Austin has officially opened a new paved bike trail on the east side, the Southern Walnut Creek Trail. Part of an ongoing, city-wide paved trail expansion system, the new trail provides more than 7 miles of super-smooth riding for residents of an area that has typically been underserved. And this trail is a case in which politics actually worked for the people. It’s great to see that federal funding gave about $7 million dollars to make this possible, and the political acts of many people deserve thanks for that, including Congressman Lloyd Doggett.
"I wanted more done for cycling and more done for East Austin,” said Congressman Doggett at the new trail’s ribbon cutting. “As an avid cyclist myself, and a longtime member of the Congressional Bike Caucus, I was eager to strengthen bike and pedestrian resources in our community. This is a project I’ve been working on for years, and I’m really pleased to see this open as another opportunity for residents and visitors to enjoy the beauty of Austin.”
Doggett worked hard with organizations like Bike Texas to make the project a reality. Back in 2004, BikeTexas’ Executive Director, Robin Stallings, identified bike projects across the state that would be suitable for “High Priority Projects Program funding,” as part of the reauthorization of national transportation legislation. Congressman Doggett then worked to get committee approval for Southern Walnut Creek Trail.
“Together with the Congressman, Bike Texas has been the central champion to get the funding behind this trail, but many other community groups, landowners, and government agencies came on board as well to make this possible,” said Robin Stallings.
Similar to the Boardwalk Trail nearby, the new Walnut Creek trail system represents a concerted effort to connect residents in all different parts of Austin so everyone can enjoy more time outside in a safe, natural environment. “We love trails in Austin, but a lot of amenities like this have tended to be on the west side, in wealthier areas, whereas the east side has gotten fewer amenities in the past,” Stallings added. “Part of our goal is diversifying cycling culture, and to make sure the health benefits of biking spread to all communities.”
The new trail also is representative of the efforts that Austin agencies are making to further improve the overall bike-friendly nature of the city. “Austin was recognized a few years ago as a Silver-level bicycle-friendly city, and we have a goal of it being a Plantinum-level city,” commented Stallings when asked about the larger vision of biking in Austin.
“We’re not looking to Portland to be our model. We are looking at the cities that Portland is looking to for making bicycle-friendly decisions. So our planners have already visited places like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and we have brought experts from Europe over to here to get their feedback.... So watch out Portland, Austin is on its way to becoming ever higher on the list of America’s most bike-friendly cities.”
Already tourists have discovered the Southern Walnut Creek trail, and it’s on the newest maps of Austin, so it’s easy to find. The trailhead is at Govalle Park, just off Bolm Road in southeast Austin. All in all, this trail is a great place to experience nature in Austin. While you ride it, you wouldn’t know that you’re in a city, and yet it’s not rugged, and it’s safe and fun for the whole family.