Cities pursue bicycle, pedestrian friendliness with new trails, paths

Sugar Land and Missouri City are moving forward on projects to improve trails and pathways to provide better connectivity for cyclists and pedestrians.

In Sugar Land, the city is working on bicycle and pedestrian mobility improvements near Town Square. A nearly $1 million project will add wide sidewalks on Hwy. 6, along Town Center Boulevard and on nearby Austin Parkway. The Sugar Land City Council unanimously approved a construction contract for the project Sept. 6.

“If [people] want to walk and bike to wherever they want to go, we want to be able to provide that option for them,” said Monique Johnson, Sugar Land right of way services coordinator.

Focusing on maintenance this fiscal year, Missouri City is planning to improve a pedestrian trail at MacNaughton Park by taking out a golf cart path and installing decomposed granite to make it more usable for walkers and joggers, Missouri City Assistant Manager Scott Elmer said.

Cities pursue bicycle, pedestrian friendliness with new trails, pathsUpcoming projects

Although Sugar Land’s newest project is the $984,197 Town Center connection with the installation of 2,700 feet of 6- to 8-foot-wide sidewalks in the area, additional projects are in the planning stages or underway. Another big project is First Colony Trail, a trail that would connect Woodstream Trail and Mesquite Park Trail near Austin Parkway and Sweetwater Boulevard, Johnson said. The project was put on hold during the summer so the public works department can study the types of crosswalks it should install.

 First Colony Trail will be about 1 mile long, Johnson said, although the project time frame is not set. The project is expected to cost about $1.4 million and is funded through a 2013 bond, Johnson said. The city also wants to install an on-street bike route along Parkway Boulevard between Sugar Creek and Williams Trace boulevards for about 1.25 miles. The city is studying whether it should create a dedicated bike lane or a shared bike lane, sometimes referred to as a sharrow, Johnson said. She estimated the study could be done in December, but a further timeline was yet to be determined.

The Sugar Land Parks and Recreation Department is planning on building out trails in both Brazos River and Cullinan parks, the latter of which was annexed by the city this year.

Parks and Recreation Director Joe Chesser said the city will begin design work on Cullinan Park trails in 2017.

“Longer term, we’re looking at going into a first design project for Cullinan Park,” Chesser said. “The [Cullinan Park] Conservancy has raised $500,000, and we’ll be designing trails and better access to Oyster Creek from the park.”

He said the city anticipated opening a trail and a canoe launch in Cullinan Park near the end of 2017.

“We’re probably looking at 3 miles or so along the Brazos River over the next few years,” Chesser said.

Although Missouri City is focusing on maintenance this year, Elmer said bicycling paths are always highly desired in the community. The city has about 15 miles of trails, he said.

“Our ultimate plan calls for right shy of 35 miles of trail,” Elmer said. “When I got here [20 years ago], we initially only had about 2 to 5 miles of trails and we have increased it over the years, balancing that against other transportation needs, but we’ve also kind of shifted to a complete streets philosophy.”

Elmer said Missouri City wants to provide plenty of infrastructure for pedestrian and bicycle transportation, not just for cars.

“As we do these things, our highest level of implementation is we’re trying to connect destination places as well—connect a park to a park so people can access parks without having to go on a street [or] connect a school to park or a city facility to a park,” he said.

Completed projects and continued needs

Last November, Missouri City rolled out a new bicycle rental program in a partnership with local bike shop Sugar Cycles at the Missouri City Recreation and Tennis Center. Renters can use the bicycles for a small fee. The city uses four bikes for the program and has five to 10 rentals per week; that number is expected to increase in cooler fall weather.

“It’s going really well,” Missouri City Parks and Recreation Director Jason Mangum said. “We have bikes that are constantly being used even during the hot summer months, but obviously as we get cooler, things will pick up considerably.”

In August, Sugar Land completed the Imperial Connector trail with a 10-foot-wide side path along Brook Street that connects to Imperial Park with trails going into the park for a total distance of 1 mile. The 2013 bond project cost $1.4 million and took about 1 1/2 years to complete, Johnson said.

Elmer said Missouri City has also accomplished a few projects in the last couple of years.

“In the last two years, we’ve completed about $168,000 worth of on-street bike lanes that provide connectivity from City Hall all the way down through various subdivisions, down to [the Missouri City Recreation and Tennis Center], down to our City Centre at Quail Valley, over out to the Oyster Creek Trail, which is also the Edible Arbor Trail.”

Some members of the cycling community say there are a few areas that need safer connectivity.

“Nobody wants to cross Hwy. 59 on Hwy. 6,” said Cynthia McWhorter, an owner of Bike Route bicycle shop in Sugar Land. “That’s still super scary for people.”

Cyclist Chad Starret of Sugar Land agreed.

“Anywhere under [Hwy.] 59 and anytime you have to cross [Hwy. 6] is a little bit tricky, [Hwy.] 90 probably, too,” he said.

Kyle Davenport, the owner of Sugar Cycles bike shop in Missouri City, cited a need for more connectivity, but also said both Sugar Land and Missouri City were receptive to bicyclists’ needs.

He said whenever the cities expand trails, they are put to good use by the cycling community.

“Oh, it’s utilized,” Davenport said. “Anytime there’s extra stuff, it’s just something new to do, recreationally [or] health-wise.”