Bicycle Trails and Floodplains

Ever notice how many bicycle trails are built in floodplains?  That point was driven home for me again this week.  Our local rivers, the Ogden and the Weber, are running well above flood stage.  That means several vital chokepoints on our local trail network are under water and closed, rendering the whole system mostly useless.

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Ogden River at Washington Boulevard, February 2017

These are mountain rivers being fueled by snow melt.  There’s still a lot of snow at higher elevations and it will melt slowly over time and so these rivers are going to be running high for months to come.  I suspect the trail system won’t be completely open before the middle of June.

It’s not just Ogden.  Everywhere I travel it seems that cities and towns have done similar things.  On one hand, I understand.  This is land that’s not good for much else, so why not string a recreational trail through the bottom lands?   Most people don’t ride bikes  or walk when the weather’s bad anyway.

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Ogden River Parkway, May 2016

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White River Parkway, Indianapolis.  March 2016.  This is a paved trail covered with 6″ of river mud that had the consistency of wet cement.

But a surprising number of us do and the rest never will if you make it impossible or impractical to do so.  No government would build a freeway through a landscape that would necessitate closure for months on end.  If they did, people would have their heads on a platter.  As we look for reasons we can’t get above 5-7% in terms of bicycle load share, maybe this is a good place to start.

I know this post probably makes me sound ungrateful for the wonderful bike trails we have here in Ogden. I’m not.  I am very appreciative.  But I also understand that we have a huge job in terms of shifting the public perception of bicycling from recreation to transportation.   We can’t do it with a hammer.

Instead, we have to continue to chip away at the status quo a little at a time.  If we can win a victory here and there and go largely unnoticed by those who feel threatened by what we represent, we can end up with real change.  Insisting that new trails be built so that they are passable even in times of inclement weather is one of the ways we can do this.  Proposing workarounds for existing trails is good too.  In any event, I hope you all will keep fighting the good fight and always remember, we’re on the right side of history here.  In the end, it’s inevitable that we will win.

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