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Friday, May 10, 2013

Ode to the Veloway

by Kat Hunter

Austinites prefer a little green space with their urban jungle. Like the greenbelts that crisscross town, the Veloway is a unique venue that highlights the city’s love for physical activity and the outdoors. Approximately 3.1 miles long and 23 feet wide, the paved one-way track is a free and public-use facility completely closed to vehicular and foot traffic, designed expressly for the use of cyclists and rollerbladers.    

The Veloway is surrounded by undeveloped land with small trees and brush, and in season, offers brightly colored fields of bluebonnets, Indian blanket, and other native wildflowers.  Squirrels, roadrunners, and deer are common sights, as well as the occasional rattlesnake and tarantula. The track is designed in a large loop, with several hairpin turns and rises, and is divided by a center stripe into two wide lanes, the left of which is meant to be the “fast” lane.  Traffic travels in a clockwise direction, and beyond the sound of a noisy free-hub or poorly maintained chain coming up behind you, there’s no road noise.

The Veloway is, above all, a safe place to ride your bike. As a pleasant change of pace from pickup trucks and suburbans, indecisive squirrels are a rider’s biggest threat. And though the course isn't completely flat and “easy,” it’s a good place to bring an inexperienced or novice rider who isn't comfortable riding in traffic or navigating around obstacles.  On the weekends when the weather is favorable, the Veloway is full of recreational riders and parents coaxing their kids around the loop. During the week or on particularly cold or rainy days when the crowds are gone, the Veloway is excellent for faster training, with the added bonus of building good cornering skills. It’s also a venue where, along with roller skates and inline skates, virtually any species of bike is welcome and safe—unicycles, tri bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, recumbents, and even stranger inventions.

The Veloway does have its drawbacks. For one, it’s located too far south for many cyclists, adjacent to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center at the intersection of South Mopac and La Crosse Avenue.  Some weekends it’s closed to the public to host private events (check the schedule here). Cracks are widening in the pavement, and the track floods in spots after heavy rains. The only facilities are two porta potties typically in an extreme state of overuse. On that note, you can sign a petition for Veloway improvements here.

Overall, however, the Veloway is an undervalued space that offers a truly special opportunity to ride. As a person who loves to be outside and trusts her handling skills but not area motorists, I give the Veloway full credit for saving my sanity over the past nine months. My son will have logged approximately 85 hours of Veloway time by the time he’s born at the end of May. Many thanks to the city and the volunteers who keep this incredible space up and running, aiding the current crop of cyclists and building a future one. 

Veloway Rules

  • Only bikes & rollerblades allowed.
  • One way, clockwise travel.
  • Closes at dusk. No night riding.
  • Helmets required.
  • No removing or disturbing flora and fauna.
  • The left lane is for passing. – Just like when you’re driving a car on the freeway, stay in the right lane unless you’re passing. And just like on the freeway, expect that some people will remain oblivious in this respect to common sense and Veloway signage.

Veloway Common Sense Etiquette

  • Pass on the left.
  • Allow lots of space when passing. – There are many new riders at the Veloway, including young children. Don’t assume that other riders are as experienced or as comfortable with proximity as you are. And don’t assume that they’re going to take a predictable line on a turn—if in doubt, wait to pass.
  • Leave your headphones at home. –  Even though there are no cars on the Veloway, you put yourself and others in danger when you’re not aware of your surroundings. 
  • If you’re going to “race,” make sure the other person wants to. Don’t assume another rider wants to be drafted or wants to draft you. – Nothing is more annoying than yo-yoing back and forth with a wannabe speed racer when you just want to be left alone to do a steady workout.    

How to Get There


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Take Mopac South to La Crosse. Turn left on La Crosse. Park on the street or in the dirt parking lot to the left. The Veloway is clearly marked.

There are also some unofficial dirt paths to the veloway behind Bowie High School (avoid this route during school hours) and neighborhoods off of Brodie Ln. These are visible on Google Maps. 





1 comment:

  1. I lived in Austin back in 2000, and used to go to the Veloway. It was awesome for rollerblading! I have been looking for a place like it ever since. It warms my heart to know that it is still operating. Thanks for writing this!

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