Biking along the 183A Extension’s newly opened shared-use path last week gave me some time to ponder an important question – what is mobility?
On a recent mid-day observation, I saw an older man walking a dog, a family of cyclists with children balancing their training wheel bikes and a woman jogging. I would imagine that to each of these folks, mobility means something different. The woman jogging on the trail might be a stay at home mom getting some exercise. The older man might be retired and enjoying a leisurely walk, and the four-member family looked to be simply teaching their children that riding bikes is fun. To each of these individuals, the path and the mobility it provides serves a different purpose.
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is committed to improving mobility even as our region doubles in population over the next few decades. One way we are doing that is by building toll roads, which serve as the financial foundation of our organization.
So, it may seem strange at first for a “toll-road authority” to build a path marked with signs that read, “No motor vehicles,” but for us, improving mobility is about more than simply moving cars. As our Chair Ray Wilkerson says, “we are committed to the vision of creating a comprehensive regional transportation system.” To achieve that vision, we are including bicycle and pedestrian facilities as part of all of our roadway projects, and we are seeking to incorporate flexibility for transit options wherever feasible.
The 183A shared-use path is a first for the Mobility Authority. But it’s just the beginning. With plans for a bridge over South Brushy Creek and extensions to the north, the path will eventually link the Williamson County Regional Trail with the Capital Metro station in Leander. All along its 10.3-miles there will be links to neighborhoods, businesses and other trails giving cyclists, joggers and walkers greater connectivity to the surrounding community. Meanwhile, the Mobility Authority is moving forward with bicycle and pedestrian facilities on our Manor Expressway and MoPac Improvement Projects to give greater connectivity to those communities as well.
What I like best about a shared-use path is that it allows you to slow down and safely see the many sites along the corridor. For example, under the bridges along 183A there are streams and ponds. At one intersection is a relief depiction of a longhorn cattle drive (we couldn’t figure out how to depict an Aggie drive). During spring, fields teaming with colorful wildflowers surround the path. You can even observe some of the unique rock formations that have been exposed by construction of 183A. Now, some readers might prefer the connection to shopping, restaurants, office buildings, neighborhoods, parks or other amenities more than the views. But for me, mobility is not just about the ride, it also the joy of getting there.