I’ve now had this WordPress blog up for two years. I jumped in after a friend of mine, Peggy, started hers.
Of course, I’ve done this before… As best as I can tell, back in the 1990s I was somewhere around the thirteenth blogger on the internet – though this was years before the term “blog” was coined. We called them “online journals” or a “digital diary.” I started writing web pages using notepad and posting them in the five megabytes or so that America Online used to give you. I outgrew that and bought a URL and some web space (from what turned out to be the world’s worst online service provider). For well over a decade I wrote something every day. I had to quit when my kids reached high school and too many people I knew in “real life” started reading the thing. Actually, I didn’t quit – I simply went to paper.
Now, this time around… it’s completely different. I don’t write as much in it (my writing addiction is mostly served by fiction now) and do too much photography. But it is what it is.
Days missed – none.
At any rate…
A few weeks ago, Candy and I went up to Denton for the Arts and Jazz festival. The last time we went, a couple years ago, it was way too crowded and we had a tough time parking… so this time, we decided to go earlier and to ride the Denton County Transit Authority A-Train up to Denton. This was a great idea – the train ride was fun and the festival was cool – we headed back before the crowds really began to build.
Denton is a cool city. To a big extent, it is a college town, almost like Austin-lite. I enjoyed the pedestrian and bike-friendly areas around the town square and decided I wanted to go back there with my bicycle.
Looking at Google Maps, I noticed the telltale green line that represented a hike-bike trail that ran from Lake Dallas through Corinth up to Denton – a little more than eight miles. It paralleled the A-Train tracks and I was able to get a good look at it from the train windows. It’s called the Denton Katy Trail – and it looked like a nice bike ride.
So, one Sunday that promised nice weather (and light winds) I decided to pack my camera, drive to Lake Dallas with my road bike and head up the trail to Denton. There, I would wander around a bit, take some photos, and then ride back down.
The trail was nice – really nice. There is a great feeling of booking along fresh, smooth, level concrete. Not very many people using it – a few walkers from the suburban neighborhoods… I only saw one or two other bicycles. Still, it was fun and an enjoyable ride. Until…
The trail ended.
Along the south side of Denton is a loop expressway, the 288 and the trail stopped there. They are building a big new pedestrian bridge over the expressway, and it looks finished… but isn’t.
Now, I know that the bridge is expensive and is being built with the best of intentions. That highway is a barrier – though not an insurmountable one. They do have several intersections with lights – you can cross easily if you wait for a green. Once the bridge is finished, bicyclists and walkers can bypass the highway, walking up and over.
And that’s the problem. In separating the bike/pedestrians from the city, you make the trail into a recreational opportunity and take away the integration of human-powered transportation with the life of the city.
Presented with the closed trail, I considered turning around and heading back, but I wanted to get to downtown Denton. I walked my bike through a bit of thick woods lined with empty wine bottles and found myself in back of a huge Big-Box store of some kind. That area all along 288 is a massive expanse of auto-oriented shopping hell, with every chain store imaginable. No sidewalks, no way through, acres and acres of tarmac covered with clouds of exhaust fumes. Not a fun place to fight through on a bicycle.
The ironic thing is that there were other people trying to walk through there. You would never see them from a car – but they are there… homeless people, young teenagers, poor students – the shadow population, carless by choice or by situation.
Again, I salute the money and effort put into the trail and that impressive bridge, but fear that the people behind this effort don’t understand the idea of making a city where you don’t have to have a car. I don’t think they can even imagine such a thing.
I was able to work my way through the maze of parking lots and fight past the thick streams of tinted-window SUVs and pickups to finally make my way into the old-fashioned heart of Denton… the area around the square and the roads leading out to the universities. There the cars, walkers, and bikes live together, moving a little more slowly, but getting where they need in plenty of time. It’s funny, the part of the city with the most modern, hip lifestyle… the part that everyone is spending millions of dollars trying to emulate… is the oldest, most “outdated” style of a city square surrounded by narrow streets with limited parking.
That’s the part I like.