Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Braes Bayou Ride

The bicycle route that I ride probably more than any other is a 17 mile ride starting from my home going about a mile on city streets to a hike/bike path along Braes Bayou, to one end of the path, and then returning home the way I came.  The reason I do this ride so often is that it is very convenient, starting as it does at my front door, and because it is relatively safe.  I say "relatively" safe as most of the ride is on a traffic-free path, but the part of the path I ride does have 9 road crossings each way which range from easy to hair raising, depending on time of day and day of the week.  I can extend this ride when I choose by not returning home the way I came, but to continue past my entry point and continue the other direction for 5 or so miles through Texas Medical Center to the University of Houston and Mac Gregor Park.  This eastern end of the path is in many ways prettier and more interesting than the western end I ride more often, but I prefer the western end because it has fewer hazards.

The multi-use path along Braes Bayou is certainly nice, but it is not the prettiest of all Houston rides.  For one thing, Braes Bayou is one of the least natural of Houston's bayous, having been completely lined with concrete:

The path exists on two levels, one about half way down the bayou at the junction where grass turns to concrete (shown above) and one along the top of the bayou, shown below:

In most place, the path takes either the upper or the lower route, but occasionally both are available and the rider has a choice.  Similarly, over most of its route, the path is on one or the other side of the bayou, crossing back and forth as it follows the bayou.

As can be seen in the above pictures, this tends to be a sunny ride.  There are a few trees, but over most parts of the trail they provide very little shade.  There are, however, a few stretches of this trail that are more wooded:

Despite the somewhat industrial and barren look the concrete lining gives the bayou, it is home to fish and water birds.  (Houston is perhaps the best place in the United States for bird watching due to our location on many of the bird migration routes.)

Upgrades are constantly being made to this (as well as other) trails.  Recently, a series of very attractive steel brides were added to the hike/bike trail to allow pedestrians and cyclists to enter and leave the trail from neighborhoods on the opposite side without struggling with traffic:

The following picture shows a much more spectacular hike/bike bridge currently under construction:

This will replace a current bridge which is somewhat daunting on a bicycle:

...with something which will be much more attractive:

I for one am grateful for the many bicycling opportunities available in Houston as exemplified by the Braes Bayou hike/bike trail.  Although I certainly believe that bicycles belong on the roads, having the opportunity to relax and ride car free is much appreciated.

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