COMMENT OF THE DAY: WALKING IN OAK FOREST “Greater Oak Forest probably has fewer opportunities to be walkable than either the newer or older master-planned communities (i.e. Eastwood or The Woodlands). The older ones have secondary thoroughfares spaced at shorter intervals, so for instance every four blocks instead of every ten blocks; they were built with sidewalks; deed restrictions tended to be weaker; and they were much smaller to begin with, easier to escape on foot. The newer MPCs were designed to have jogging trails and interconnectivity for recreation rather than for transportation, but that’s something at least to walk around for. The Oak Forest walkability problem is apparent if you just look at Google Earth. It’s a big gigantic green splotch with only one viable commercial strip running through it and 34th Street (across the tracks) as the red-headed stepchild of neighborhood retail. The neighborhood streets tend to run parallel with the commercial strips with perpendicular streets at much less frequent intervals. It’s not walkable. It wasn’t intended to be walkable by design. When I lived in that area, I’d walk two miles to Petrol Station and back. That’s how I justified to myself indulging in the Rancor Burger. But then . . . you have to understand that I am insane. Not as profoundly insane as the Art Guys, but I’m the sort of person that will walk alone from Montrose to Bellaire and back via the TMC from between 10PM and 3AM for no particular reason. Normal, sane people aren’t gonna walk like I walk. But don’t get me wrong. I suspect that Greater Oak Forest’s relative lack of walkability or mixed-use potentials is part of what draws the big money in. They prefer it to be insulated from the urban core physically, aesthetically, and demographically. If you own property there, you will prosper. [TheNiche, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Drive for Oak Forest Retail]
Neighborhoods like Oak Forest may be too spread out to be walkable. But they are paradise for cyclists. And this is true for huge swaths of Houston: including Sharpstown, Westbury, and my own area of Brays Oaks. These neighborhoods are overlooked by urbanists who don’t accept bikeability as a viable alternative to walkability, and that’s a real disservice to our City.
The lack of sidewalks is the reason we didn’t even consider Oak Forest/Garden Oaks when looking for our “family” house after living in Shady Acres with its patchwork of sidewalks and ditches for five years. We ended up in Timbergrove and it was a great decision… our daughter and the other neighborhood kids get a lot of use out of the sidewalks. We didn’t want our young child in the street, even in a more residential area like Oak Forest/Garden Oaks. Additionally, everyone uses the sidewalks in Timbergrove and it’s a great way to meet and socialize with our neighborhoods.
I agree with ZAW…Oak Forest is not very friendly for pedestrians, but it could be a very bike-friendly neighborhood. I wish the Kroger on 43rd had some love for bicyclists because getting in and out of that parking lot in a car is an extremely unpleasant experience. And while it is a bit of a hassle, it is possible to avoid the busy thoroughfares like 43rd and Ella. Alba, Oak Forest or Rosslyn can get you around the area pretty well.
It could be a bike-friendly neighborhood. But its not biked almost at all. Judging by the bike traffic at Montrose-area grocery stores, it’s probably not the Kroger’s fault.
I know that we like to blame the 43rd Street Kroger for everything that isn’t perfect about Greater Oak Forest, and we’d like to think that an HEB could solve all the problems.
Maybe its more important to look inward. Maybe it has to do with the psychographic character of people that live in mid-century ticky-tacky houses and McMansions instead of apartments, garage apartments, bungalows, and townhomes.
Thanks, Anse. What’s frustrating is that, in the effort to make our inner neighborhoods more walkable, we tend to neglect efforts to make mid range suburban neighborhoods like Oak Foreest more bikeable. It’s a shame, really, since more Houstonians live in mid-range suburban neighborhoods than live in inner neighborhoods, and since minor improvements (a path here, a footbridge there…) could make a huge difference.
“Neighborhoods like Oak Forest may be too spread out to be walkable. But they are paradise for cyclists. And this is true for huge swaths of Houston”
I completely agree, I live in Willowbend and get around the city just fine, it’s rare when I have to get off a side street and ride a major thoroughfare. Where this is necessary the City has done a decent job at designating and marking it as a bikeway.