Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Where the Sidewalk Ends

I wish this post were less literal and more of an homage to Shel Silverstein. But it's not - it's pretty literal. I've been working at the same campus about 2 years now, and in that time there has never, ever been a good way to enter it on a bike. It's bordered on two sides by roads with 60+ mph speed limits, one of which is a freeway, and the other is 3 lanes of flying traffic on either side. In short, it's moderately terrifying to bike into and a huge pain in the ass.

Recently I was browsing the Google Maps, like you do, to see if there was anything new in the world of north Austin worth biking and lo and behold, a route took me DIRECTLY through the Riata campus, but on a bike trail! Ecstatic, yesterday morning I set out to try out a new route to work.

But here's the thing about the bike directions on our dear Google Maps - they ain't always reliable. So while the route they gave me into work certainly exists and is to a moderate extent functional, if I were the kind of girl who wore heels and suits to work this is a complete no-fly zone for commuting. I'm snooping around to see who I need to contact to increase accessibility into this area because this one little trail has HUGE potential if they just fix 'er up a bit. All that said, I present to you a comedy of errors I like to call, "Where the Sidewalk Ends, or How I Commuted into Narnia."

Here we see the approach to the trail, from the north. Notice how the sidewalk completely stops for several yards and has been replaced by a trail beaten down by the pedestrians who actually use this as a walkway. The bit going off to the left is the entrance to our trail. Additionally, notice how there is not a ramped entrance, just a curb and so you must enter via the sidewalk.

We make our left onto the trail. We are faced with a paved trail, though it does seem to vanish into a wall of vegetation, but we're brave, bold bike commuters and this isn't anything we haven't seen before.

We proceed forward. Holy shit does it ever get overgrown back here - the usable part of the pavement is about 12 inches wide. It also seems like a great place for the local teenagers to get stoned with little fear of discovery and the art we see on our right is a testament to the privacy of this space.

Where the sidewalk ends. Seriously. The pavement just stops in the middle of Hoboville back here. Notice that the trail continues onwards, but it's pretty much just scrubgrass, nothing so fancy as crushed gravel or anything that receives any maintenance, ever.

To exit out into the neighborhood and proceed home, you take the branch of path to the left. From here you must descend into a dark, steep ditch which is concrete, but also strikes me as another prime "gettin' stoned" spot. I'm calling it Narnia.

My, how steep you are, grandma. I mean ditch.

From the perspective of standing down in the ditch, it's not bad. I'm curious, however, what this low spot looks like during a bad rainstorm. I bet it looks like a flash flood.

Up, out of the ditch, we climb. Once you summit that peak, you're faced with more unpaved trail lined on either side by what I strongly suspect is poison ivy. Or something else equally itch-inducing. This path is about 18 inches wide, and while you may notice the street on the opposite side, from the street looking in, you would never see this path without knowing it's here because of the giant mass of vegetation protecting it from the stares of the outside world.

We emerge on the other side, victorious in our conquest of the path. Somewhat scratched up from all the vegetation. Notice again how there's no real indication there's a path here - no signage, pavement, ramp up from the curb....you're basically walking through an open space between two houses.

I put these pictures up not to be a pain in the ass, or a whiner. But my point here is that with really minimal upgrades and a bit of maintenance this humble little path could create non-motorized access to an business and residential area that sees 6000 people in and out of it a day. These kinds of small upgrades go a HUGE distance to making the city bike friendly for 25% of the money of much showier projects.

So....who do I send this to, exactly?

1 comment:

  1. Nicely documented. I guess you've got yourself a project...