Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Daily Commute IV: Things thought and observed

A deer at Chisholm Creek Park. Image found here.

Friday was head-out-to-Andover day. A quick look at the forecast (20% chance for snow; high in the mid-'30s), a quick decision ("I'll risk that"), and I set off.

I'll dispense with all the I'm-woefully-out-of-shape stuff first. The results of my hiatus from regular cycling over most of the summer and into the fall and winter really showed yesterday, especially on the return trip: even if I hadn't stopped to talk to the Mrs. via cellphone, it would have taken over two hours for me to get back home. By the time I made it downtown, I decided I was just too tired to risk riding in the street on 8th or Murdock or whatever it is (which is what I usually do), so I rode on the sidewalk till I reached Waco. My legs felt such that I was afraid they would feel terrible this morning. But, amazingly, they don't. There's weariness today, but not soreness. So, I know the next trip will be easier.

Now, on to the happier Cycling-in-Wichita talk. I know the route I've chosen is not the most direct, but I like it: it's scenic for much of the way, and because almost all of it consists of dedicated bike paths, I'm able to travel a bit faster than I'd be able to on the street. Also, once the connecting path from MacAdams Park (the present north end of the Canal Path) to Grove Park (where the K-96 path begins) gets built, that will cut at least a mile (not to mention some pretty rough pavement on 17th St.) off this route.

The way out: Though it was overcast, it wasn't too cold, and there was no wind. I didn't know how passable the paths would be, whether the previous night's rain would take care of most of the snow; and I admit to being a little worried about the condition of the path under I-135 as well. As it turned out, though, the Canal Path was completely clear and almost completely dry--just a little mud in a couple of places. It also appeared, at least on that part of the path that passes through Chisholm Creek Park, that the city had cleared the snow off the path some time before. Elsewhere, there was some slush and standing water to contend with, but nothing bad. There was actually more snow along Rock Road at the bike/ped crossing than there was anywhere else. I saw a couple of people out on bikes; they seemed to be rec-riders, though. (Since I didn't have to be in Andover until 10 that morning, I missed whatever commuting "traffic" there is on the north and east sides of town.)

Without any question, the most pleasant part of the ride was through the park. Some birds were foraging for seeds, and I startled a couple of deer who saw fit to run right in front of me (I saw either another one or one of these two on the way back as well). I'm already looking forward to riding through there in the spring.

The east side of the K-96 path, as those who have ridden it know, crosses the abandoned railroad right-of-way that runs along 17th St. As I mentioned a while back, one of the WAMPO-approved projects is a conversion of this same right-of-way, but only from I-135 to Oliver. It was hard not to gaze westward down the easement and think how much more connectivity the bike-path network would gain by extending the path at least to K-96, or even (a boy can dream, can't he?) on in to Andover. Alas, it may be the case that there are disputes over just who has clear title to the right-of way along that stretch; and it's my understanding that the council member through whose district the right-of-way runs opposes such a project in any case. I of course wish neither were the case; if any of you reading this happens to feel the same way, especially if you live in that district, I hope you'll let that be known.

Those of you who live on the east side of town know that 13th St. has recently been widened and, as part of that work, now has for most of its length one of those soon-to-be-ubiquitous 10-foot-wide multi-use paths. What can I say?--it's a concrete sidewalk. But it's in good shape, and the people who live nearby seem to use it. Compare/contrast, though, with the, ahem, "work" done to some sidewalks at the corner of Piatt and 21st St. (which I passed by on the way home--I changed my route home a bit) to patch up after some underground utility work had been done: Just a mound of asphalt, with no effort made to level it out, to replace the sidewalk that had to be removed and that, a few good rains from now, will crumble away. To assume that this sort of thing is okay to do because it's in a part of town where people aren't likely to complain about half-assed work (sorry, more polite language won't do) like this is beyond cynical.

I reached Andover and went to Butler's facility on 13th St., a couple blocks east of Andover Road, where I tutor on Fridays. While I was there, I had a nice conversation about my ride over with a colleague who lives not too far from me. She said she's been giving some thought to riding out to Andover as well when her schedule permits; she has to get her bike in shape first, though. So: maybe another commuter.

A quick word about Butler's bike-friendliness: It's lacking. Its buildings don't have dedicated bike racks (I locked mine up on a railing by some stairs), but I know students ride there occasionally, so a rack would be nice to have. Butler will soon be launching a wellness program, but we don't yet know the details of that. I am hopeful that cycling will somehow figure into it; if it did, bike racks might make an appearance as a result. Also, one of Andover's WAMPO projects will be the building of, you guessed it, a multi-use path that will run along Andover Rd. from 13th to 21st street--right where Butler's other two Andover buildings are, along with a middle school and a high school. There's a lot of pedestrian traffic through there, so the sidewalks are much needed.

The way back: By the time I left Andover at about 1:30, the north wind was beginning to blow a bit and, when I reached K-96, some sort of precipitation started to fall--not snow, but at least some of it was freezing, I think. That let up around the time I got off the Canal path to turn west for home. But the only misery I felt was just from being so tired.

The upshot: All told, it was (still) a good ride. I know this because I'm looking forward to next week.

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