Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Local Changes

Aerial view of the future location of a solar farm (Image courtesy of the Waterloo Courier)
 I have noted a few changes that locally will affect our cycling here. These are probably 'good' changes, but there are changes I want to also touch upon which are bad, in my opinion, and affect cycling in rural areas negatively. But that's just a very personal viewpoint, which I will share briefly in a moment. My bigger point is how we, as a people, tend to misuse and ruin what could be a valuable resource and trade it for a very flawed way of life. But first, the local stuff. 

There was news last week of a new energy project proposed by utility company MidAmerican Energy that would see a new solar farm installation along Burton Avenue and Airline Highway. This is right along a route I use to get out of town to gravel roads. Burton is chip seal at the point past Airline Highway for a little over a mile, then it goes to gravel just North of the intersection with Big Rock Road. (Note: It used to go to gravel just South of Big Rock Road 12 years ago) Anyway, this may impact passage North on that road due to construction, and maybe it will entail an upgrade of that road to better pavement. I don't know that, but you have to figure that with the solar farm that a good access to it might be in the cards. At best I am hoping that this new construction, slated for Sprin 2021, will not affect my routes North. 

As for the solar installation itself, it is claimed that once it is up and running that it will provide enough electricity to run 600 homes. That seems like a good thing, but.....I have no idea what initial costs or maintenance costs might be. 

The other update to the local scene is really taking shape now and should have a fairly radical effect upon how cyclists move from Cedar Falls to Waterloo in the future. Right now, unless you are an intrepid exploratory nutcase, such as myself, getting from Cedar Falls to Waterloo, safely by bicycle, is a bit of a chore and makes for a somewhat tortuous route out of your way through a State Park and another City Park. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it's just not the most efficient route, in terms of time and energy. Now, my combination of alleys, dirt, grassy fields, and some streets is far more efficient and timely. However; it isn't a route I'd recommend to anyone. No......most folks would be ill served by my goofy tracks. 

The old Sergeant Road Trail terminus is gone.
 The new University Avenue project is nearing completion and has, as one of its many features, a bike path all the way down its Southern edge. This will run completely from Cedar Falls to Waterloo, and will make a much straighter shot between the two cities than anything that has come before it for cyclists and pedestrians. (Note- There is a sidewalk on the North edge as well)

Not that this path will be perfect, mind you. I've already seen many future issues this trail will present due, mostly, to a complete lack of any way to deal with water, snow, and ice runoff from the adjacent highway and hills. Mud run off will likely be an issue at points as well. Then there are the many busy intersections cyclists and pedestrians will have to navigate. It will still be a sub-standard route from the terms of design, but it is better than riding on what was University Avenue, that's for sure. 

It is a shame though that the most glaring deficiencies cannot be addressed now since these will end up causing big problems down the road. But yeah..... We will take this and hope for the best here. I may be able to incorporate some of this into my commute in the future. I have been scouting out the possibilities, and so far, things are looking good for me to use at least a tiny portion of this route. (See image with arrows)

Now on to the previously mentioned rural aspects of my thoughts on how we use land. So.... I've noted in my short years on this planet that many folks would like a respite from "The Rat Race". Those folks often times want secluded, rural settings in which to find peace and quiet. I get this. I'm ALL about that part. The thing I wonder is, "Do these people that want to live in rural areas really want "rural" areas? 

See, this is the thing. It progresses from one or two folks building houses on the fringes of a community, or in a beautiful area. Then they complain about dirt, dust, and animal smells. They want their cars to remain 'pristine' and retain their trade-in value. So, you know, gravel and dirt have to be paved. Then the next thing ya know is that cars are zooming down their road at high rates of speed, because they can now, and MORE traffic results in the end. A few more folks end up moving to the edges of town, or out in this little conclave, since, ya know, they paved the roads and all. Then developers see an opportunity for a subdivision, or retail outlets, because these folks are so far out in a rural area, well- they need to sell that seclusion and then make it convenient. 

Next thing ya know this place is indistinguishable from a city.  It finally evolved into exactly what the folks who initially moved out "there" wanted to get away from. We are so stupid this way. And what really chaps my hide is that all the while we gobble up pristine, quiet, beautiful rural areas, we leave our inner cities to rot and decay like an old tree. Looks nice and big from the outside with many lush, beautiful branches, but its growth caused a rotten, hollow core. And you know what happens to trees like that when the winds get strong and the heavy rains come. 

Ah! Well, it all boils down to a short-sighted view of our legacy and money making. That's my opinion, but this is the sort of thing that breaks my heart when I see it on walks in town and on rides in the country. We can do better. We should. 



Phillip Cowan said...

Some cities have green lines in their zoning beyond which urban development is curtailed. I think Seattle is one. I think this is a good idea but it takes a lot of political will. Of course the wealthy developers will start screaming "socialism,socialism". I've watched a lot of beautiful farmland gobbled up by plastic McMansions in my area (far west Chicago burbs).

TheLazyReconnoiter said...

I used to live in on a big lot in the ‘burbs. Now I live in a little apartment in the city. With my big lot in the ‘burbs everyone drove big cars and trucks at high speeds, everyone had every gas powered yard thing known to man, and half my neighbors had motor boats. With all those engines running it was actually quite a noisy and busy place. With my little apartment in the city there are small cars going at low speeds, no gas powered yard toys unless the snow blowing company is around, and half my neighbors don’t even own cars. It ends up being much more peaceful and quieter in the city.

Guitar Ted said...

@TheLazyReconnoiter- Thanks for the great perspective. If we could get away from thinking all the “toys” would make us happy that had motors, or were digital, or otherwise, maybe we could divorce ourselves from car culture and find a more peaceful place.