My Turn: Paths make it easy to get around town | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Paths make it easy to get around town

John Hillstrom

As a kid growing up in a relatively quiet suburb, I could safely ride my bike anywhere in my town, and once I was old enough, I did. I used to ride to soccer practice 5 miles across town or to swim practice a couple miles the other direction. I think the kids of Truckee should have the same opportunity, even if they live in Glenshire and they have a soccer practice at the Regional Park. And I don’t think they should have to risk their lives on Glenshire Drive to do it. Similarly, I think people towing their kids in trailers should have a place to safely take them and not have to drive all the way to Tahoe City to find it. In fact, it would be great for all those young parents in Glenshire to be able to ride right from their houses into town towing their kids to both get some exercise and grab a snack.For these folks, I think we should pave the Legacy Trail. We need to make it easy for people to get around town using a bike instead of a car in order to fight traffic congestion, oil dependence, and our ever-expanding waist-lines.The concern that a paved path will be overrun by packs of Lycra-clad road-riders is silly. Serious roadies don’t ride on bike paths because well-designed bike paths discourage high-speeds and because, as avid bike riders, we definitely don’t want to discourage families and other more casual riders.When we do ride on bike paths, as serious cyclists, we’re hyper-conscientious about other trail users as we know it’s their turf and not ours.There’s also some environmental concern about paving it that’s also misguided. A well-designed paved path will produce a lot less sediment into the Truckee than a dirt path and will require much less maintenance than a dirt or gravel path. A well-designed path would result in fewer rather than more felled trees as it should jog around trees and up and down the slope. This contouring serves three purposes: It maintains the existing trees; it reduces speeds; and it makes for a more interesting trail.Finally, there’s a cost issue of a paved vs. an unpaved path. A paved path will clearly require much less upkeep (and hence be lower cost in the long run), but more importantly, there’s a ton of state and federal money available for paved paths which isn’t available for dirt paths. Safe Routes to Schools is funded at over $600 million in California, for example.Truckee should have safe bike paths going end to end and side to side. Our kids deserve to be able to ride to school or friends or sports without needing to brave some of the bigger roads like Glenshire Drive or Highway 89.We have nearly limitless unpaved trails in our area (for which I am very thankful), which should stay unpaved, but in the case of the Legacy Trail, it’s too vital a connector to leave as a rugged footpath.John Hillstrom is a Truckee resident.