Bicycle Advocates Win a Game of Chicken

City Hall turns back on fudged numbers for bike lanes.

City Hall starts off last week giving one of its typical bureaucratic blow-offs to plans for bike lanes throughout the city. At a briefing before a city council committee, staff experts tell the council members that bike lanes would be hugely expensive. Sorta can't be done. Big legal headache. Maybe just forget about it.

By the end of the week — barely days later — City Hall is already backing down. Now they're saying it can be done and, by God, they're gonna do it. Maybe.

Hey, that may not sound like major action to you, and I'm not calling it an earthquake, but it's definitely a tremor. It's a very interesting tremor.

Jen Sorensen

The bike plan now is the emblematic, frontline, eyeball-to-eyeball standoff between the old Big-Hair Tail-Fins Dallas and the new Gen X Thirtysomething Back-to-the-City Dallas.

Don't look now, but Big-Hair just blinked.

It's a blink demonstrating something very exciting. It means this city is getting smarter. It will be cooler. Dallas will become a much better place to live, and this is all about how it's happening.

Dallas now is almost alone among major American cities for having zero miles of marked bike lanes. Last June, the council unanimously adopted a plan calling for 840 miles of bike lanes all over the city, but last week a top city official told the council committee that painting bike lanes on city streets would cost $16 million, would take many years and involve endless public hearings and neighborhood battles.

Theresa O'Donnell, director of the Department of Helping Developers (not its real name) told the council's Quality of Life Committee (its real name) that City Hall has no money to pay for the plan. In so saying she sort of made fun of them all.

"There was not funding identified [when the plan was adopted six months ago]," she said. "It was not a fiscally constrained plan."

So it was what? A fiscally just-flopping-around-out-there-loose plan? That's kind of what she said. "This was the ideal plan," she said. "This was my daughter's Santa Claus list."

Oh, ouch! That's kind of like telling the committee to grow up. But, listen, the PowerPoint presentation she gave them was an even worse beat-down.

The committee had been especially interested in bike lanes for Fort Worth Avenue in Oak Cliff, particularly the end of the street nearest the river, because a lot of hip new-urban redevelopment is happening there. If we're tearing up Fort Worth Avenue, rebuilding and restriping it anyway, why not paint on some bike lanes?

According to O'Donnell's PowerPoint, painting bike lanes on that 1.29-mile stretch of Fort Worth Avenue would cost $32,000. But then, because of various legal issues involving the city's thoroughfare plan, you'd have to scrape all of that off 180 days later and repaint. Really. The scraping off and repainting would cost another $30,000.

Then you'd have to hold a series of public hearings and legal reviews to see if you could paint the bike lanes back on again permanently. Really. Unsure how much the hearings would cost, but not free.

Then, if the hearings went OK, you could paint the bike lane stuff back on for another $32,000, but it might be more, because of course you'd have to pay to scrape off the other new paint you just put on, really.

The PowerPoint said you'd have to redo the bike stripes every four years at a cost of $29,000, and you might have to do special sweeping and maintenance on an ongoing basis.

So anyway, you'd be up around $100,000 right off the bat, more money not too much later and who knows how many years it would take to get it all done? And who knows what outcome you would find yourself stuck with after opening the whole thing up to neighborhood politics on a block-by-block basis? Seems less like a bike plan than a communist plot to give the city a nervous breakdown.

I did a little quick jotting. According to the Fort Worth Avenue scenario painted by O'Donnell, the total tab for 840 miles would come out somewhere between $65 million and a kabillion dollars, and the plan wouldn't be completed until after our planet has been invaded by alien life-forms who need our hair and toenail clippings to power their starships, so who needs a bike plan then anyway?

Wow. That's just terrible! Terrible! No wonder there are no bike lanes anywhere in America! No wonder no one has ever even heard of a bike lane in America! Oh, wait! That's not true, is it?

New York City has doubled its bike lanes to 400 miles in the last five years. Boulder, Colorado, has rendered 95 percent of the streets in the whole city "bike-friendly." Chicago has 12,000 public bike racks and 141 miles of bike lanes.

Are they all just fools? Are they spending themselves into the grave? I got on the horn and called some of these bizzaro places that have bike lanes and asked them: Are you just a bunch of lunatics? What is it costing you to put in all these zany bike lanes, and don't you have to hold endless public hearings ad nauseum until the alien life-forms come to harvest your toenails for their starships?

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32 comments
Jessica
Jessica

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primi_timpano
primi_timpano

"And there's the usual problem: Just by looking at the words, it's impossible to figure out what it really means."

Frustratingly true words of wisdom. Thx.

Jessica
Jessica

I am a 26 years old girl, down to earth and cute but still single ... I wanna find my lover who can give me a real love,so I joined in the seekcasual.COM,it's the best club for man and woman finding their intimate encounters. Well, you do not have to be lonely , you can meet the Mr. or Miss. Right there.

Jessica
Jessica

I am a 26 years old girl, down to earth and cute but still single ... I wanna find my lover who can give me a real love,so I joined in the seekcasual.COM,it's the best club for man and woman finding their intimate encounters. Well, you do not have to be lonely , you can meet the Mr. or Miss. Right there.

Liberame ya
Liberame ya

as a dallas driver, i hate pedestrians... as a pedestrian, i hate drivers... but regardless of whether i am driving or walking, I hate cyclists... why in the name of fudge do these smug idiots have to buch up and clock lanes during rush hour in plano?!?!?! and for crying out loud... lycra is a privilege, not a right!!!

Richard Wharton
Richard Wharton

The no-paint approach with proper, decade-long, consistent education, in conjunction with promotion from all corners, including LBS' and BF groups (which they've actively denigrated and not promoted), is going to be FAR more effective, will impact potentially more cyclists, and will still cost a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the amount spent on paint or signs. Jim, for such a smart journalist, you really haven't investigated both sides. You contacted guys from Arizona and Austin, but not Dallas? DO YOU RIDE IN THIS CITY? Ride from your house to work once, and it's a stunt. Ride for a week, and it's an adventure. Ride for a month, and it's.... mundane. You've just eliminated your need for a bike lane, but it's been installed at public expense.

You're wrong on the costs. It DOES cost money, to PROPERLY install, engineer, and maintain. Look at the fountains in Fair Park. No one budgeted their maintenance when they were renovated. Hmmmmmm. Where does debris go on roads? Hmmmm. Where are you going to put a bike lane on a street with parallel parking? Hmmm. If you engineer changes to these roads, well, that costs MONEY. Don't look at this as a 'cool' vs 'uncool' thing. We'll never be Portland. You or one of your predecessors wrote the story on the history of the Trinity and the attempt to turn it in to the Texas version of the Mississippi or Arkansas or Missouri Rivers, with barges and locks. Dallas doesn't have a port like Portland, it's not situated in a moderate climate, the downtown U.... isn't, and Texans don't like high taxes. Portland's facing out-migration and Oregon is suffering de-population (most blue states are), and their bike plan will cost $640m if fully implemented. This $16m is a drop in the bucket. DO YOUR WORK AND RESEARCH THIS. You're the only guy in town who gets an audience with a skeptical eye. Ignore the hipsters and squint.

Educate the population (of cyclists), and Encourage people to ride and follow the law. Enforce the law, but reward good behavior. THEN look at Evaluation of success and Engineering. Don't just jump to the head of the Engineering line. This is not a situation where, if you build it, they will come. Have handicapped people come out of the woodwork just to use sloping corners on sidewalks? NO! They call DART and get the limo to pick them up! It's the same thing with these bike lanes. Just because people have been conditioned to fear cycling on the road, doesn't mean that it can't be done, routinely and safely, without segregated pathways. Comfort is a condition, not a visible entity.

Come learn how to ride your bike, in traffic, sans intervention. www.cyclingsavvydfw.com

It really will open your mind. I just hope you'll write your thoughts and opinions afterward. No interns this time, okay?

Richard Wharton
Richard Wharton

The cyclist's domain IS the road. First come, first served. Control the lane you're in, and you have a nice, big, fat 9-14' wide lane that doesn't require sharing. It's where you ride that determines whether you'll get buzzed or not. That costs nothing.

It's shameful that Schutze and Wilonsky won't take advantage of the cyclist education programs around here, and instead are jumping for government intervention on roads that can accommodate cyclists as-is, without segregated lanes or spaces. Have you seen where the debris goes on most roads? Right where the bike lane will be. Enjoy it, because you'll be segregated there, and then you'll either end up on the sidewalk, or you won't ride. There's a cost to all of this. The bureaucrats are lying, and DO is promoting the lie, whereas they saw through the lie on the bridges and the Trinity. I find it amazing that DO continues to promote this plan, for 'cool' factor, when they belittle the bridges and toll road because of cost. A lie is a lie, no matter what the cost to joe taxpayer.

Come learn how to ride your bike without bike lanes, and watch what doesn't happen. www.cyclingsavvydfw.com.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Millions of dollars for that new bridge.... Any bicycle lanes marked on it yet????

I prefer bike lanes, because then the bikers can go single file, not grouped together, taking some streets down to one lane, and making motorists get stupid in revenge.

However, man, pot holes.!!! Along Samuell Blvd, or Ferguson, or such? THAT would cost money, but okay. Anything to make cycling safer in Dallas is a worthy investment.

To think, this city thought it could host the Olympics!!! Ha, ha, ha!! You cannot be "world-class' until you start thinking and ACTING like world-class!!!

Subnx
Subnx

The scary part of the article is where Jim say that Dallas will be smarter and cooler. The other disturbing part is where he seems to think that making it worse for cars is a good thing. I work downtown and live in North Dallas. I love my vehicles. I do not want to live in a box downtown and I don't appreciate it if people who weren't able to find employment in New York try to make Dallas like New York. I don't want a vibrant downtown. I want a place to go to work and then retreat to my leafy abode where I can fire up my Yukon XL and go to SAM's or Costco and bring the goodies to my front door. Bikes are for recreation and should not get in the way of people going to work and school and the myriad if other place that the motor vehicle enables people to go. If you want to live in a box downtown and ride a bike that's just fine but don't mess with my vehicle and the road to drive it on and a place to park it. I'll match cool and smart with you any day even if you do have some kind of New York superiority complex.

db
db

It's much safer staying in the middle of lane. Cars come much too close when you move to side.

andrew
andrew

...meanwhile another billion dollar automobile interchange opens at bush/dal n tollroad. (soon to be followed by 183 walton walker billion, and by billion dollar dfw airport north project) Why do we invest like this?!

guest
guest

So that's where all those autos are going, to and fro, makes sense.

Arlington Citizen
Arlington Citizen

This is heartening to hear. Only this past year did Arlington's thoroughfare plan get updated to include bike lanes, and you would not believe the sobbing from the caneshakers and (oddly enough) realtors about it.

James Donohue
James Donohue

Everyone should just stay cool. There are a few aggressive drivers out there, but most drivers don't have a problem. I drive and I don't have any problem with Bikes on the Road. There is still no law requiring a rear-view mirror on a bicycle. It would be cheaper to give every cyclist a rear-view mirror, than to paint lines on the roads. But the law puts the onus on motorists to watch where they are going. If God wanted man to see where he *was*, He would have given us eyes in the backs of our heads. Your eyes are in the front of your head , so you can see where you are Going...The point I'm trying to make is that sometimes a driver comes too close to a Bicycle, and startles the cyclist. Only one percent of drivers do this, which is called "buzzing", but the entire population of taxpayers has to pay for the stupid paintjob on the roads.

Hwheel72
Hwheel72

identifying with Portland is off limits. That city is much MUCH older than Dallas and the progressive thinking is beyond what Dallas wishes to be. The significance of bikes lanes in Dallas is approachable and can be done cheaply, safely, and be effective. The implementation is the stalling. I've ridden in bike lanes all over the world and the mentality here is ridiculous. Redoing an infrastructure is impossible but inclusion of alternative modes is feasible. Dallas grew out before it grew up and hence the reason this city is SO FAR behind the eight ball its not even funny. Drive out around Frisco and Allen suburbs and notice how flipping huge the lanes are yet no lanes for a bike, Just a sign stating share the road. Ya, that works. Really. people do not read signs here, they don't yield, dont use blinkers and are very selfish drivers in the masses. A line painted on the street signifies a boundary and drivers typically respond by not crossing. it's like a two lane highway. No one rarely drives on the wrong side of the road. Same concept.

parrellel parking issue: Spending money and REDOING an area for bike lanes is not necessary. When approaching an area where parellel parking is allowed simply put two stripes. There aren't very many streets if any that have a whole mile or two of parrellel parking, except downtown. And even those aren't that long of stretches.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

I know how to ride a bike, Richard. I also gave it up, because it wasn't ME who did not know the rules, it was many of the drivers of 2,000 pound cars and even bigger SUVs wo did not know. And bikers are not saints. Many play, "Dare you to hit me," and "S T O P signs mean 'S L O W' to me."

I get the point on education. I am a teacher in DISD. However, since the state pretty much did away with school based driver's ed, and you have thousands here in Dallas who are illegally driving--no license, no insurance, I doubt they had driver's ed in their home country. Please give us a cheap way to educate a million people on proper use of lanes with bikes and cars.

My point is a chicken-or-the-egg. Do you build bike lanes to promote bike usage, or do you wait until enough people get hit or killed when people finally switch to riding bikes? Part of Dallas' problem is the love affair with the car. No problem building highways, toll roads, bridges and such for CARS, but hey, too much dinero for bikers.

When I lived near White Rock Lake, I saw many, many close calls. Over here in Buckner Terrace, you are taking your life into your hands on Samuell, Jim Miller --and God forbid, Buckner. Not a trash thing, not a pothole thing---traffic thing.

I would like to see bike lanes. I could even bike to work on some finer weather days... The thing is, either we live with the illusion that this city is forward thinking and forward planning, or it isn't.

Richard Wharton
Richard Wharton

Diane - safety starts at home. If you really want to be progressive thinking, try learning how to ride properly in traffic, and then tell your friends about what you learned. That won't cost anything. And despite the claim in the article, this DOES cost money, to install and maintain, and it's ignored or covered up. A road is used every day, hundreds or thousands of times per hour. A bike lane in Dallas won't be, no matter how many you install.

The pundits and current bureaucrats are wrong. Here's just a sample about why: http://www.tpg1.com/protest/ci...

Daniel Windham
Daniel Windham

are you being sarcastic? or do you just not see how utterly selfish you are. What makes your Yukon suv better or more preferred legally than my road bicycle? What if I can't afford gas prices and a car payment, and this is easier for me? People visit Dallas, and they don't come to Plano, or Colleyville, or far north dallas, they come see downtown, and maybe arlington. People are disappointed with downtown because it's not really a downtown. there are a couple restaurants and a bunch of tall offices, but not a real city life in downtown. This is a city, so lets act like one... not just another business park. The argument is that we spend hundreds of millions on convention centers, bridge parks, and flashy led lights, but can't or won't spend a tiny bit of money on safer bike lanes. This isn't a New York superiority complex, it's thinking forward, not inhibited by the commuter's daily routine. Find an urban center that has great traffic flow and easy parking, and I'll show you all the cities that have parking maximums because they make room for the people who live in downtown.

Then I'll come to your neighborhood and make your street 45 mph and widen it because every street need more traffic flow //scsm.

sue_j_s
sue_j_s

The brilliance of this comment is that it is equally likely to be a stinging parody of a kneejerk suburbanite who can't stomach people living differently, or completely serious. We've either got Jonathan Swift here or, well, my uncle.

GatoCat
GatoCat

You are neither cool nor smart. Just selfish. If you don't like it, get a job where you live.

GatoCat
GatoCat

The painted lines delineate the cyclist's domain. Without them, the auto driver can reasonably assume that all that pavement to his right is there for his use. The cyclist will prevent "buzzing" by the use of a rear view mirror -- to do what? Steer into the ditch? Hop the curb up onto the sidewalk?

Charlotte232
Charlotte232

Did you read the article? It says the bike lanes painted in other cities had no extra cost. It was part of exsiting striping that all streets are required to undergo regardless of bike lane or car lane.

JimS
JimS

Paint is transitional. The main reason people won't ride is fear. Paint gets them on the road. They learn how to fend for themselves. Then they don't need the paint so much. The no-paint approach puts too few people on the road on bikes and fails to create a culture of bike-awareness among motorists. Life is complicated. Nobody owns the truth.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

The main reason people won't ride is sweat followed at some distance by rain and frostbite. Fear maybe cracks the top 10.. The lanes, in contrast to the mainstreaming every cycling group advocates, are visible to planners, tourists, and corporate relocaters even when the bikers aren't there (which will be approximately all of the time in Dallas). And those lanes are the current street infrastructure shorthand for "livability." It's bike theater, but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile.

 
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