The White Oak Bayou bike trail was the second Houston bike trail I discovered after I restarted cycling in 2008. For the two and a half years before I discovered the trails in Terry Hershey and George Bush parks, the White Oak Bayou ride was my "long ride". With no detours, it is a 28 mile round trip door to door. Unfortunately, only 10 miles of that is on the White Oak Bayou trail, 5 miles each out and back, the remaining 18 miles are on city streets. Over time, I found extensions to this route that I could use to increase the distance up to as much as 40 miles, but all these extensions were on city streets, making the ride even less about White Oak Bayou. The advantages of the White Oak Bayou trail are that it is beautifully paved, has few cross streets, and has some nice scenery in places, but its biggest disadvantage used to be that it was short. Last year, two things happened. First, construction began on an extension to this trail to make it longer. A few months later, construction on Houston's major loop freeway, 610, created a block in the middle of the trail. This post is an update on the progress on both these fronts.
I will cover the nine miles of city cycling leading to the start of the White Oak Bayou in another post since these same routes are a part of other of my standard rides, but once you get to the south end of the White Oak Bayou trail, you are greeted by a whimsical pedestrian bridge across the Bayou:
Another attraction of this trail is a very high quality surface:
In general, this trail is a class act with lots of amenities, such as this sign explaining the local wildflowers:
In terms of street crossing, the White Oak Bayou trail has only two, making it intermediate between the many crossings of the Braes Bayou trail and the virtual absence of crossings in the trails along Buffalo Bayou. Below is a picture of one of the many underpasses that are used to eliminate traffic crossings:
A feature of this trail that is unique in my experience and one which I find very charming is that bicycles have their own train crossing:
Sadly, about half way through the trail, construction on highway 610 has blocked the trail until some time in 2013:
As a bad citizen but good blogger, I blasted right through these signs in order to get a picture of the obstruction:
This blockage is about ten feet high, so there is no going around or over it. The good news is that the city of Houston has provided a bicycle detour around this blockage. The bad news is that this detour is on one of Houston's typically low quality "bike lanes:
This lane is narrow and dirty, filled with broken glass, and is along a very busy street featuring impatient drivers making it a most unpleasant and relatively unsafe ride. If all this were not bad enough, on my way home I found that the city was performing construction blocking even this this detour!
So much for the bad news. Once I made my way through this detour, I made my way across the north end bridge to what had previously been the end of the trail to find new concrete leading forward:
The new trail is even nicer than the old trail. In the picture below, notice the delightful iron bridge which crosses a side channel that flows into the White Oak Bayou. If you look carefully, you will notice that at this point, White Oak Bayou manages to free itself of its concrete shackles:
When left to its natural soil banks, the White Oak Bayou becomes quite pretty:
This extension adds 2.5 miles to the original 5 miles of the trail, resulting in a 15 mile out and back ride. This is still shorter than many similar trails in Houston, but given how attractive this trail is, this extension is much appreciated. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the detour. This detour is so unpleasant and unsafe, I'm afraid that the White Oak Bayou trail ride will not return to my rotation until the blockage on the trail is removed.