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Dallas Now Has a Bike Task Force, and It's Hellbent on Killing the Helmet Law

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, with Dallas City Council members Philip Kingston and Lee Kleinman at the Northaven Trail on Saturday.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, with Dallas City Council members Philip Kingston and Lee Kleinman at the Northaven Trail on Saturday.
Philip Kingston for City Council

In case you missed it, NPR ran a piece yesterday about Texas' moderately surprising move toward bike-friendliness. The state, especially its cities, have been adding trails, bike lanes and pro-cycling policies at a respectable, if not quite Portland-esque, clip. Just look at Dallas' ambitious bike plan, with its plans to lay out 1,100 miles of bike lanes over the next decade.

What the story doesn't mention is that City Hall has been slow-walking implementation of the bike plan ever since it was finished in 2011. Sharrows -- car lanes with the bicycle icons on them -- aren't hard to find, but the more substantial bike infrastructure that's been promised (i.e. dedicated bike lanes) has been slower in coming.

How to change that? A bit of public pressure can't hurt, so council members Philip Kingston, Lee Kleinman, Adam Medrano and Scott Griggs have begun the process of forming a citizen bike task force.

See also: Max Kalhammer, the Architect of Dallas' Bike Plan, Is Leaving City Hall

"There's just been a lack of initiative," Kingston says. Dallas' bike plan is good policy, he says, but implementation has been hamstrung by a "lack of will" by city management.

By giving cycling advocates a permanent seat at the table -- one that disappeared once the bike plan was done -- Kingston thinks City Hall can be nudged into action.

The first, informal meeting happened last week and included the usual suspects, mostly representatives from Dallas' various bike friendly groups.

"The membership is open to anybody who cares about bicycles," Kingston says. "The agenda that I gave them is organize yourselves, how often you want to meet, and tell us what resources you need from us."

Kingston's top priorities: accelerating bike share, which has been in the works already for about two years ("We're not digging the Panama Canal. This is a phone call to a vendor."); building on-street cycling infrastructure; and connecting the city's trail system.

The task force added a fourth priority: abolish the mandatory helmet law.

That topic's set to go before the council's Quality of Life Committee. Kingston expects the helmet rule to be gone by the end of the year, right before the city gets a respectably sized bike share program.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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