This article first appeared in Community Impact Newspaper.
After a year of development and gathering resident feedback, The Woodlands Township board of directors approved a community-wide bike and pedestrian master plan Oct. 27.
The plan, which is the first of its kind for the township, evaluated the community’s existing walking, running and bicycling network, as well as the gaps and needs in the system, to identify project recommendations.
Township Director Jeff Long said there is still a long way to go to make the community bicycle friendly.
"There are a lot of issues that have to be solved to make it safe for motorists and cyclists,” he said.
During an Oct. 20 township board meeting, directors unanimously voted to remove from the plan all recommendations that involved use of utility easements, drainage ditches and greenbelts. These changes resulted in differences to the total plan costs, which are now projected at $29 million for the long-term projects and $9.9 million for short-term projects to be carried out over the next five years.
There are a variety of ways to fund the project recommendations, including federal grant programs, partnerships and local budget initiatives. Many of the grant opportunities are an 80-20 split, which means the township would be responsible for 20 percent of the total cost, project manager Chelsea Young said.
Short-term proposed projects include the development of a bike lane along Lake Woodlands Drive from Lake Front Circle to Kuykendahl Road; developing a pathway to provide access to retail on the southwest corner of Research Forest Drive and Kuykendahl Road; and adding a connection to Harper’s Landing on the east side of I-45.
During a public hearing Oct. 27, residents had a chance to provide more feedback to the board before the plan was approved. Although a majority of speakers were in favor of the plan, several mentioned concerns regarding safety issues when cycling around The Woodlands.
Resident Gordon Craig said the township’s pedestrian and cycling opportunities are what make The Woodlands the most unique and desirable community in Houston.
"Unfortunately, this infrastructure was not designed to accommodate today’s activity and has significant failings,” he said. "The original twisting pathways are difficult for today’s runners and cyclists. This infrastructure needs to be updated to deal with the increasing population of The Woodlands, the heavier traffic we’re getting from outside The Woodlands, and the increasing popularity of running/cycling in The Woodlands, and the increasing number of crashes occurring between cyclists and cars.”
Resident Melissa Templeton, who moved to The Woodlands in 2015, said drivers are not patient nor respectful of cyclists using the roads.
"I’ve been afraid when attempting to ride down Research Forest when trying to get down to Hughes Landing or The Waterway because of the territorial attitudes of drivers,” she said. "I thought when I moved to The Woodlands it was going to be a cyclist nirvana, but I discovered that bikes are considered a nuisance to drivers.”
Cathy Martin moved to The Woodlands in 2003 primarily because of the cycling opportunities, she said.
"Now, I consider it too dangerous to ride on the road,” Martin said. "I only ride on hiking-biking pathways. However, that too is becoming very dangerous. In 13 years as careful as I’ve tried to be, twice I’ve been hit by cars on a pedestrian crosswalk.”
The approval of the master plan is not the approval of expenditure of funds. Each project will be considered separately in the future, township general manager and president Don Norrell said.
Township Director Ed Robb said he applauded the speakers from the biking community for being engaged.
"It demonstrates that an engaged public makes for a better community negative approach,” he said.This article first appeared in Community Impact Newspaper.