My childhood bicycle path led nowhere. I was permitted to ride my purple banana seat around our driveway and, once I got their permission, the Muñoz’s driveway next door.
I rode around and around again in a soul-killing loop until I’d memorized every oil stain and divot in the concrete.
The one time I broke the rules and rode up the street to Delaware — the nearest cross street and exotic because it had an actual name instead of a number — my sister’s friend Therese spotted me from her backyard and ratted on me.
Had I had a safer place to practice, I might have had the confidence to ride on real streets before I moved to the bicycle-friendly community of Missoula, Mont., in my 20s for graduate school.
Kids and adults alike can find just such a safe place in Lawrence along the Burroughs Creek Trail, the crown jewel in Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department’s network of bicycle trails. It runs from 11th Street to 23rd Street on an abandoned rail corridor west of Haskell Avenue.
At 10 feet wide, it’s 1.7 miles of paved heaven. Signals allow users to stop traffic and cross at 15th and 19th streets.
Not only it is a great place for bicycling, it’s also perfect for walking the dog, jogging, bird-watching or just getting from South Lawrence to downtown and back again.
In fact, Breezedale neighborhood resident Laurie Ward says the path has become her “superhighway.” Several times a week, she makes a stress- and carbon-free bicycle trip downtown for shopping, dining or meetings.
Named after east Lawrence’s most famous resident, writer William S. Burroughs, the trail was long a dream of people in east Lawrence. Parks and Recreation staff worked with east Lawrence, Brook Creek, the Woods on 19th Street and Barker neighborhood associations to develop the trail alongside the drainage corridor on either side of Burroughs Creek.
Since the trail officially opened in 2010, the Kaw Valley Bluebird Association has installed bluebird boxes, and Boy Scouts have planted hundreds of trees and shrubs at the trail’s edge, which should make the area an even more attractive habitat for songbirds and small mammals as they mature.
If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy the smell of hops from Free State Brewery’s plant in east Lawrence on a cold winter day.
Your trip doesn’t have to end at 23rd Street because the trail connects to the Haskell Rail Trail, another Lawrence Parks and Recreation property and the first operational rail trail in Kansas. This trail runs through the woods at the east edge of the Haskell campus on 23rd Street and ends at 29th Street.
Though Burroughs Creek Trail is a short bike ride from downtown, users can park their cars at the north end of Hobbs Park, 11th and Delaware streets.
Self-propelled dreamers like me hope that one day the trail will run from 11th to the Kaw River.