23 March, 2007

The Longleaf Trace

I rode my bicycle to work this morning. I do this frequently now that my health is better. The fair weather makes it quite pleasant. I ride about three miles, most of it on a bike trail called The Longleaf Trace. This used to be a railroad, but the state converted it to a trail for bicycles, pedestrians, joggers, and the like.

One of the reasons I liked the house that we bought was that it was reasonably close to the Longleaf Trace. I do have to ride a half mile to the trail, but it's through light traffic that travels at 35mph (when it isn't backed up a quarter mile, or more, by a four-way stop sign). Once I'm on the trail, it's smooth sailing. This is the nicest commute I've ever had! Some photos:

Especially now, flowers are blooming, and their fragrance fills the nose. The above photo shows some wisteria.

The trail goes under a number of roads. I'm told that before hurricane Katrina, Hattiesburg had no traffic worth mentioning. Now the traffic has exploded, along with the local economy. I consider Hardy Street, the main thoroughfare, more or less undriveable during rush hour. West Fourth Street is alright, even when traffic backs up at the four-way stop I mentioned above. The trail runs parallel to those two. Traffic doesn't look bad on the road pictured here, but I'm glad I don't have to cross it.

A recent fund-raising drive managed to secure enough donations to erect lampposts along part of the trail. I've ridden the trail after sunset before these came, and in some parts the only light was from the lamp on my handlebars! Spooky! These lamps will be a welcome addition. This part of the trail now has better lighting than most local roads. :-)

Another nice area. The trail is full of these, and this is only the easternmost two miles of the trail. The Longleaf Trace is about forty miles long in all. I've only traveled about a fifth of that distance.

Here you can see the easternmost entrance to the trail (exit, when I travel to work): the gateway at Southern Miss.

If you care about the environment, I would strongly encourage you to find ways to ride your bicycle to work, to school, or whatever. I find that I'm happier and healthier when I do it. It certainly helps keep my weight at a level that isn't too embarassing.

It's easy to talk a good game, but in my experience the people who are noisiest about the evils of energy production are the same ones who live in the large (often uninsulated) houses and drive the large, inefficient vehicles that consume so much energy. I don't know whether humans can do anything about global warming, and I strongly suspect we cannot. My approach has for a long time been more or less the one advocated in this essay by Steven Riddle at Flos Carmeli.

It turns out that, by choosing a house where I did, and commuting the way I do, I feel much happier and healthier than if I sat in my car cursing the traffic on Hardy Street (or on West Fourth Street). It's likely that we'd all be a lot happier if we stopped crying to the federal government to sink more and more money into interstate bypasses and sought from our local governments instead an infrastructure conducive to pedestrians, bicycles, and sensible mass transit (as opposed to the usual suspects).

Maybe I'm wrong. But I'm not so sure. By trying to conform my lifestyle to what I think is the right thing, instead of insisting that government should solve my problems, I'm saving a fair amount of money on gas. Note that the local price of gasoline has increased 20% over the last month or so, from ~$2 to ~$2.40.

1 comment:

Clemens said...

I envy you. I used to be able to bike to school when I lived in St Paul - right up the Mississippi bluffs on Riverroad.

Now it is impossible to bike to work - 35 miles each way most of it up a mountain. But then, when I lived in town, three miles from the school, the traffic was so dangerous and the roads so hostile to bikers that I took a bus or drove.

Enjoy the biking!