Fresh asphalt, as black as pavement can be, almost still sticky in the summer’s heat, stinking of newly out gassed long chained hydrocarbons, with a riding surface as smooth as glass, bicycling on it felt like butter. On Saturday, we reaped our first rewards for enduring yet another long season of road repair. Our regular bike commute to Forest Park had become a trek through a warzone. Our path to the park was littered with potholes that threatened to grow to the size of foxholes. Parallel trenches lined both sides of the roadway, for eventual placement of new installations, curbs.
Wydown, arguably once the most bike friendly street in Saint Louis had had its bike lane torn up for new water-lines and had been left roughly patched, making this once glorious bicycling boulevard a pain in the ass to ride. Even our passage through the Clayton neighborhood to reach Wydown was more an exercise in off-roading than city street riding, what with long-term road neglect colliding head-on with belatedly addressing road repair. So imagine our surprise when after we had clawed our way through to Wydown, we were greeted with pristine fresh asphalt.
This stretch of new pavement didn’t last long, less than half a mile, but it served as a tangible promise of more to come. The last time I rode Wydown to the park, this now buttery section of roadway had been the worst. The bike lane had been all but obliterated and the interior curb had also been trenched out. This left not enough road width for cars to safely pass me, so they impatiently trailed behind me by mere feet, revving their engines and squealing their brakes. I may have embellished a bit there, but it still felt pretty hairy. But that is now all in the past, just a bad memory, at least for this small section of heaven. The rest of Wydown is still about as I left it, which is to say not great, but at least safely passable.
Our second pleasant surprise of the ride occurred when we reached the park. Part of the bike path had also been replaced with fresh asphalt. Running from the top of Skinker to the History Museum, about a third of the way around the park, was now pretty much all also like butter. The pavement was so creamy that it felt that we were coasting downhill, both ways.
It remains to be seen how much more of the bike path will be rebuilt. I suspect that it will not be much more. About half of the remainder of the outer loop is relatively new construction, so I don’t expect any work to be done there and it appears that the last third of the loop, a third that is also old pathway, has already seen some spot repair work. I suspect that at least for the bike path, what you see now is all that we’ll get, but I could be wrong. The contractor’s construction equipment is still strewn about the park, so there may yet be another phase of work to come.
The work on Wydown and in the neighboring hoods of Clayton is sure to continue. More buttery asphalt is sure to come. It is just a matter of time. I look forward to more steady progress yet to come.