This weekend my friend Andy and I rode our bicycles on the Katy Trail from Columbia to St. Peters, Missouri. We guessed we rode maybe 150 miles in two days. After camping one night above the banks of the Missouri River we lodged a second night at my aunt's house in St. Peters before driving a rented SUV to see the Cardinals beat the Royals then home in a storm with our trusted bicycles stashed safely in the back.
As a bicycle commuter I mostly ride city streets to get to work, shops, friends' houses and ice cream parlors. Columbia's spur of the Katy Trail - the MKT Trail as it is known locally - is something I use for runs. Those spotted bicycling on the MKT seem to me to be mostly be recreational riders. A few commuters make their way to work but I largely see people riding slowly enjoying the safety of a car-free trail experience.
In the effort to get non-bike-commuters choosing two-wheelers over cars there exists tremendous potential to get those weekend recreational riders out onto the streets and trails bike commuting to first shorter then lengthier destinations. The rationale here is that if recreational riders will enjoy the trail on the weekend for fun they are more inclined with a little encouragement to ride weekdays to work and such. When I meet recreational riders on the MKT Trail I speak encouraging words to them offering tips on commuting gear and routes. Maybe I make a convert and win a toaster over for my efforts.
With this in mind I tend to judge the Katy Trail as a destination for weekend warriors not willing to make the leap to become a daily bicycle commuter. It's not that I dislike the Katy Trail rather I see it as a place for the not-so-serious riders to play. After a few hours at the winery or checking out the Bur Oak they ride back to their cars, set the bike on the rack and drive home content not to think about bikes again until the next time a recreational ride presents itself. Thus, I harbor mixed feelings for the Katy and MKT Trails. Yes, they are both great assets that give the occasional recreational rider a place to ride yet no commit to commute. I know these same weekend trail riders remain the most likely to consider commuting.
This weekend's ride to the St. Louis area restored my appreciation for the Katy Trail. We saw a few day riders. We also saw turtles and snakes, deer and the Big Muddy. For much of of its course between Columbia and St. Charles the Katy Trail rests in the Missouri River's riparian zone. Critters a-plenty call it home and we are blessed to be able to ride through that zone and be part of nature. It only took a couple of days to restore my deep appreciation for this marvelous asset. Waking up last Friday to river birds singing and the Missouri River rippling on by helped a lot.
And the trail remains a destination for people not yet comfortable (or maybe never comfortable) commuting via their two-wheelers on city streets. And that is just fine for me and for them. We can share the resource whether it is the pinnacle of our bike riding career or merely a diversion.
See you in the Streets (and maybe even on the trail),