October 12th, 2008 En Route to Better Health in Wells Branch
Exploring the bike lanes in Wells Branch and surrounding areas
If you happen to live in the Wells Branch area, you’ll notice something on the side of many of the driving lanes in your neighborhood. Something that seems more akin to neighborhoods closer to downtown Austin, and which reflects a community planning strategy geared toward health and exercise. You guessed it – BIKE LANES!
Previously my family’s biking extravaganzas have focused on driving to a central location, parking and biking to eat brunch downtown. That’s all well and good except for two things, (1) we’ve pledged to make our own personal protest against outlandishly high gas prices by driving less often, and (2) I can’t write about that on Wellsbranch.org.
So, on three separate occasions so far we’ve left the car in the driveway, packed our backpacks and donned our helmets in search of the perfect neighborhood bike ride. We always plan our trip from Bratton Lane because of the sheer fact that it has bike lanes. Wells Branch Pkwy would be a great portal if it offered the same advantage, but it doesn’t, and riding on a sidewalk with a road bike is quite a painful experience. There are several levels of riding that can be accomplished in the Wells Branch area, anywhere from “kiddie friendly” to the more intense country ride. Here they are in order of intensity:
Kiddie Friendly (0-5 miles)
Every Sunday morning I find myself at the local coffee shop on the corner of Bratton and Merilltown, and frequently observe families with children of all ages stopping by on their two-wheeled caravans – using back roads and bike lanes – taking advantage of the low speed limits and relative safety of road biking in our neighborhood.
After having first moved here in 2007, my husband and I did most of our biking along these routes, which will easily take you from MUD building to MUD building, with lots of “in-betweens”. It’s great for whatever bike your using, whether it be a mountain bike, bmx, road bike, even a unicycle! Bike lanes also run by the Wells Branch library (wblibrary.org), giving you a great opportunity to mix two events in one.
A Slight Challenge (6 miles+)
Okay, this is a little more than “slightly” challenging, but nonetheless, if you’re looking for a ride where you don’t feel as though you have to push yourself if you start to get too tired, but where you have the opportunity to do so if the mood is right, this is the one.
We started out going toward IH-35 on Bratton, past Grand Avenue Parkway, and turning left on Michael Angelo Way. From there, we turned left again once the road forked. Now, to avoid going East on the toll road frontage, you’ll have to cut through the apartment community. This should bring you right out at Burnet, where you’ll make a right turn, and go under to toll road bridge. Now you’ll find yourself in the shopping district, so drive straight until you hit another dead end, you should be at Hester’s Crossing Rd. Here’s where the fun part begins, because there’s a huge hill that leads you down toward the highway. Turn left at Rawhide drive and you’re back in neighborhood roads, which can lead you all the way to FM 620, if you’re so inclined. The really challenging part is near the end, on your way back, when you’ll be forced to bike back up that really “fun” hill on Hester’s Crossing (I supposed “fun” is all about what perspective you’re looking at it from).
A Great Country Ride (16 miles+)
This one’s my personal favorite. Turning right on Grand Avenue Parkway gets you pretty much right on track. Grand Avenue has some beautiful, wide lanes that are easy to navigate, regardless of the amount of traffic.
From Grand Avenue Parkway you’ll then make a right on Pflugerville Parkway. If you’ve never been on this road before, don’t let the name fool you. When I hear “parkway” I think of wide lanes with wide shoulders, but this is not the case with this road. You’ll have to keep an eye out for traffic, but most of the drivers are quite accomodating. Once you get close the the 45 bridge, the lanes widen up a little, which helps take the edge of when you’re checking for oncoming traffic at the intersections. Go under the toll road, and Pflugerville Parkway brings you all the way to Lake Pflugerville!
If you love the country, farm animals (cows of all sorts get an honorable mention here) and the water, then you’ll definitely be in for a treat. Note that at times this ride is not for the faint of heart (country roadkill is usually far bigger than that of its city siblings). Also, you can extend this ride by turning right on Weiss, and coming full circle on Pecan Street. I usually just turn around and go back the same way I came.
These are just a few of the great rides you can take advantage of right outside of your own front door. I’ll also give a quick nod to going South on Thermal (off of Wells Branch Parkway) which leads to Metric, where there is a long and challenging ride up and down hills with bike lanes lining the road 85% of the time. If you want to get to the Arboretum by bike, I strongly recommend that route.
Hope to see you out there. Happy biking!