Wednesday, September 24, 2014

There and Back Again - The Katy Trail

The Katy Trail, located in northeast Oklahoma City, is a hidden gem. Measuring just under 7.5 miles in length, it's an out-and-back type of trail that follows NE 4th Street and then an abandoned train track north toward the Adventure District, eventually ending at a trailhead around NE 50th Street.


On Sunday, we decided to take our bikes and check it out for ourselves. This was a convenient way for us to take Elizabeth's new road bike out for a spin, and also to see a part of the city that we hadn't seen yet.

Bridge over NE 10th Street
We’re going to list some of our likes, dislikes, and observations about the Katy Trail.

Likes:

1. Now,  if there is one thing that has struck us about OKC, it's that we've never been to a flatter place in our lives. Not so on the Katy Trail, and when you’re on a bicycle, you become keenly aware of the topography.  For the most part, this trail is flat, but there are several long, uphill portions. What we like is that the climbs are evenly spread; that is, that neither direction is hillier than the other. It's a challenge both ways!

2. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the Katy Trail leads to quite a few attractions. Some of them, we already knew about, like the Zoo, the Zoo Amphitheatre, the Science Museum, and Remington Park, but we discovered several other entertainment destinations on this ride. We rode by the Firefighter Museum, with its enormous and alarming statue, and the Oklahoma Railway Museum, which boasts a collection of vintage train engines, cars, and cabooses ("this is special!"), neither of which we had any idea existed until then. The trail winds through two golf courses, and passes by a perfect picnic spot!

Huge statue outside of the Firefighter Museum

3. Another unexpected feature of the Katy Trail is how pretty it is. While some sections of the trail are simply multi-use sidewalks by roads, other segments carve through lush woods and fields dusted with wildflowers. In some areas, we were surrounded by nature and able to experience some quiet, even in the midst of the city. In some other areas, however... well, that takes us to our first dislike.

An especially scenic portion of the trail
Dislike:

1. Nothing disturbs the peacefulness of a bike ride through the woods quite like the neverending roaring racket of the interstate. On a significant portion of the trail, the path flanks interstate 35, one of the most-traveled highways in the region. This shatters the ambiance and has the potential to be somewhat dangerous as people of all ages breathe in the air pollutants and particulate matter emanating from the interstate like Pigpen’s dirt cloud on Peanuts. Maybe it would be a good idea to plant some more trees along the roadway as a visual, aural, and air quality buffer.

2. The section along NE 4th Street is not only just a five-foot wide sidewalk, it's poorly maintained, and cars are parked across it in places. This doesn't make for a very safe or enjoyable ride, when you're having to dodge bus stops, broken glass, parked vehicles, and knobby plants that have grown through the sidewalk cracks. If this segment were designed as a 10-foot wide multi-use path, like the portion up by the Zoo, it would be a great improvement. No matter how wide you build it, if you’re not keeping it up, then your riders won’t be satisfied.

Of course, by all means, go ahead and park there. In the middle of the trail.

3. Crossing Lincoln is a nightmare. This isn't actually part of the Katy Trail, but for us, it's on the way to the trailhead. The intersection is no less than seven lanes across, with a traffic light that not only lasts barely enough time to cross at full speed on a bicycle, but does not recognize cyclists waiting for the light to change. There are actually “bike route" signs on either side of this intersection on NE 4th, so this is almost embarrassingly bad. Another easy fix; guess we’ll call the Action Center.

Observations:

1. It's good to see a nice amenity in a part of the city which tends to be underserved, though we only ran into one other person on our entire 15-mile trip on the trail. How can we engage more people who live in the proximity?

This beautiful tree caught our eye.
2. There's a great opportunity for the Katy Trail to continue on Grand Boulevard through Nichols Hills to connect with the Hefner Trail. Additionally, with an extension through Bricktown to connect to the River Trails, as well as the project underway to connect Lake Overholser to the River Trails, a large city-wide loop would be completed.

The turnaround - now we get to ride alllll the way back!

Overall, we enjoyed our ride and plan to do it regularly. Now that autumn has begun, the trees are bound to be beautiful. We even had the idea to organize a group ride to a concert at the Zoo Amphitheatre sometime! If you're cyclist in OKC, you definitely need to try out the Katy Trail if you haven’t already.

Make sure to catch our next segment on KOSU 91.7 FM tomorrow morning (Thursday 9/25) at 7:35am! Follow us on Twitter at @CarlessInOKC for reminders to tune in. Make sure to tweet and tell us what you think!


7 comments:

  1. I love your review. It is a cool trail. You might want to update this sentence though, "On a significant portion of the trail, the path flanks interstate 235, one of the most-traveled highways in the region," as the map you provide in the post shows the trail running alongside I-35. Overall a great blog.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for pointing out that mistake! Oops. :)

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  2. I take this trail on my way to work every morning as I live in Forest Park. It really is a nice trail. I suggest you get off the trail on NE 4th west of MLK however, as I believe that is just a sidewalk and not actually a bike path. It's pretty hellacious trying to weave around everything and cross all those streets west of there, so why bother?

    I've similar complaints about intersections in the area. I sent a somewhat huffy email to the city traffic planner a few months ago and never heard back. Who do I contact to make my displeasure known, anyway?

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  3. Thanks for sharing this trail! Recently started walking trails with my 8 year old daughter and am looking for fun trails to enjoy with her. This looks like a great one with many attractions along the way. Looking forward to more reviews!

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  5. I live near the trail and plan on riding tomorrow, the pictures were great and helped me really get a good idea of what tomorrow will bring. Why are yall carless?

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