Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sunday Ride #3: Gypsum Creek

Route map here. The path itself has some brief but easy inclines, with the exception of where it passes underneath the bridge at Pawnee: there, the incline on the north side is very steep, with a curve right at the base of the bridge pier--great for adrenaline junkies heading that way from the north, but potentially hazardous for runners or cyclists approaching from the south. In general, though, from north to south the path runs downhill.

[Edit: A reader has alerted me that, at least for him, the route marking on the MapMyRide link doesn't appear. If this has been a problem for others, please let me know.]

Eh, so it's Saturday and not Sunday. This morning was too deliciously cool to let pass by without going on a long ride. Well, okay: long for me. As you'll see if you look at the map, it was a little over 22 miles, and including a 10-minute break at about the half-way point, it took me about 2 hours in all to ride it.

The Gypsum Creek Bicycle Path is something of a misnomer: though it does indeed follow the creek in places, it's more accurate to say that it at present follows the creek's general course across the eastern and southern quadrants of the city. That is in the process of changing, though: down along the creek from Woodlawn to Pawnee, a distance of about a mile, there's a great deal of construction going on that looks a whole lot to me like it will result in space for a bike path. Not only should the new route be much more scenic than the current one in that area, which provides sweeping vistas of the Kansas Turnpike, it will also shorten the overall distance by perhaps a half mile. I also understand that there are plans (the official phrase is "active planning") to link up the southern end of this route with the Arkansas River Bike Path, which would facilitate commuting from downtown and the near-west side down south.

So, then, this route indeed has real potential to be a first-rate north-south commuter route for cyclists who live on the eastern and southern sides of town. My daily commute crosses the southern portion of the path at the intersection of George Washington and Oliver, which is just north of the west entrance to McConnell, and the path continues south to what used to be the Boeing plant and is now Spirit Aviation. Meanwhile, as I learned this morning, the construction on Kellogg means that the northern end terminates on the south side of Kellogg at Armour. I assume, though, that once that's done some sort of provision will be made for the path's crossing Kellogg as it had once done. There's one difficult street crossing, where the path intersects Lincoln at Armour--the chief difficulties being that that street is busy no matter the time of day, and there's no traffic light there.

Given all the obvious improvements going on along this path, I hate to say too much that's too negative, because it may be that what I'll be mentioning will be addressed as well as part of those improvements. But just in case . . . For one thing, the route map shows the path's southern end extending considerably south of 31st Street; what I found, though, was that the path (a dedicated bike lane, by the way) just ended about 100 yards south of 31st, with a sign declaring as much. So, I crossed over to the path on the other side and found that asphalt path almost completely overgrown with grass. I don't know the history of those paths, but given that they are on both sides of Turnpike Drive south of 31st, it's pretty clear that once upon a time the city wanted to facilitate bike-commuters to the Boeing plant but, for whatever reason, at some point could/would no longer justify maintaining it. The path's condition at its northern end, along Armour from Lincoln to Kellogg, isn't much better. Here, Armour is divided, and the creek (such as it is--along this stretch, it's more like a constantly-running storm sewer than a creek) runs down the median. A point in this path's favor is that it has little of the pointless winding about that other paths in town have--only at Plainview Park does it indulge in this sort of thing. The newer stretches are concrete and are in great shape.

So, as I say, it may be that these problems will be addressed along with the improvements and changes to the path. But the path, though pretty bumpy in those overgrown stretches, is still ride-able--and at its very best (from Pawnee to Harry) is pretty darned nice. Those changes in the path's route that I mentioned above are occurring in that same already-nice stretch and will make it even better.

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