Mission/McAllen/Edinburg metroplex area on a Chip Seal Spree

In the last two months I have noticed that several of the outer laying roads in the Mission/McAllen/Edinburg metroplex area are being resurfaced in the Chip Seal way. First was part of my route that I cycle after work, Ware Rd from 107 to Monte Christo street. As a result, I no longer take that loop. I drive back home and ride afterwards. It’s not bad as I still have plenty of daylight left to zip around.

Sometime later, I was heading over to go see a movie, and I ran across another section of Ware road getting the same treatment of Chip Seal resurfacing. This time it is a heavily used cycling route from Expressway 83 south to Military road. Another one bites the dust.

Let’s not forget the Granjeno loop. That was such an enjoyable ride through farmland and county parks, but now, forget it. No one rides that section if they can help it. It’s not enjoyable with your teeth rattling form the bone jarring ride you get.

Now, today I was planing a route to Bentsen State park for the Ciclistas Urbanos cycling club and I ran into a 3-mile stretch on Bentsen Palm Drive from Business 83 to the park. Ugh! When will it stop! It seems that many of our routes are being chopped up and there is really nothing you can do about it. One or tow people complaining at a public meeting has zero effect and good luck getting cyclists to ban together and join a cause.

For those that don’t know what Chip Seal is or what the big deal is, Chip Seal is a method of road construction where they basically place a sticky substance (liquified asphalt) on the bottom and dump aggregate  on top. Then it is mashed down with a big roller to stick to the hot asphalt (acts like a glue). It is an inexpensive method of road maintenance that good for cars but terrible for cyclist. Riding on that kind of surface is akin to riding on a dirt road with a controlled distribution of rock sizes. Even on my carbon framed bike it was a rough ride. It also slows you down as it is harder to pedal on (at least to me). For those that want to learn more on it, I found this link that does a great job of what it is and the benefits of it for automobiles.

To me, this is terrible news. We are trying to encourage more cycling in our area with cycling clubs for all levels. Long distance riding or endurance rides will be the ones primarily affected. You know it wouldn’t be so bad if they just redo to road where the cars drive and leave the shoulders alone. Some say to turn this negative into a positive, the Tour de France has their cobble stone roads and we have our chip seal! If you ask me, I rather not have either.

What can we do about it? Pretty much nothing. City planners, TXDOT, and others don’t give a damn about cyclist or other minority users such as motorcyclist’s. Cars is where the action is at and they will not do anything to promote other modes of transportation.

I don’t know of anyone or group that has successfully launched a Stop This Shit campaign but if you have, let me know. I’d like to hear from you about it.

Mapping Mission-McAllen-Edinburg Bike Routes on Google Maps

After a couple of days being rained in, I decided to start on a project to put my bike routes onto Google Maps. You see, if I Google my area (Mission, TX) and looked for any bike lanes or routes, there are slim pickings. The only one that shows up is the Hike and Bike Trail on the out skirts of town. This appears as if  the trail is the only place where you can safely ride your bike, but that is not true. Many streets in town can be safely cycled, even if there is no official bike lane marked or shoulders. I have many routes in the Mission area that I ride constantly that I want to add to the maps. Aside from the neighborhood streets, the main arteries in the city are quite good for cycling. Thus begins my project in adding bike routes to Google Maps.

My first street is a section of Griffin Parkway that has dedicated Bike lanes but does not show up in Google Maps. After figuring out how to mark the road and indicate that it has bike lanes, the hard part of submitting it for review had to be done. it took sometime and false leads to figure out the workflow process. They sure don’t make it easy to find the proper flow of the process. Apparently, you not only need to submit the changes but you need to join a forum for North America and request that someone take a look at your change requests and approve them.  Some requests take more than one approval and that could delay things as each one can reject your request.

Once I got that figured out, I went ahead and added bike routes that I use around town. They are mostly the major arteries, but that’s OK. They will get you from one part of town to another. That took about one afternoon to map them all out and designate them as suitable for cycling and get them posted in the correct forum for approval. At this point I figured it could take weeks or months before I hear something, but I was surprised to get a response in about two days! After a few emails back and forth my efforts were published except for one, the road with actual bike lanes. I figured that one would need additional approvals.

A quick review of the map shows my additions as green dotted lines indicating a bike route but with no Bike Lane markings. Solid green line are roads with designated Bike Lanes. Cool! I now need to add routes that connect the Mission-McAllen-Edinburg metroplex area. More work to be done.

Since I’ve lasted updated this draft, the official bike lane on FM 495 (Griffin Parkway) has been approved and published. I’ve also continue to add more routes and I’m waiting on the Shary Road bike lanes to be added. My Ultimate goal is to show a path from Mission to McAllen and Mission to Edinburg that commuters can use to cycle from town to town. It is surprisingly easy to map out, but it can be a little tedious at parts. Just depends on the road you are mapping.

Here is a link for the Mission area bike routes. Check the link often as I continue to add more routes.

 

Happy Cycling!

 

Another Group ride with Ciclistas Urbanos

I have been falling behind on my November 225 mile challenge so I figured the ride that Cyclistas Urbanos was doing was a good way to pack in some miles in one day. I contemplated on riding my bike to Edinburg as a way to pretty much double my miles but I decided against it. Perhaps another day.

Today’s ride takes us to the Farmer’s Market at the Alhambra in downtown McAllen followed by a trip to Marco’s Burgers and Fries in Mission (Sharyland). Afterwards, a stop a Bike Masters for eye candy before heading back to Edinburg. Usually, we ride on out from El Patio Cafe at 8 am but this time we pushed it back an hour and took off at 9 am.

Ciclistas Urbanos had a good turn out for this ride as the suspected reason was to try Marco’s Burgers. Today’s gathering turned out to be thirteen cyclists of all skill levels. Despite the wind gusts, the ride to McAllen was fun as you can hear the chatter of people talking and good spirits over coming the strong wind. As with all good group rides, you go as fast as the slowest cyclist. The pace was at about 8 mph with a stiff wind in our face. There was some seperation between the front and the back of the group so we waited for them at one of the corners. I took this opportunity to snap a pic of them riding.

The first stop was a quick breather at the community garden in McAllen. I had no idea this had existed until now. Next to a fire substation, the garden is thriving with a variety of plants and vegetables. The garden is well maintained and is completely hidden from the street. Very nice. As far as I know, there are no community gardens in the Mission area where I live.

Working our way through downtown McAllen’s busy streets, we arrive at the Farmer’s market at Alhambra. This was also my first visit to the market. Walking in you are greeted with many local farmers and distributors promoting their wares. Anything from organic vegetables to grass feed lamb chops. I bought some delicious Orange Blossom Honey and some Walnuts. That honey is going be great with my Peanut Butter sandwiches! Lots of open space with a large enclosed room for beverages. A juicer was on hand to create fruit juices of your choosing. I tried out a Watermelon and Cantaloupe drink. Very delicious and refreshing!

After mingling and purchasing a few items we mounted the bikes and headed out for lunch in the Sharyland at Marco’s Burgers. It was only a four mile ride to the burger joint and more chatter was present during the ride. I believe it was due to the wind being on our backs giving us a good push. Nothing like a free ride.

Marco’s Burgers was a great stop for some good burgers, converse and an opportunity to replenish expended calories. After a while we got on the bikes for the short hop over to Bike Masters bicycle shop.

Bike Masters  was only one block away from Marco’s Burgers. After parking the bikes we went in to look around. Wow! they had a lot of bikes and tons of accessories to look at! The owner of the shop came out to greet us and show us around. He gave us a quick demo of carbon bikes that Trek are making and how they are made. Very interesting on how the bikes are made. The parts of the frame are extremely lightweight and strong!

Refreshments as well as patch kits were passed out to us as we mingled and looked around. One of us even found a bike they are interested at purchasing and will come back for a second look. Many road and mountain bikes and a few urban bikes to look at as well as a large selection of accessories and parts. The staff was nice, friendly and helpful. This was certainly a good stop and appreciate their hospitality.

After the stop we headed on back to Edinburg using a new route. Actually there were two different routes back that we could have chosen from. A few took one route while the majority took the route that went around McAllen. The wind was on our backs and there was only one mechanical problem that was quickly fixed.

We rolled back to the El Patio at about 4 pm on what was a good long ride. For some it was the longest ride that have cycled but they made it. Memories to file in our memory banks for later retrieval. Overall the pace was at 8 mph, slower than I would like to have ridden, but we did have someone who had their personal best for distance. That’s awesome!

Now I need to ride on Sunday to catch up for the week, but after the Cowboy game.