Against a national backdrop of High Lines, BeltLines and river revitalizations, Houston’s new Bayou Greenways project could be the city-connecting bike-ped public works re-imagination to end all city-connecting bike-ped — you get the point.
Hyperbole aside, the Bayou Greenways is a captivating idea. As its name suggests, the $480 million effort centers on the city’s bayous, which, left to their own devices, would slither under freeways, meander around buildings and sometimes, depending on the tide, perform magical feats like carrying water uphill.
Mirroring its cousin-in-sprawl Los Angeles, however, Houston spent years (and dollars) paving and straightening its waterways, steadily transforming many into utilitarian ditches.
With Phase One opening in October, the Greenways hopes to reclaim about 4,000 acres of that channelized space, turning the land around Houston’s bayous into public parks and roughly 300 miles of continuous hiking trails and bike paths. But the vision doesn’t end there. According to the Bayou Greenways website, it will eventually sync up the entire city via non-car transport.
“We may have a sprawling city, but the sprawl of our city is powerfully matched by the sprawl of our waterways,” an intro reads. “Our bayous cut through every neighborhood in Houston — they connect them all.”