By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Dallas' new bicycle coordinator, Max Kalhammer, admits he doesn't feel 100 percent comfortable bicycling in Dallas, but no matter what, Kalhammer says, the city will complete an overhaul to the current bike plan under his watch. His focus is on accommodating the majority of cycling commuters. For now, his team is busy reviewing maps of Dallas and figuring out where new bike routes need to be designated. There must be a way to connect the light rail with bike routes, so that people can have a practical alternative transportation system.
The debate and controversy fueled by the clash between Roberts and Summer has given the city real momentum that won't disappear, Kalhammer says. "The possibility of the plan just sitting on the shelf is very remote."
The logistical challenge of designing and implementing safe bicycle lanes is a nightmare. If Dallas designs bike lanes the way Houston did, which is to say painting 2-foot-wide stripes on the sides of busy roads, Hunt says, "I'd be ashamed, and I'd move." She wants to see lanes separated by cement, though she's going to leave the designing to the consultants.
One consulting firm that stands in a good position to land the contract with the city is Alta Planning, the same firm Summer teased on his blog. Mia Burke, the founder, has helped hundreds of cities become more bicycle-friendly. "Step one is to create infrastructure," Burke says. "People will not bike in significant numbers if there are no bicycle lanes."
Burke disagrees with the arguments made by vehicular cyclists. "Bicycles are different than cars. Pedestrians are different from cyclists. How you create a bicycle-friendly community is you create conditions where bicycles truly can be a part of daily life." As to their argument that bike lanes decrease safety, Burke says, "It's a myth."
Either way, Roberts is focused on accommodating the majority of people. And in Dallas, the majority (and this nobody disagrees with) are beginner cyclists.
"I can bike vehicular," Roberts says. But that's not the point. If a planner wants to build for the fastest way from point A to B for a cyclist, perhaps bikeways aren't the solution. "But if I want to create a neighborhood that is vivacious, that has a high livability factor—where you can walk to the shops—it is the way to build."
On a recent Friday afternoon in late November, Dallas' former bike coordinator is getting ready to bicycle to the new public library at Lochwood. Summer's now the senior transportation planner for the city's Department of Sustainable Development and Construction, but he's taken the day off to work from his Lake Highlands home on consulting work for an advertising company that promotes a university in Uganda.
Summer is listening to a New York Philharmonic LP inside his post-modern-style living room adorned by a number of crucifixes on the walls. There are stacks of papers, books and newspapers on every table surface, open couch space, bookshelf and even on the floor. Once outside, Summer takes his bicycle from the garage. He has named the metal-frame, comfortable, commuter-style bike "The Archedbicycle of Canterbury," as the homemade stickers read. The tires of his bike crunch the thick layer of dead leaves hiding his driveway. "I don't rake them until they all fall down," he says, kicking back the kickstand and leaving his home behind.
Summer, although ever the testy blog commenter, is now insisting that he never bothered following commenters on his blog. Suddenly, rather than the arrogant and vitriolic former bicycle coordinator who appears on online media, Summer is just a 59-year-old dad.
He sits up nearly straight as he glides on his bicycle down the hill toward a stop sign. His hefty sides fill out his long-sleeve blue shirt. He's wearing a metal cuff around his right pant leg to keep the fabric from catching in the gear. He jokes about the time his co-workers at City Hall thought the cuff was a GPS tracking device.
But behind the seemingly harmless and friendly account of his behavior throughout this whole mess, he's still a passionate advocate of vehicular cycling. But is he as passionate as Forester, and for the same reason? His undershirt bears the graphic of a vertical, rectangular traffic sign that reads, in big lettering, "Bicycles are Vehicles," and then cites the Texas transportation code.
Approaching the stop sign, he raises his arm to make the official stop signal. He gets off the bike for an instant while waiting for a gap in the traffic. His opportunity arrives, and he kicks back on his bike, chin forward, eyes straight ahead, and pedals to the right hand side of the right lane. But not too far over. He's some 5 feet away from the curb, pointing out the sand and leaves resting in the gutter, where the bike lanes would be, he notes. Cars pass him in the left lane, rather than squeeze by him in the right lane.
"It's not a fight," Summer says. "It's not wrestling. It's a negotiated dance," he says of riding in traffic, quoting the words of a friend and fellow vehicular cyclist.