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By Ginger Hall
We decided to ride the First Friday Art Trail in Lubbock on a whim. We received the notice via email from the bike club and thought "Why not?" The forecast didn't call for uncomfortably cold weather, so we loaded up our five bikes on the car and headed downtown to meet the organizers. When we arrived at the meeting location, we were worried that, a) we'd been left since we arrived a few minutes late, or b) we were it and the organizers had given up. Fortunately, that was not the case; Angie and Mike from Healthy Lubbock greeted us and got us hooked up with our nifty little BikeTexas safety lights. Our friends, Shawn and Nicolle, also showed as well as a gentleman on his recumbent from the West Texas Turtles.
Our little group pushed off and pedaled through the streets to various stops along the trail. We wandered through shops and purchased fun little homemade goodies. Everybody was kind enough to wait while our daughter had a caricature of herself drawn, complete with bike helmet (she refused to remove it for the artist). It was a very easy-going and friendly group and we thoroughly enjoyed chatting with new people. The best thing was that the night progressed easily. We all greatly enjoyed each others' company and were all glad to just go with the flow. The vehicles in the area were actually very accommodating and we didn't have any issues with them.
In conclusion, the Hall family will definitely be attending this again. I encourage families to attend, especially if their children are adept at handling their bikes and are familiar with riding where vehicles sometimes get a wee bit close. I see this group growing and becoming especially popular during the warmer months, when layers of wind and cold-resistant clothing aren't required. We'll definitely be a part of it!
Thanks to all of those who worked to make it happen,
Healthy Lubbock and the Lubbock Bicycle Coalition plan to have a community bike ride at every First Friday Art Trail in Lubbock starting in February. Make plans to see the Art Trail from your bicycle!
By Beth Nobles, Texas Mountain Trail Region
From the saddle, I whiz past mountains, yell “howdy” to ranch cattle, and glance up to see hawks circling a crisp perfectly blue sky. My saddle isn't on a horse, but it doesn't matter. I have the frontier to myself; the last car passed 30 minutes ago.
There’s something special about cycling the roads and trails of Far West Texas. Pick your speed; take things as slow or as fast as you want. Power yourself down mountain passes. Dawdle and you’ll spot the red blossoms of claret cup cactus. There’s time to look, think, sweat, imagine. You’re free, not confined to the metal box of a car or a truck. There’s great riding for everyone.
A couple of years ago, Big Bend Ranch State Park’s Fresno-Sauceda Loop earned EPIC status for their mountain biking trails by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). One of only 44 trails worldwide earning this designation, the Loop offers highly technical sections on single-track and old 4x4 and jeep roads, as well as easier sections alongside historic routes, old cinnabar mines, ancient rock art, and old homesteads. A 68-page guide, downloadable from the park’s website, helps visitors plan their adventures. A mountain biking guide can be hired through the park itself (call 432-358-4444 for information) or an outfitter can provide a complete experience.
Nearby Lajitas Golf Resort also offers mountain biking experiences and bike rental. And while Big Bend National Park doesn't allow bikes on trails, mountain bikes are allowed on any road—paved or unpaved—within park boundaries.
El Paso’s Franklin Mountains used to be hard for visitors to navigate by bike, but with GeoBetty’s new mountain biking maps available online or at local shops, the trails are suddenly accessible to everyone. An L.A. Times reporter called the trails “downright punishing,” to the delight of experienced mountain bikers.
Typically held mid-January, El Paso’s Franklin Mountains host the El Paso Puzzler with long ride competitions of 35 and 50 miles, plus a 10-mile fun ride. The Chihuahuan Desert Dirt Fest is held at Big Bend Ranch State Park, Big Bend National Park, and Lajitas Golf Resort in February. There’s an organized ride for every mountain biker, starting with a 10-mile kids ride to a two-day EPIC ride through Big Bend Ranch State Park.
Once they see our low “traffic” numbers, city cyclists can’t wait to get out on our roads. Flat, easy routes are as likely to take you past scenic vistas and interesting historic spots as those with challenging mountain climbs. And with little to no interaction with motorists, our Far West Texas communities are a dream location for cyclists. The Texas Mountain Trail has several Heritage Bike Routes online for you to discover, including:
Touring cyclists with loaded panniers are a common sight in the region, as our mountain communities sit on Adventure Cycling Association’s cross-country Southern Tier route. Tour groups as well as solo, self-supported riders travel this route through El Paso, Sierra Blanca, Fort Davis, Alpine, and Marathon, on the route which stretches from Florida to California. Some of the best bike tour companies offer organized, supported rides through our region. The folks at Adventure Cycling also promote shorter routes, including our own two-night adventure, "Texas Mountain Ride!," which features a loop from Marathon to Fort Davis, to Marfa and Alpine before ending at Marathon.
Planning Your Cycling Adventure
The Texas Mountain Trail organization lists a variety of lodging properties offering special services to travelers with bicycles. From historic hotels to friendly B&Bs, from established chain motels to independent motor courts and casitas, the range of properties all allow bike parking in rooms and have pumps ready for flat tires. Some offer sag service or have basic bike tools on hand. To learn more, see the full listing here.
Regardless of where you ride--road or trail--take a few tips from local cyclists. First, bring lots of water with you. You’re in the desert and you’ll need to keep hydrated. Second, tire shredders are everywhere—cactus thorns, agave tips, sharp rocks. Plan ahead. Put slime in your tubes. Bring spares and plenty of CO2 cartridges or a good pump. Definitely bring a patch kit. Third, ride early or late in the day to avoid the strongest rays of the sun; wear protective clothing and sunscreen.
Whether you hop on your saddle for a brief spin around our charming small towns, or an EPIC ride on a rugged mountain trail, there’s great adventure waiting for you on bicycle in the Texas mountains. Check out the Texas Mountain Trail cycling page for updates on events, routes and cycle-friendly hotels.
As part of the Safe Routes to School webinar series, "Fresh Ideas from the 2012 Oberstar SRTS Award Program—Surprising Partners and Program Approaches" discusses the award-winning SRTS program in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and how they forged partnerships with local organizations to make their SRTS program great. The webinar offers ideas that anyone in the nation can use when working on Safe Routes to School!
It's fantastic to have local advocates on the ground all working toward the same global mission. Unfortunately, sometimes those very efforts can have implications on work already in progress. BikeTexas has over 20 years' experience lobbying in the state Legislature. Over these years, relationships have been nurtured and networks have been formed, leading to progress on behalf of all cyclists in Texas.
Getting laws passed in Texas is very tricky. Many lawmakers have little--if any--experience regarding cycling, cyclists, and our concerns. A large portion of our work is to educate those lawmakers on the difference between law-abiding cyclists and law breakers. Critical Mass, for example, gets their attention in a negative way. To break through those barriers, BikeTexas must be diligent and respectful on how and when to approach the Capitol.
Cyclists' presence at the Capitol is important, but should be planned for specific timing and support of key legislation. A good example is when a large group of cyclists turned out for a press conference in support of 2011's Anti-Texting Bill. This presence was coordinated with the bill's author by BikeTexas and other bill supporters. General rallies without coordination among groups working on state-wdie bicycle legislation are at best unproductive, and can even damage efforts already way and jeopardize support from legislators.
Tonight, Nov. 29, 2012, Please Be Kind to Cyclists is rallying at the Capitol to express outrage regarding the number of cyclist deaths on our roadways. We support this cause and we support rides of this nature, but not when these rides are stopping at the Capitol rather than riding through it. The danger to our shared cause is that lawmakers who see angry cyclists gathering at the Capitol may feel that cyclists are a threat and become entrenched in a refusal to work with cyclists – a sentiment BikeTexas has worked for decades to overcome.
We expressed these concerns to the Executive Director of PBK2C before plans were solidified. A rally through the Capitol without stopping there can keep the message on point without muddying our progress with the legislature. Lawmakers locally and statewide may feel that BikeTexas is behind this rally, and understandably so; our bike lights are being distributed at the rally, and reducing bicycling traffic fatalities to zero is a cause we all support. BikeTexas will feel the consequences of these actions moving forward, and this rally will make our 2013 legislative session even more unpredictable.
In addition, this ride conflicts with a previously planned fundraiser for an injured cyclist that is scheduled for 7pm tonight. Bike Austin, Social Cycling Austin, Cyclist Law and other advocates are supporting this fundraiser, and BikeTexas has offered our Tax Exempt ID for this event.
We ask as a courtesy that local groups notify us when rallies are planned at the Capitol, due to the sensitive nature of our legislative strategy. We're very lucky in Austin to have so many passionate local advocates, but it's important that Austin not be the only bike-friendly Texas city. We want our legislators to know that cyclists are an asset, not a problem. Let's make sure all Texans have the same opportunity to ride!
We asked you to vote and the results are in!
Austin Props 12-18
Over 230,000 people voted on Austin's 18 bonds that were on the ballot. Propositions 12-18, promoted by the non-profit LoveATX and supported by BikeTexas, passed overwhelmingly with the exception of Proposition 15. This proposition for more affordable housing lost by less than 7,000 votes. Proposition 15 would have funded critically needed home and safety repairs for seniors, built rental housing with support services to help homeless families and individuals get back on their feet, and created homes for low income families so children can succeed in school and life. Many who followed the election closely are baffled as to how only this proposition was defeated.
Proposition 12, the transportation bond will fund $143.3 million improvements for construction and design of sidewalks, bridges, and roads to help ease traffic. These improvements include Interstate 35, MoPac, and North Lamar Boulevard. The bond will also fund new traffic signals and pedestrian beacons to improve safety, and will help pay for a portion of the Violet Crown Trail, a 30-mile hike-and-bike trail from Zilker Park to Hays County.
The other quality of life bonds included in Props 12-18 pertain to watershed protection, parks and recreation, public safety, health and human services, and library, museum and cultural arts facilities.
Corpus Christi Prop 1
Corpus Christi’s Prop 1 passed overwhelmingly. The road measure won with the greatest margin of all the propositions — 73.8 percent to 26.1 percent — underscoring a theme hammered during city council and mayoral campaigns: Voters are fed up with ugly, crumbling, suspension-pounding roads.
"Roads are symbolic about the way Corpus Christi feels about itself sometimes," said Joshua Ozymy, associate professor of political science at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
One project is a narrow stretch of McArdle Road where a woman was killed earlier this year. It will be widened and have sidewalks, a bike lane, curbs and gutters added.
Houston Proposition B
The City of Houston passed Proposition B: The issuance of $166 million in park improvement bonds for the conservation, improvement, acquisition, construction and equipment of neighborhood parks, recreational facilities, and bayous to create an integrated system of walking, running, and bicycle trails.
This proposition passed with over 60% of Houstonians supporting the bonds. The non-profit group Parks By You worked hard in the months leading up to the election to rally volunteers, gather supporters for the proposition, and educate the public about the benefits of green spaces in Houston.
Many thanks to all Texans who voted on November 6. Your vote makes a difference! Be sure to stay up with BikeTexas Action Alerts and emails as the legislative session gets underway on January 8. We have a lot of work still to do to make Texas a great place to walk and bike!
On October 25, transportation advocates from around the area gathered at Texas State University for the "Great Streets in Small Towns" symposium.
Dr. Billy Fields, a professor of political science at Texas State, served as moderator for the evening. San Marcos City Councilmember John Thomaides spoke about the inititatives to make San Marcos more bicycle-friendly, including adding bike lanes on many city roads. San Marcos also has a bicycle map available for cyclists.
BikeTexas' Robin Stallings took the podium to talk about the things BikeTexas is working on for all Texans, including the BikeTexas CATS program, our educational materials, and the push for a Complete Streets bill in the legislature.
Tracy Hadden Loh of the Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC) spoke about the need for trails in small towns and rural areas. She talked about the push back that the Conservancy occasionally hears, and "nobody bikes here" reasoning that comes from many in more isolated areas. Tracy demonstrated the "Beyond Urban Centers" tool on the RTC site that holds valuable information about cycling and walking in areas outside of major cities (scroll down on the page to reach the interactive map). The map includes tools for finding fatalities, health data, infrastructure, and stories about great rural transportation across the U.S.
Finally, Dr. Jennifer Duthie of UT Austin's Center for Transportation Research spoke about her research on cyclist and pedestrian behaviors. She shared the results of a cyclist study conducted via smartphone app in 2011, which showed many desire paths where cyclists are choosing the path that seems easiest, rather than an officially designated path.
Attendees at the symposium were also entered into a door prize drawing for a new BikeTexas jersey.
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