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I’ll Take the Long Way

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oh i ache part ii-cover

Late fall. Late September. A beautiful — if fleeting — time of year. Cold mornings give way to sunny, yet chilly afternoons. The leaves cover the trails and paths, and there is a clear scent of winter in the air.

It’s impossible to not realize that nice days are coming to an end.

So, when we have days of glorious sun and little breeze and decent temperatures, what is one to do? If you’re me, you spend the morning busting a hump trying to get as much done as possible without being too distracted by the glorious scene out the windows and then you book it out of the building as early as possible.

Is it wrong that I don’t feel at all bad about ditching my post from time to time?

You do whatcha gotta do. Protestant work ethic be damned.

I’m a big believer that, when the day calls, you’ll regret not taking the time more than you will taking it.

So I got out there. The plan was to maybe ride the circuit around the city. Check in on things and make sure everything is still okay. I haven’t surveyed the entire kingdom in a while and can feel my subjects getting worried.

pedometerThen something else called to me entirely. A route I see twice a day, but have never ridden. So I pointed my wheels north and started riding.

Let me first say just how brilliant it is that we have bike path along so much of the Glenn Highway. I’d love to see the day when it extends all the way to the valley and connects with the bike trail there out to Willow and beyond.

I have a sense that if Alaska put some time, effort, and money behind it, we could really increase bicycle tourism in the state and appeal to the more casual bike tourist.

Anyway, that’s just my opinion.

At a local level I noticed something while riding yesterday; something that seems all too common when it comes to issues of infrastructure. Why is it that it seems that the poorer neighborhoods in this city, like so many others, have limited, difficult, inconvenient access to bike lanes and infrastructure?

I’m sure that there are logical reasons, but when the bike path dumps a rider off onto school grounds and then a residential street, and then you have to take a busy street that feeds directly off of the highway without dedicated bike lanes and a strange mishmash of sidewalk and roadside multi-use paths (MUPs), as happens in Mountain View, it makes biking that much less appealing to the casual rider.

I like to tell people that, over all, it is possible to get most anywhere in this city using a minimum of roads because of the great bike path network that is in place. Of course, this often means adding extra miles to the commute to stay on the Chester or Campbell Creek trails or spurs and then using roadways with separated MUPs when possible to get to the final destination. I’ve not ridden in Mountain View before and, while there are some MUPs, the infrastructure in this neighborhood is lacking.

Doesn’t it seem that if, indeed, the population of this neighborhood is on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum that they would benefit more than other areas from easy and safe bike routes to get them to their places of work?

Fairview seems to be another area where there are few easy to use bike paths, but this area seems to be getting better.

Parts of Spenard are hell trying to bike and find safe routes, though the area is bound by a nice trail network. Getting to that network safely is the challenge.

Back to the fun stuff, though. The ride. 25.5 miles. On a fatbike. With a Surly Nate tire (read: super knobby and not at all suited to riding on pavement, i.e., slooooow and tiring). An hour and 48 minutes. Not too bad. A beautiful day for it. A beautiful day.

I will say, though, that the path along the Glen isn’t that relaxing to ride with all the traffic noise. And not that great in the way of views, but a good transportation corridor and a good way to get a lot of miles with few stops. Now, if only they can connect it all the way to the valley so I can just ride the whole way home…

And just for the fun of it, a snapshot, not from the ride along the Glenn, but rather from an amazing view across the city from the Brown Bear trail in Far North Bicentennial Park on Sunday. If you squint just enough you can make out Denali in the background.

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Read more from Phil B. on his blog, Multimodal Alaska Adventures.