Back, Pedal: Dallas Bike Lanes Won't Be Easy, But They Just Might Happen After All

Thank you, Delia Jasso, for this lovely addition to my cubicle.
Thank you, Delia Jasso, for this lovely addition to my cubicle.

The bureaucratic red tape for bike lanes is loosening in Dallas. Well, OK. There's talk of it loosening. Which, for those who like to want to ride their bicycles, who want to ride them where they like, is better than nothing.

At today's meeting of the city council's Transportation and Environment Committee. Theresa O'Donnell, director of Sustainable Development and Construction, addressed two questions posed to her by several council members (and many others, directly or indirectly): Is there money for bike lanes? And, is it efficient to paint bike lanes as streets undergo routine re-striping?

"It actually is quite a bit more intensive than normal striping," said O'Donnell, touching on a conversation that was explored in-depth in December, when council members learned that re-striping 840 miles of on-street bike routes would cost a hefty $16 million. And while 198 of 312 miles of road slated for re-striping overlap with the city's bike plan, council was also told it would cost an additional $4.1 to do so. Not to mention: Many of those miles would require thoroughfare plan amendments, which is a months-long public process similar to zoning. In a December column, Jim found that this thick bureaucratic quagmire is uniquely Dallas. Other cities around the country tag on bike striping to routine street maintenance, avoiding this conversation altogether.

This afternoon, O'Donnell said it may be possible to group several street segments together for thoroughfare amendments or to streamline the whole process -- if the council agrees it's necessary.

But one thing is still certain:

"In most instances we wouldn't recommend striping the biking facility at the same time [as the rest of the street]," O'Donnell said. It would leave jangly bits of disconnected path and would be expensive to paint, even if the trucks are already on the street. But despite the complicating factors, O'Donnell said, "We found six [bike lane corridors] that make a lot of sense."

The list: a link through downtown that would connect the Katy Trail and the Santa Fe Trail; striping along Fort Worth Avenue; along the Davis Corridor and West 7th Street in Oak Cliff; a "bike link" from neighborhoods to the Northhaven Trail; links to the Trinity from the Katy Trail and Bishop Arts; and a link from downtown to Oak Cliff.

The Grand Total: 21 to 22 miles, $453,000 to $495,000, with $160,000 funding identified and a funding gap twice that -- oh, and maintenance, which doesn't come free.

That last bit is the catch. Where will the money come from? The city's grant seeking has been unsuccessful thus far, and mutterings of leftover savings from a 2006 bond package sound far-fetched. As it stands now, private funding and prayers are the best bets.

Nonetheless, O'Donnell said, "We think those certainly make sense for us to continue to pursue."

Council member Delia Jasso provided her general thoughts on the issue, "As far as guidance, I think whatever is the easiest and the fastest ... I think you'll have a lot of private interest in this as well." She brought along a couple props, flashing bike lights, which are important for safety, and a "Please be kind to cyclists" bumper sticker, which she kindly gave to me.

When O'Donnell was pressed further about funding by council member Sandy Grayson and others who echoed her concerns, O'Donnell said city staff is still exploring options. "We continue to kind of look under rocks," she said. But O'Donnell agreed to provide more information about the money next month. Pedal, pedal, pedal.

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