Have you heard about the family in Maryland that keeps getting in trouble for letting their young kids roam around town by themselves? Well thank heavens there weren’t child protection police when I was a kid, or my mom would have been in jail, because she let me ride my bike just about anywhere I wanted.
My love affair with cycling began soon after I started to walk and ended exactly 15 years later when I earned my
driver’s license. But in between, I covered thousands of miles. After a short stint on a tricycle and brief experiment with training wheels, I got my first regular bike around the age of five. With that little bike I swear my friends and I created BMX. Long before there was such a thing, we were building jumps and blazing trails through the woods. Soon, I was making short trips to a country store located about a mile from my house. By the age of 12, I was biking five miles to the recently opened mall. It was about that time my parents came up with a brilliant idea. They would send me to a church camp for cyclists.
The first summer at camp, we departed out of northern Vermont for a weeklong trip along the shores of Lake Champlain. We averaged 40 miles per day, carrying everything we needed on the back of our bikes. It was such an incredible experience, the next year I signed up for two trips. One meandered through the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York and the other tour crossed the mountains of Central Vermont. Actually, we meandered up the mountains and raced down them. The third year, I had an incredible experience riding across Cape Cod. It was flat.
The climax of my childhood biking adventures occurred in the summer of my 14th year of life. My mom dropped me off in Akron, Ohio, so I could ride my bike roughly 175 miles to Chillicothe. The goal was to make it to Zanesville on day 1, spend the night in a motel with my mom and sister and then finish the final 75 miles on day two.
Well in the days before GPS, I made a wrong turn and ended up on the wrong side of Zanesville. A bridge on the local road was closed, so I had to use a bridge on the interstate. That led to a cop yelling at me for being on the interstate. He was apparently less concerned that an unaccompanied 14-year-old teenager from New York was riding his bicycle on an interstate in Zanesville, Ohio. Ultimately I found the motel, much to the relief of my distressed mother. The next day I resumed the trip, but succumbed to Ohio humidity about 10 miles from Chillicothe and had to break down and call mom to come and get me.
I still have my vintage Fuji touring bike, and a few years ago, I pulled it out of the garage and took it to a local sporting goods store for a tune up. I had high hopes of resuming my childhood cycling glory. Unfortunately, the very first time I took it out, a link in the brand new chain popped off, and I had to walk the bike more than a mile back to my garage. It has remained there ever since. It’s a sad admission given how many beautiful places there are to ride in Central Texas. Despite my failure as a middle aged cyclist, I have enjoyed being part of an organization that is committed to improving mobility for cyclists and pedestrians.
From the outset of our 183A toll road, our executive directive Mike Heiligenstein fought to include a shared use path. When we started our Manor Expressway project, he insisted it have a shared use path along the entire length. And, while a shared use path along the entire length of MoPac wasn’t feasible, he pushed to include more than $5 million worth of enhancements, including a 3 mile shared use path linking the City of Austin’s North Walnut Creek Trail to Capital of Texas Highway. In recent weeks, we’ve been installing a 525 foot pedestrian bridge across the Union Pacific Railroad tracks along southbound MoPac near the Domain. We’ve had more interest in that element of the project than just about anything we’ve done on the MoPac project to date.
Soon we’ll begin work on the US 183 (Bergstrom Expressway), our biggest project to date. It will have an extensive network of shared use paths and sidewalks and will include a trail head at the Colorado River. It will also link the Lance Armstrong Bikeway to the Southern Walnut Creek Trail.
With my wife and me on the verge of becoming empty nesters, I think I am running out of excuses for the growing layer of dust on my bike. With all these new bike facilities popping up, the pressure is building, and I think I am going to have to dust it off, get that chain fixed and try out some of these new trails. Maybe you should too!