WOW Coalition expands bicycle infrastructure in Hidalgo County
Hidalgo County residents now have more places to ride their bicycles, thanks to expansions in bicycle infrastructure, including hike-and-bike trails and the creation of bike-friendly programs, designed to combat the region’s above-average rankings in adult obesity and poor health.
“About one in three residents of Hidalgo County are obese,” said Evelia Castillo, MPH, CHWI, program coordinator of the Working on Wellness (WOW) project. “Expanding safe spaces for physical activity can help support active living in Weslaco and facilitate healthy lifestyles for residents, decreasing obesity and its associated chronic health complications.”
A component of Texas A&M Healthy South Texas—a novel public health program that combines the clinical expertise of the Texas A&M University Health Science Center with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s statewide reach—the WOW Weslaco Coalition focuses on promoting the well-being of Hidalgo and Starr county residents by increasing access to healthy foods and places to be physically active.
The Texas A&M Health Science Center, the WOW Weslaco Coalition, the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization, community partners and local officials worked together to establish the Bike Friendly Business Program in Weslaco, Texas and surrounding areas in Hidalgo County. This program encourages local businesses to promote physical activity through bicycle riding by offering bike racks and a designation as a bicycle-friendly company on the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s bicycle map. These businesses offer access to water fill stations, restrooms, bike repair kits and special discounts to cyclists. Currently, there are more than 50 bike-friendly businesses, including 10 in Weslaco.
Because cyclists who ride on roadways risk serious injuries if involved in a collision with a motor vehicle, promoting bicycle safety is a major focus of the WOW Weslaco Coalition.
“Safe usage of the bicycle lanes is a priority for the coalition,” said Castillo. “As such, the Weslaco Bikearoos was formed to promote a safe, bikeable community.” This Weslaco Bikearoos program supports active lifestyles and cycling safety by hosting group rides where use of helmets and lights on the front and rear of the bike are required.
“For cyclists, it is important to have a safe place to ride but also to have a community aware of bicycle safety and sharing the road with cyclists.” said Eudy Carrillo, founder of the Weslaco Bikearoos and member of the WOW Weslaco Coalition.
After the City of Weslaco adopted the Weslaco Master Trails Plan, an additional 5.5 miles of bike lanes were installed on area roads. Five miles were installed in 2016. After the plan was adopted, another half-mile was stripped in 2018.
Residents can also take advantage of the Bike Rodeo Program, a free bicycle safety program that gives free helmets to those who complete safety training.
“We’re excited about the changes we’ve seen in the community and are looking forward to continuing our partnerships for future transformative changes that will support active living for residents in Weslaco and across Hidalgo County,” said Castillo.