Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Most Important Trails in Des Moines

From the Inter-Urban Trail trestle

Green is good!

I felt really good riding back from Fareway with the 520 loaded with 13lb of meat, a bag of cat food, a 2lt of 7UP to mix with the moscato and vodka, a dozen eggs and various other goods needed for my family.  I have not frequented that store in a long time.  Traffic on Hartford Ave has increased throughout the years and it was 6 pm.  People were returning from work, hauling kids to places and purchasing drugs from the apartments.  If it was a Saturday or Sunday morning, soccer and baseball families (summer) would be congesting this road.  But I need Hartford Ave as it is the gateway to Carlisle, Indianola, Chariton, Lake Rathburn and Lake Wapello.  The path to Warren County and SouthEast Iowa via bicycle.

Mary on the Des Moines River Trail near Cownie Baseball Complex

Traffic was not on my mind tonight for I was poaching the not yet opened Des Moines River Trail.  Hidden from the road by trees and protected from the north by the river I felt safe.  Just need to watch out for deer and the people that live in the tepee.  This trail is one that I have waited on for a few years.  It provides safe passage to places I need to and enjoy riding to.  So as I stared at the Des Moines skyline illuminated in front of me across from the river I pondered this question: what are the most important trails in the metro?

Surely this will be one of them in a few years.  It will take time for bikers to discover the opportunities the DMRT provides.  But this one will not make the list for sometime.  If you are a Southsider like me it would be on the list.  But for others it will remain an obscure piece of asphalt until they desire to broaden their riding horizons.

View from the East River/Neal Smith Trail near the Botanical Center

# 3  The East River/John Pat Dorian/Neal Smith Trail.

The DSM metro powers that be have a horrid time naming trails.  Seems like each segment needs to have its own name.  This trail forms the north/south backbone of Des Moines Cycling.  This trail serves two purposes.  It allows bikers to escape the city and visit Saylorville Lake without the hazard and hassle of sharing the road with automobiles.  It also allows safe passage to the High Trestle Trail IF one is willing to ride 2 miles of low traffic county road out of Polk City.  Secondly, it provides a way to travel to important metro destinations without using a car.  From the southside  of Des Moines one can bike north to a connection that takes one within a few blocks of Merle Hay Mall, the VA hospital, Urbandale, Beaverdale, North HS, and to connection that takes one into Ankeny.  Pleasure and business.  Go camping, escape the city or grab groceries, this trail grants you that ability with using a car.

#2 Inter-Urban Trail

Part trail, part bike lane, this is my #2 pick because it is the west/east route in the DSM metro.  From the Neal Smith the IUT reaches out into the city and suburbia and connects with many neighborhood trails.  Urbandale is the western destination. 

At WalMart, Windsor Heights, Iowa

#1 Bill Riley/Walnut Creek Trail

This is the southern west/east connection trail.  The BR is the oldest, connection the Art Center to water Works Park.  But when the WCT linked up it became the most important trail in the metro IMHO.  1st, it completed the missing link between Jefferson, Iowa, and Des Moines.  Something like 60 miles of trail between these cities.  No need to get off the path.  Seems to be my route to the beginning of Ragbrai year after year.   Secondly, it connects Des Moines to West Des Moines.  Work downtown but live in WDM?  You can commute on bike and not have to deal with cars for most of the ride.  Need to visit the Apple Store?  There's a connection for that.  Thirsty, want some tacos on Tuesday or talk to Bob Moural about crossbikes?  One can get to the Great Western Trail on bike by using this trail. 

Serious bicycle for shopping, Windsor Heights Hy Vee

What Des Moines really needs is a good trail or lanes north and south on the southside.  True, SW14th is slated to be striped but as a southsider and one who has ridden that street for years I can honestly say that unless a bulldozer is used to widen the street this aint gonna be safe or an effective solution.  Also, the metro needs to connect to the east side of Des Moines.  There has been thing set in motion to restripe lanes on Scott to connect up with the Gay Lea Wilson/4 Mile Creek Trail.  But the there is major traffic just getting there.  Or riding thorough a rough industrial area.  Trust me, I've ridden it.  Takes balls and skills and ability.

I have seen our trail system grow throughout the 20 odd years I have lived here. It keeps getting better and better.  I call to question those that say that Boulder or Portland are the biking capitols of the US of A.  They are not.  True they may have better and more bicycle lanes but we have the ability to escape traffic and ignore the streets.  And it will only get better.

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