Rio Grande Valley officials’ work to promote alternative travel options continues to pay off. The Texas Department of Transportation has picked Cameron County’s hike-and-bike trail network as the state’s first proposed addition to the U.S. Bicycle Route System.
TxDOT has applied to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which offers special designation of roadways across the country. The USBRS was created in 2005 with guidance from the Adventure Cycling Association. More than 14,000 miles have of roads and trails have been designated nationwide, but the system still is intermittent, with designated trails in 27 states and the District of Columbia.
The local trails would be the first in Texas to receive the designation.
State officials picked the Valley network to recognize the well developed system of trails that began as an effort to address this region’s high rates of diabetes and obesity by promoting more active lifestyles. For several years city and county officials have steered attention and resources, including actively seeking grants specifically for such efforts, into creating trail systems where people can bike, jog and walk in relatively safety. The system includes more than 120 miles of designated bike lanes on Brownsville-area roadways.
Hike-and-bike trails have even been incorporated into expansion and renovation work at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and the Brownsville trail system extends to the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park.
To their credit, city councils and commissions across the Valley have joined in the effort, and coordinated their efforts in hopes of creating a Valleywide system of trails upon which ambitious cyclists could ride from Brownsville to McAllen and surrounding cities.
Harlingen recently joined Brownsville and McAllen in offering a bike-sharing program. The Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council sponsors and coordinates the program, which enables riders to pick up a bike in one of the cities and leave it at another.
The trails system takes advantage of the region’s relatively flat terrain, which makes cycling easier, and roughly 300 days without rain.
We’re confident that the trails will earn USBRS approval, and that the designation will be extended to Hidalgo County in short order.
It’s well deserved in an area that has embraced the idea of active lifestyles and alternative transportation and already has earned recognition as a Bicycle Friendly Community from the League of American Bicyclists.
Bicycle Route System designation could also be another feature that local officials could offer to active and environmental tourists, promoting bike tours of historic sites or birdwatching venues.
Many advocates have said that the establishment of hikeand- bike trails is its own reward, but the recognition surely is welcome. It reflects a value and appreciation that should inspire them to continue their efforts.
We look forward to seeing the signs that mark Valley roads and trails as part of the U.S. Bicycle Route System.