far from rare plants and animals as possible, and especially habitats that are important for things like mating or birthing (although this may be a seasonal thing, so it may just be a matter of restricting access during those times). The location of the trail should also, if possible, be on dry, cohesive soils because they compact much better and are more resistant to erosion by displacement, wind, and water.
Building the Best Trails
Erosion and other environmental degradation can be avoided with careful planning, and the resulting trails can still provide all the fun and usefulness we expect. Concerns over the amount of use are certainly valid, but research suggests that the trail design and management are much larger factors in the overall results. By keeping sustainability and accessibility in mind, these trails can provide decades of use with minimal environmental impact.
The spring KidsKup races are winding down, but there is still one more on the calendar before we pack everything away for the summer! Join us on May 18 in Warda for the final spring KidsKup!
So far in 2013, 183 young Texas racers have come to a KidsKup race to have fun, get some exercise, hone their riding skills, and make new friends! Don't miss out-- make plans to join us at the next race!
The Fall 2013 races will kick off on September 1 in Rocksprings. See the full list of fall races here.
John Pucher wowed audiences in three Texas cities during the Shifting Gears Lecture Series, sponsored by BikeTexas, Partnership for Healthy Texas, Campaign for Healthy Kids, and AARP. Dr. Pucher is an engaging speaker with a vast knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing our transportation system, and his talks were well received in Irving, Austin, and Houston.
Dr. Pucher discussed the economic and public health benefits of active transportation, and why it benefits cities and states to plan for all road users. For example, Dr. Pucher said, for $30 million in transportation expenditures, a city can get:
1 mile of street (car lane) widening; or
20 miles of physically separated cycle tracks; or
30 miles of high-quality off-road bike trails; or
100 miles of sidewalk; or
120 miles of bike boulevards.
You can see all of the slides from Dr. Pucher's presentations here. Many local businesses and organizations joined in to sponsor the presentation in their respective cities. See the full list of sponsors for Irving, Austin, and Houston.
Shifting Gears will be back for the next legislative session in 2015! But you don't have to wait that long to hear from more great speakers about the benefits of biking and walking. Register now to attend the Texas Trails and Active Transportation (TTAT) Conference March 26-28, 2014, in Fort Worth. The conference is a great place to discuss ideas, successes, and challenges from across Texas. Register now for early bird pricing!
Have a session idea for TTAT? Propose a session here.
Are you signed up for BikeTexas Action Alerts? We sent out targeted emails when your influence can make a difference with your senator or representative. So far this session, we've sent emails to Texans who live in the House Transportation Committee member districts, and we have more targeted emails coming soon. Additionally, there are times when we need everyone to contact an elected official, which should be coming soon for this session.
And it's not just during the Texas Legislature session that alerts go out: We have action alerts at the local and national levels, too, like last year when Congress nearly took away all bike/ped funding. Your voice matters!
Don't miss out on your chance to use your vote to make Texas a great place to bike and walk. Sign up for BikeTexas Action Alerts (including your legislative districts) now!
We know that for BikeTexas members, every month is bike month, and so May is nothing unusual for us. However, for many Texans, Bike to Work Day or similar events may be the only time they ever think of getting on a bike. And that's when Bike Month gets exciting!
Ask your coworkers, neighbors, or friends to join you for a bike ride this month. Plan out a safe route and ride with your child to school. Join a challenge to push yourself to ride more than usual. Get pictures for your social media accounts from the League of American Bicyclists.
Events are happening across Texas and across the nation this month. Here are some highlights that we've heard about:
National Bike Challenge: Starting on May 1 and lasting until September 30, NBC is a fun way to challenge yourself and have a friendly competition with those around you to rack up the most miles. The leaderboard on the site is updated daily for the sake of bragging rights and extra motivation! Texas managed to break into the top 30 before the end of last year's challenge, which is extra-remarkable since we have a large population but not as many cyclists as some smaller states. Join today and let's show America that nobody messes with Texas!
Global Women's Cycling Day: Sponsored by CycloFemme, this worldwide event on May 12 includes three Texas rides (so far): Austin, Houston, and Richardson. Join up with your bike-loving sisters for a fun ride!
Whether you join in the Bike Month festivities or May is just another month of riding for you, get out and enjoy May on two wheels in the Lone Star State!
Bike Month is nearly upon us! Cities, schools, and bike clubs across Texas are gearing up for a great month of riding. Is your city ready?
Below is a sample proclamation you can customize to declare that May is Bike Month in your city and across Texas. Let’s make Texas a great place to bike and walk!
The City/County of ____
Whereas, the bicycle is an economical, healthy, convenient, and environmentally sound form of transportation and an excellent tool for recreation and enjoyment of [insert city/county]’s scenic beauty; and
Whereas, throughout the month of May, the residents of [insert city/county] and its visitors will experience the joys of bicycling through educational programs, races, commuting events, charity events, or by simply getting out and going for a ride; and
Whereas, [insert city/county]’s road and trail system attracts bicyclists each year, providing economic health, transportation, tourism, and scenic benefits; and
Whereas, creating a bicycling-friendly community has been shown to improve citizens’ health, well-being, and quality of life, growing the economy of [insert city/county], attracting tourism dollars, improving traffic safety, supporting student learning outcomes, and reducing pollution, congestion, and wear and tear on our streets and roads; and
Whereas, BikeTexas, [insert local bicycle club/ organization/chamber/tourism bureau/regional planning organization], the League of American Bicyclists, schools, parks and recreation departments, police departments, public health districts, hospitals, companies and civic groups will be promoting bicycling during the month of May 2013; and
Whereas, these groups are also promoting bicycle tourism year round to attract more visitors to enjoy our local restaurants, hotels, retail establishments, and cultural and scenic attractions; and
Whereas, these groups are also promoting greater public awareness of bicycle operation and safety education in an effort to reduce collisions, injuries, and fatalities and improve health and safety for everyone on the road; and
Now therefore, I, _____, Mayor/Executive of [insert city/county], do hereby proclaim May 2013 as
in [insert city/county], and I urge all residents to join me in this special observance
Signed this ___ day of May, 2013
Many thanks to the Bicycle Alliance of Washington for making the sample text available on their website!
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