On Wednesday, we mentioned the city's plans to make Dallas more bike-friendly by creating separate cyclist-only lanes. And, as usually happens when the subject comes up, the conversation turned a little, well, contentious. And so we headed to the Texas Theatre last night for a movie screening to find out why bike lanes rub some the wrong way.
"People are not upset," council member Angela Hunt told Unfair Park before the screening of Contested Streets. "There's a very small portion of the bicycling population that are vehemently opposed to the concept of segregated bike lanes that have any type of physical protection, because they feel very strongly that bicycles are vehicles just like cars."
Certainly the majority of 60 or so people attending last night's event strongly fear riding in traffic with cars; they're among those demanding bike lanes. "I've lived in lots of cities where there have been bike lanes, and I would love to have some kind of safe biking in Dallas," said Stacy Alaimo, a mom with two young children who lives near Keist Park. "You can't just bike on the streets, because it's not safe."
The "two-percenters," as Jason Roberts from Bike Friendly Oak Cliff refers to them, and the "road warriors," as Hunt named them, feel the opposite and believe that bike lanes cause more of a hazard for cyclists.
The existence of this type of opposition did not surprise Hunt. Apparently, on her travels in other cities, she had been warned there would be opposition. "When I talked to the folks in Portland and Seattle, I said, 'How did you work to bring everyone together?' Of course you can't make everyone happy, but the point that they made is, you create options for everybody. And you make sure that you don't force people who are road warriors to ride in the bike lanes."
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Hunt even saw the merit of their main point, which was that education would alleviate the majority's fear of riding with cars. "I think they bring an important voice to the conversation," said Hunt. "When they say it's important to educate cyclists and it's important to educate drivers. I absolutely agree with that. Education is an important component...But at the same time, it's important for us to expand options."
Hunt insists that every city that has added bike lanes has seen a dramatic increase in cyclists: "And that's what we want to see. It's for environmental reasons, for health reasons, for infastructure reasons."
It was time to begin the event, and Hunt was called away to the stage. A woman who had been listening to Hunt's conversation held on to a Cylesomatic poster. She said events like these remind her that there are positive people living in the city after all. "Everyone has this attitude that it's Dallas, you're not supposed to be excited about Dallas. And nobody wants to do anything to make Dallas better. ... This is an example of what we need more of in Dallas."
Hunt, who spoke before the screening, echoed the woman's sentiment. "Dallas could be so much more. We could have a much more lively, exciting, interesting city if we weren't just car-oriented. ... If you keep telling your council members, 'This is what we want, this is the type of city we want to live in, and this is what we want for the future,' we can get there."