Monday, February 24, 2020

Ride: The Paseo del Bosque Trail

We recently looked at the North Diversion Channel trail, which follows the large arroyo that drains water from all over Albuquerque.  But where does all of that water go?  After flowing north via the channel, it drains into the Rio Grande for the long trip down to the Gulf of Mexico.  In the process, the water flows through Albuquerque a second time, and it also flows past a nice bike path: the Paseo  del Bosque Trail.

The word "bosque" (BOS-kay) means "forest" or "woods", and in this case it refers to the strip of cottonwood trees that grows along the Rio Grande.  From its origins in southern Colorado, the Rio covers nearly 1900 miles before finally ending at the Gulf.  The river starts out as a series of streams in the Rocky Mountains, flowing southeastward to the Colorado/New Mexico border.  From there, it bisects New Mexico as it flows nearly straight south through  the state.  Along the way, it creates or  flows through a wide variety of environments: the deep Taos Gorge canyon; the wide White Rock Canyon; the man-made Cochiti Lake; the bosque in Albuquerque; Elephant Butte Reservoir; and the desert south of El Paso, Texas.

Within the city of Albuquerque, the Paseo del Bosque trail is a 16 mile paved trail that follows the eastern shore of the Rio Grande.  Like its sister trails that follow Albuquerque's arroyos, the Paseo del Bosque has no road crossings and is a great way to get between the northern and southern edges of town.  It's also a pleasant trail to just meander along, looking at the trees and wildlife that live along the river.  A good place to start exploring the trail is at its northern trailhead on Alameda Boulevard, which has a large parking area that is right next to the trail.  You can also join the trail further south where it links up with the I-40 trail and several smaller trails for shorter out-and-back trips.  While on the trail, you can expect to meet all manor of trail users: bikers, runners, strollers, and more.  Be courteous on the trail!

Albuquerque's city web pages have more information about the trail, and you can follow its full length along the river with the Wireless Bike Map.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

New Coverage: All of North America

Continuing our slow rollout, the Wireless Bike Map now covers all of North America.  Want to ride from Fairbanks down to Montreal?  You're covered.  How about from Boston to Mexico City?  No problem.  From Honolulu to Miami?  Well, you'll have problems, but it won't be because of the maps.

The Wireless Bike Map will continue to grow over the coming months.  Watch the map for more updates!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Ride: North Diversion Channel

Albuquerque, New Mexico is right in the middle of the desert in the southwestern United States, so you may think that it never rains in the city.  But it is at high elevation and right next to some mountains, and it benefits from the norther New Mexico "monsoon season": during the late summer, afternoon thunderstorms roll through the city several times a week.  It's good to avoid getting caught on one of these storms when you're on a bike, as they can be very intense.  But the bright side of these storms is the great network of trails that they have indirectly created.

As Albuquerque grew throughout the first half of the 1900s, the flash floods that these regular thunderstorms could create became more and more problematic.  By the early 1960s, the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA) was founded to start creating a system of arroyos around town that could help mitigate these floods.  While natural desert arroyos are just dry streambeds that opportunistically carry rainwater away, the AMAFCA arroyos are carefully planned, high-tech valleys within the city that efficiently carry water away from the city and its streets, houses, and businesses.  The North Diversion Channel is perhaps the most important arroyo of all, as its deep V-shaped concrete walls collect water from feeder arroyos all over the city and direct it to the Rio Grande.  From there, the water flows all of the way out to the Gulf of Mexico.

Much like old railroad right-of-ways and urban streams, the banks of these arroyos work well for building bike paths.  The North Diversion Channel itself runs from the University of New Mexico campus in the south to the Balloon Fiesta Park in the north and on to the Rio Grande, and the nine miles between UNM and the Balloon Fiesta Park has a paved, off-street path along it the entire way.  This path passes under all of the major streets along its way, including Interstate 40 and Interstate 25, and it links up with several other arroyo trails that reach other parts of the city.  This makes the trail a pleasant recreational path as well as a path to use when commuting between UNM and the rest of the city.  Just keep in mind that most of the path is unshaded, and Albuquerque's elevation is higher than 5000 feet.  Remember your sunscreen and water!

If you would like to plan a ride along the North Diversion Channel trail, you can get started at the Wireless Bike Map.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Ride: Billy Wolff Trail

Lincoln, Nebraska has extensive biking infrastructure, much of which is built on old railroad right-of ways or along existing highways.  The major exception to these trends is the Billy Wolff trail, which follows Antelope Creek from its origin in southeast Lincoln to the point it empties into Salt Creek on the north end of the city.

Antelope Creek starts out as a tiny trickle in the far southeast corner of Lincoln, growing into a large stream by the time it reaches Salt Creek eleven miles later.  The creek is an important drainage path for a large portion of the city, but as the city grew, it slowly got narrowed and pushed into underground drainage pipes.  Historically, this led to a variety of flooding problems along its path, and eventually the city started doing work to fix the problem.  In the early 1960s, Holmes Lake was created when a large dam was built across the creek in southern Lincoln.  This created a buffer for storm water, but work continued long after that to keep improving the flow of the creek and prevent flooding.  This work culminated in the Antelope Valley redevelopment project, which immensely improved the flood control characteristics of the north end of the creek while creating large public greenspaces in the process.  Today, the creek is revitalized in a way that is not commonly seen in urban areas.

The development of the Billy Wolff trail has happened in parallel with the flood control work, making use of Antelope Creek as a natural highway that cuts diagonally through the city.  Work on the trail started in 1978, with a stretch from downtown to Holmes Lake, and it has continued to grow ever since.  Today, the trail runs from the University of Nebraska on the north end to Nebraska Highway 2 on the south end, a distance of just over 11 miles.  It sits below street level for much of the way, following the natural course of the creek, with some stretches that leave the creek bed to follow existing roads.

The Billy Wolff trail provides a great path between northwest and southeast Lincoln, passing by the Sunken Gardens, the Lincoln Children's Zoo, Holmes Park, and a variety of other parks along the way.  It is a good choice for commuting, as well as for short out-and-back recreational trips.  Given Lincoln's mature bike path infrastructure, it can also be used as part of several loops around the city.  You can start planning your trip by studying the trail on the Wireless Bike Map.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Ride: The Field Club Trail

A short stretch of multi-use trail built on an old rail like runs through central Omaha, Nebraska.  Linking Leavenworth and Vinton Streets, the Field Club Trail was built in the same way as many of the best urban bike routes: on top of an abandoned railroad right of way.

In the 1880s, Omaha was still reaping the benefits of being the eastern terminus of the first transcontinental railroad in the United States, and it was during this time that the Belt Line Railway was built around what was then the outskirts of the city.  The history of how the line was built is colorful, and when it was done it was a 15 mile path that started in South Omaha, proceeded through downtown, looped around North Omaha, and made its way south again through what is now the center of the city.  After being built, businesses and factories grew up along it, and passengers used it to get between parts of the city and to link up with trains to other cities.

Like all of the smaller railways that were built in this timeframe, the Belt Line was slowly absorbed into larger rail conglomerates.  By the 1920s, passenger service had finished, and freight service was on the decline by the 1960s and 1970s.  By the 1980s, the line had been abandoned.

Today, much of the Belt Line right of way has been taken over by parking lots, buildings, and trees.  But the western part of the loop between South Omaha and Central Omaha has been converted into the 1.75 mile Field Club Trail.  In the north, the path starts at the intersection of 40th and Leavenworth Streets.  It heads generally straight south from there, passing through the Field Club neighborhood and ending where it links up with the South Omaha Trail near Interstate 80.  The whole route is paved and passes under all of the major streets, but the southern half has several level crossings over residential streets.  The path is flat and easy to ride, and it makes a great route for traveling between South and Central Omaha.  While the north end of the path dead-ends at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the south end links up with the South Omaha trail, which in turns links up with the Keystone Trail.  With some creativity on the north end, these connections can be used to create a nice loop, or they can be used as part of a longer out-and-back that hits a variety of spots around the city.

You can find out more about the Omaha Belt Line on its Wikipedia page, and you can take a look at where it goes at the Wireless Bike Map.

Ride: The Rock Island Trail

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Rock Island Line was a mighty good road for getting between Chicago and a variety of locations in the...