- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) - Tim Tietjens is a biking buff.

The Galveston County Daily News reports that for several years, he has been a long-distance biker, cycling between 40 miles and 60 miles at a time and relishing in the experience.

Now, as the city of Galveston’s planning and development director, Tietjens is using his love of the sport to form a better bike plan for the island.

Galveston had sort of the bones, so to speak, of a good structural system,” Tietjens said. “This just sort of elevates it to the next level.”

Galveston’s streets are already in a “X/Y grid,” which is ideal for biking, Tietjens said. The east-west streets run parallel to each other, with the north-south streets running almost perfectly perpendicular to those.

“It’s not as much a problem for Galveston as it is in many cities,” he said. “The X/Y grid allows folks to get from point A to point B using 10,000 different ways to get there.”

What the city is lacking is a comprehensive bike plan that will make it safer for people to get around the island, Tietjens said.

The city is now working on a bicycle network, with painted bike lanes going north-to-south across the island, and shared bike lanes going east-to-west. Many of the changes will be implemented as streets undergo major construction, and the plan is expected to be complete in several years, Tietjens said.

Galveston’s Intermodal Transportation Committee is behind many of the planned changes, and Tietjens hopped on to the planning process fast. When Tietjens began working at the city last year, he started attending the committee’s “conspiracy meetings,” jokingly named because of their low public attendance, committee member Jayson Levy said.

“What we’ve seen is real enthusiasm from the city, and Tim is probably the single most enthusiastic,” Levy said. “Tim gets it.”

Tietjens has always biked, but not seriously, he said. When he worked for the city of La Porte, he got more into the sport because the city had an incentive program that allowed him to purchase new equipment.

He has since found that the benefits of biking span wider than just getting exercise, Tietjens said.

“Some just exercise, while others get out and try to make an outdoor adventure out of it,” he said. “When you do that, you really open up the realm of what a city has to offer.

“Not only you get out and interact with all the people out there, but you get to see all the restaurants, you get to see all the imagery and beauty that the island has to offer.”

Tietjens said he hopes that eventually the city can develop a grid that is good enough for “biking tourism,” in which people travel to a particular city specifically to bike around.

“The advantage of living in Southeast Texas is we have really decent weather year round,” Tietjens said. “I could see kind of an industry cluster of bike tourism happening.”

Biking has become a lifestyle for Tietjens, and he said others should be able to enjoy that same feeling.

“I have a biker’s high,” Tietjens said. “When I get on the road, that wind in my face, that sun in my face, it’s pretty much an ideal world for me.”

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Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, https://www.galvnews.com

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