The Woodlands Aims to Become Bike-Friendly Community

Pathway along Lake Woodlands Drive"I ride as much as I can for pleasure, for exercise, commuting."

"I've lived all over the country and it is unique in that way here."

"I cycle to the bank, to the mall, post office, grocery stores. I've got groceries here."

J.T. Smith has lived in The Woodlands for four years. I met her along a tree-lined pathway on Lake Woodlands Drive, where she was 13 miles into her mid-morning ride. She says The Woodlands is a great place to cycle.

(Bell ringing)

"People are appreciative and will often call after me and say 'thanks for ringing' or something like that..."

Smith is just one of many avid cyclists in The Woodlands.

"If you went out on a Saturday morning in The Woodlands, you'd literally see hundreds of people that are out on bicycles. It's a great way to go out and see the community and participate."

David Hitchcock is 64. He's lean, wears glasses and his hair has almost completed its graying transformation. Hitchcock is the director of sustainable transportation at Houston Advanced Research Center. He started bicycling four years ago and is now a passionate advocate of cycling, as a means of both recreation and transportation.

"Bicycles are really the most efficient way to travel. On my trip to work this morning, which is about seven miles, I used about 360 calories. I did the math when I got to work and found out that's about 775-thousand miles per gallon for the equivalent energy in a gallon of gasoline."

Twice a year, The League of American Bicyclists officially recognizes bike-friendly communities across the nation through its Bicycle Friendly Community Program. Hitchcock, along with other cyclists and bike-riding clubs, is actively helping and encouraging the township to apply to receive bicycle-friendly status. If The Woodlands achieves designation, it will be the second community in Texas to do so, the first being Austin. It will also be part of a relatively small club; there are only 140 recognized communities across the nation, including Davis, California, and Portland, Oregon.

Pathway in The Woodlands"We think The Woodlands has a good starting point and a good springboard for applying for this. There's pretty broad community support. People recognize that cycling is part of a healthy community. It's part of a community with a high quality of life."

Kelly Dietrich is the assistant director of parks and recreation. She says the township will most likely apply for designation and is optimistic about being accepted.

"We realized that many aspects of this community are already bicycle-friendly, we just never really thought about it. Just like, paved shoulders, our pathways..."

The Woodlands has a lot of pathways, 185 miles worth in fact, which is farther than it would take to bike from The Woodlands to Austin. But having an abundance of pathways alone doesn't get you bike-friendly recognition. The League assesses communities based on how they rate according to the 'Five Es': encouragement, education, engineering, enforcement, and evaluation and planning. This is Ronald Keichline:

"I'm hoping that the designation, if we get it will help to put cycling in people's eyes as something we can do here in The Woodlands. And once we see that, I think it will just have a tremendous explosion of popularity."

Still, residents say there's a lot of room for improvement. Some complain about too much traffic on the pathways, others complain about cyclists riding on the road. Ultimately, residents favor more education on driving and cycling etiquette, and want there to be designated bike lanes on the roads. Supporters of cycle-friendly policies say these problems can be addressed through the program. In addition, they say the process will encourage the community to steer focus toward improving bike-riding throughout The Woodlands.

From the KUHF NewsLab, I'm Wendy Siegle.

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