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The Veloway, Austin

4.4
#46 of 51 in Outdoors in Austin
Outdoor Activity · Hidden Gem
A Brief History of the Veloway

The Veloway has controversial roots.

One of Austin's prized natural features is a spring fed pool known as Barton Springs. Barton Springs is filled year round with almost unbearably cold water and has provided a much needed respite from our brutal summers for thousands of years. The watershed that feeds the aquifer that fills the Springs is a relatively attractive rolling land with small trees and brush.

Only sparsely developed in the early 80's, the land in southwest Austin above the aquifer became the target of development, some chaotic and some well-planned. One of the best planned developments created during the boom years of the 80's was Circle C. The mastermind behind Circle C is Gary Bradley, who is either the devil incarnate or the most forward thinking community creator to ever live in Texas.

Jeff Latimer of Gus' Bike shop in New Hampshire recently emailed this interesting background on the Veloway's founding:

"Back in the 80's I was a real estate broker working for First Austin Properties. I was am also cyclist and today I own a bike shop in New Hampshire. A friend of mine worked for Gary Bradley. She told me that Gary was interested in doing a bicycle project and wondered about building a velodrome on his new development, Circle C Ranch. I think the velodrome came up because another Austin developer (whose name escapes me at the moment) had formed a committee to make a bid for the Pan Am games to be in Austin. Anyway I pulled in Richard DeGarmo, who at that time was the director of the Tour of Texas. He was also president of the United States Cycling Federation, which later became USA Cycling. The Tour of Texas was a week long stage race held every March in Central Texas. Richard was years ahead of his time with the race, this was way before Lance. It brought in all the great teams of the time including 7-11 with Bob Roll, the big Raleigh team and several European junior teams. At that time the Tour was still going on and Circle C became one of the sponsors of the event. The Velodrome actually got some serious consideration, I remember going down to the Houston Velodrome to take a look at the one that had been built there. Richard and Gary thought a Veloway made more sense then the Velodrome as it could be used to hold the criteriums that were part of the Tour. They traditionally had been held on 6th street or on the big loop in Zilker Park. Sadly the Tour came to an end due to lack of sponsorship before a race could be held there, but the Veloway is indeed a jewel."

Circle C incorporated many unique features for its time, including a wonderful swimming facility, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the Veloway. Much to the consternation of the road cyclists of Austin, public money that had been earmarked for creation of urban bike lanes was diverted to help fund Gary Bradley's bike path way out in the middle of nowhere serving his subdivision's residents, who weren't even in the city limits at the time.

Fast-forward 15 years and you'll find the Veloway becoming surrounded by development. The rapid loss of bike friendly roads makes its existence seem most fortunate, even to those who pooh pooh the idea of riding a short 3 mile loop over and over again. A decision was made a while back to allow the rollerbladers to legally use the facility ... they now comprise about half the users. The City of Austin repaved the Veloway in 2004 and finally again in late 2016.

Thus, a combination of optimistic investors, over-reaching developers, political opportunists, and creative visionaries gave the citizens of Austin a great recreational resource that, unfortunately, might outlive our constantly threatened Barton Springs.

For more details and probably some important corrections of folklore, you'll need to do some research, perhaps searching the records of the Austin American Statesman (www.statesman.com) and the Austin Chronicle (www.auschron.com).
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The Veloway reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.0
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TripAdvisor
  • A lovely setting, an impeccable set up for bikers who like to get miles on their odometer plus enjoy peace and quiet. Its mostly deserted and you can go as slow or fast as you like as the slower...  more »
  • I believe this is by far the best place to practice cycling in the US Is a 5 km circuit that lets you take the best out of your training.  more »

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