Off-Trailing with Houston’s Northwest Bike Path Pioneers

Harris County Housing Authority interim CEO Tom McCasland takes a visitor from Portland along the path of the bike trail he hopes will soon connect Downtown Houston seamlessly to the city’s northwestern suburbs. From Georgia’s Market downtown they head out the MKT Trail into the Heights, which dead ends near the Shepherd-Durham overpasses. “The lot turned into a truck path, which ended at a decrepit railroad bridge. We took a sharp right down a singletrack path along the edge of the bayou far below us,” writes Elly Blue, who’s been touring U.S. cities to assess their bikeability. McCasland, an advocate for expanding Houston bikeways, tells the Houston Press‘s John Nova Lomax that “part of the city’s latest grand biking plan is to dynamite [that burned-out bridge] and rebuild it as a bike/pedestrian thoroughfare. The trail will then continue along White Oak Bayou’s banks and connect with the existing trail that begins at West 11th and TC Jester and heads north through Timbergrove, Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and all the way up to Acres Homes.”


For now, though, making that trek is not such a smooth ride: “The next part of our route,” Blue writes on her blog, “was through private property; we had the choice of taking surface streets or riding down along the bayou’s edge. We chose the latter and ran with our bikes down the steep concrete incline to coast along by the water and look up at the gaps in the system. After a while we scrambled up another steep embankment, lifted our bikes over a tall railing, and were back on city streets, taking the lane on a five lane arterial.”

Photos: Elly Blue

8 Comment

  • The Houston Parks Board has redirected most of their efforts from the Brays Bayou corridor that it did so much work on linking together to the White Oak Bayou Corridor.

    They are actively researching and attempting to consolidate land purchases along the Bayou from downtown to the the northwestern reaches of the bayou in the city limits. The attempt is not just for trails, but to also acquire small properties along the corridor for “pocket” parks ans such.

    They are also working with the White Oak Bayou Association which pretty much has the pulse on anything along the bayou including trails, development, and civic interactions.

    The Parks Board is a non-profit arm that funds park development in Houston. Many private benefactors donate to the Parks Board so they can purchase land to develop into parks that are essentially handed over to the city. This is why you don’t see the city of Houston spending directly much on creating new parks. There is a lot more information on their website and if you want to support parks and trails in the city of Houston, this is the group that gets is done.

  • Good luck getting FEMA and Harris County Flood Control District permission to take down that bridge. HCFCD told me that bridge can’t be removed without mitigating the impact on the downstream portion of the bayou during high flow events. I want it removed to reduce the risk of flooding in Timbergrove.

  • Ross,

    If you remove it to reduce flooding in Timbergrove, you’ll shift the flood downstream towards downtown. In FEMA’s eyes, downtown cost a lot more to recover from a flood than a single family residential neighborhood. That’s FEMA’s take.

    HCFCD’s take on the issue is no negative impacts. While removing the bridge to help you they’ll hurt someone else. The shift downstream has to be mitigated. Your situation is not unique by any stretch of the imagination.

    Lower WOB and Buffalo Bayou are currently under a major study to look into things like taking out that old bridge along with many other improvements. Also, that 11th street bridge is a pretty back flood creator also. You should advocate the removal of 11th and Ella. That would greatly help Timbergrove. Also, knocking down Yale and Heights would help a lot…of course Oak Forest might want one or two things remove that’ll send a flood right back to Timbergrove…

    It’s never as simple as just removing one obstruction.

  • How is taking out that bridge going to affect them downstream?

  • I hope they make some improvements on bikeability. Sure would love a safe option getting over Memorial and Allen Pkwy between Montrose area and the Heights though. Speeding over on Waugh just isn’t cutting it for safety.

  • I love the WOB trail. I ride it multiple times a week. I can’t wait until it is completed.

  • @Sandra, is the Rosemont Bridge, formerly known as the Tolerance Bridge, not good enough for you?

  • DrewJ,

    My specific background being in hydraulics and hydrology and at some point working with and developing pieces of all the new hydraulic modeling of the 22 watersheds in Harris County as taught me a lot about how these bayous operate.

    Simple explanation: The bridge holding a volume of water back. When the bridge goes that water volume had to go somewhere. It will shift downstream and cause more problems. Your bridge isn’t the only bottleneck. Even removing all the bottlenecks will be detrimental to downtown because of the natural convergence of White Oak and Buffalo. So much so that Harris County and the City have been floating around the idea of a bypass channel to allow the removal of all these structures. That is the only real solution unless a whole neighborhood is ready to move and donate their properties to build storm water storage areas. The money to solve these problems is often more than the cost of the flood damage.

    If you want more input and information on these projects, you should follow and get involved in the Charting Buffalo project that is a joint venture between HCFCD and the USACE. They have used this partnership on many other projects in the county and community involvement is what drives it. You could also get involved with the White Oak Bayou Association which holds an important presence at the stakeholder meetings.

    Your sentiments of removing the bridge have been discussed and modeled at length for years. More analysis and meetings have been discuss on obstruction removal along White Oak than any other bayou in the county.