A year ago, on February 15, 2011, Edinburg became the 7th city in Texas and the first in the Valley to enact the Safe Passing Ordinance. Not a fluke, Edinburg and nearby McAllen and Mission are quickly becoming centers for bicycling in the Valley. In late November 2011, BikeTexas staff met with local leaders to discuss strategies and partnerships moving forward.
Several local groups such as Bike Edinburg and Ciclistas Urbanos, a large university, and an active MPO, are together making many efforts to promote walking and biking there include bike rodeos and other Safe Routes to School activities, slow and social bike rides, regular singletrack trail riding and building, in addition to local advocacy for laws and bike facilities.
Bike Edinburg (BE) started in 2011 to promote cycling, increase safety, improve conditions, and provide a voice for cyclists in Edinburg. Founded by long-time transporation cyclists, BE has organized several bike rodeos as well as small events like weekday rides to lunch.
Ciclistas Urbanos’ (CU) mission includes advocating for “a vibrant livable community and and the development of a bicycling network”. They also have a social Saturday morning ride that follows a leisurely route and tours local eateries and coffee shops.
The University of Texas Pan Am (UTPA) Broncs Cycling Team is also very active in the community. Besides promoting bike advocacy through their website and Facebook page, the group leads local social rides and club rides, in addition to training for success on the collegiate racing circuit!
Over in Mission, TX, the owner of Bike Masters bike shop has been a key player in the development of a local mountain bike trail park. Weaving through the dusty, cactus-filled brush in an area bisected by a paved hike-and-bike trail are competition class trails that overflow every day of the week. Trail leaders in Mission are hoping to have their park added to the TMBRA circuit in 2013.
In addition to Bike Masters, Wally’s Bikes is a new shop helping to promote cycling events, and Bicycle World serves the biggest community in the area with three locations.
In addition to work at the private level, city, county, and school district officials are all working towards better walking and biking in the area. The Hidalgo County MPO (HCMPO), which encompasses Edinburg, McAllen, Mission, and others, has an eye towards using active transporation as a key method of improving the health of local residents. This March 10, 2012, HCMPO put on the 2nd Annual “Walk n Rolla” Walking and Biking Festival in downtown Edinburg as part of this effort.
Leaders from McAllen ISD are also supportive of increasing walking and biking transportation as part of a healthy lifestyle. Their efforts received a boost when they attended a TxDOT Safe Routes to School training in Brownsville in November, 2011.
At the other end of the area in Brownsville, many efforts are coming together to make the area a great place to walk and bike.
City Commissioner Dr. Rose Gowen, who attended the 2012 Texas Trails and Active Transportation Conference, has been a tireless civic leader, winning victories such as the right to construct bikeways along the beautiful resacas – the oxbow lakes created by the Rio Grande delta. Other efforts underway will dredge these resacas and create water quality good enough for public swimming.
The UT Brownsville School of Architecture has its eye towards improving cycling in the area. Students in classes with Professor Erick Diaz have had assignments to create a bike plan for Brownsville and come up with creative solutions to meet the needs of urban cyclists. Brownsville has the lowest car ownership rate of any large city in Texas. One of the plans includes an international bike/ped bridge, the first of its kind in North America.
UT Brownsville Professor of Kinesiology Dr. Susan Hart, a SafeCyclists Certified Instructor and long-time support of BikeTexas, is constantly encouraging her students to “walk the talk” and be more physically active in their everyday lives, including using bicycles as a mode of transport.
All these folks from Brownsville came together on a recent bike ride hosted by BikeTexas.