Last month, I had the pleasure of joining trail advocate and Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis for a Saturday bike ride along San Francisco’s historic Embarcadero port area. As we road along the waterfront, Sen. Ellis and I shared ideas as well as success stories from our respective regions in hopes that we might help each other to spur innovations in active transportation, health and community revitalization.
Sen. Ellis has led trail development in Texas for more than a decade. His most recent bill secured $150 million in bonds to help Houston develop 135 miles of connected trails. In addition to supporting trail legislation, he makes walking and biking a regular part of his daily life. For example, when he isn’t traveling, he leads regular community bike rides with Bike Texas, an Austin-based bicycle advocacy nonprofit. The senator believes that the health benefits of active transportation have helped him stay fit and manage stress.
Sen. Ellis is passionate about increasing diversity in the Texas biking community. During our conversation, we discussed RTC’s Urban Pathways Initiative and the ways in which it supports active corridors and neighborhood trails in both high-density and high-diversity areas. The senator was also interested in hearing about the diverse cycling collective founded in Oakland and also hailing in Chicago, New York and Atlanta called Red Bike & Green, which engages African American cyclists.
“My message is simple,” states Sen. Ellis. “If you want to build more hike and bike trails, and more infrastructure for cycling in urban areas and in South Texas, then you will need to appeal to the voters who live in those communities, and many of them happen to be Hispanic and African American.”