Where do those new bike paths go?
by Mike Mossing
Phase 1 of the Oxford Pathways Network is almost done. Only a few signs, some striping and a small gap in the path through the Sterling Terrace property remain to be completed.
Mixed Use Paths
The centerpiece of phase 1 are two segments of the former Mississippi Central Railroad that have been transformed into mixed use bicycle and pedestrian trails. The northern segment stretches from Molly Barr to the Oxford Depot. This stretch, tentatively named the Oxford Depot Trail, is paved, 10 ft wide, and striped just like a roadway. A new bike and pedestrian bridge over Jackson Avenue brings you into the "platform" area of the Depot.
The southern Rail/Trail segment we are calling the Thacker Mountain Trail, in hopes that someday we can extend it through to Thacker Mountain Road, up to the fire tower, and out to Old Taylor Road. The Thacker Mountain Trail is about 20 feet wide and has a natural surface. The stoney "ballast" originally laid down as a base for the rail line in the 1850s has stood the test of time. You might see the University Cross Country Team out running under the shade of the hardwood canopy, or members of the Oxford Cycling Club on their way to ride the more challenging mountain bike trails that branch of from the railbed.
Bikelanes and Sidewalks
Connecting the two rail/trails are a series of bikelanes, sidewalks and University roadways. Bikelanes on Gertrude Ford Parkway connect through the roundabout to Old Taylor Road. For now bicyclists will have to be careful merging with motorists on the Old Taylor bridge over MS-6 (this problem will go away within the year as new biking and walking lanes are added on either side of the OTR bridge). Bike lanes south to the light at Whirlpool drive and beyond to Kitchenaid Drive (the "old" whirlpool entrance) provide access to a new paved pathway to the Thacker Mountain Trail.
An alternative to the Old Taylor Bridge over MS-6 is to take a detour from the G. Ford Parkway bikelanes behind the UM stadium and between Indoor Practice Facility and Track to Manning Way, Hill Drive and across the Coliseum Drive bridge. Although not all of these roads have bike lanes, speed limits on campus are 18 mph, and traffic on Coliseum Drive is less than Old Taylor.
Parking and Acess
If it is inconvenient to ride or walk from home to the trails Parking lots are available at the OPC complex on Price Street, Stone Park or the Oxford Middle School at Washington Ave, The Depot/Ford Center Lot and the MDOT lot at OTR and MS-6. A few spots on the shoulder of the road are available on Coliseum Drive andd on Kitchenaide Drive (Need to check on these!)
A second phase of construction is planned to begin this spring. Phase 2 will provide bike lanes across MS-6 as stated above, along College Hill Road and North Lamar among others to provide a core 7 mile loop around town as well as a variety of extensions to schools, parks and neighborhoods. More information about present pathways and future plans is available online at loupathways.org.