The Man Who Wants to Shut Down Central for a 30-Mile Bike Ride Is "100 Percent" Sure He Has Approval. TxDOT Is Not.
Picture this, but with 10,000 bicycles.
Starting at 7 a.m. on Sunday, April 21, all four lanes of Central Expressway will be shut down for several hours as some 10,000 cyclists pedal their way from downtown Dallas to McKinney. That's at least what a group called Bike the City is promising.
It's an undeniably badass plan, reappropriating one of the region's major highways as one humungous bike lane. But its website, which is already soliciting registrations at $45 to $240 per person, and organizers' confidence seem a bit premature.
"In short, it's not a done deal at all," TxDOT spokeswoman Michelle Releford said. "What they're advertising on our website is not a done deal."
The agency could hypothetically shut down a portion of a major highway for an event, but a number of high bureaucratic hurdles would have to be surmounted first. To begin with, event organizers would need to obtain permission from each of the cities they intend to pass through, in this case Dallas, Richardson, Plano, Allen and McKinney.
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If -- and only if -- all the municipalities agree to grant permits, would TxDOT have to approve the project and a traffic control plan which, when you're talking about diverting cars from a 30-miles stretch of highway, isn't easy.
"TxDOT really doesn't as a practice put traffic from a highway onto a city street," Releford said. "We really can't do that."
But Gary Lacara, who is organizing the event, is sure everything will fall into place. "100 percent," he told Unfair Park this morning. "I wouldn't attempt this if I wasn't."
Planning for the event -- which he stresses is not a race but a tour, open to anyone 12 and older -- began last July, when Lacara began meeting with each of the half dozen municipalities and TxDOT.
He hasn't yet formally requested permits (the city of Dallas' Office of Special Events requires requests to be filed at least 45 days before an event, which gives him another couple of weeks), but he says he's assured they will be granted.
TxDOT at least seems open to the proposal. "Safety is TxDOT's first priority, and we would like to honor his request as long as the safety of cyclists and motorists is ensured, traffic impacts are negligible and local cities are in support," agency spokesman Mark Pettit wrote to representatives of the municipalities along the route.
In an email to Unfair Park, he wrote that, "I can't speculate on the likelihood of whether permission will be granted since I don't know whether the municipalities along the route support the event; however, if he is able to accomplish all the requirements below it is possible."
But there's another question: Why? Lacara says he's an avid cyclist who helped organize a similar event in his native New York. He felt the Dallas ride would be fun and a good way to raise money for charity.
"I've raised millions of dollars for different organizations -- Boy Scouts, the YMCA, Kiwanis. The list goes on," he says.
And who doesn't want to give money to charity? Nevertheless, its probably wise to wait to sign up until all the permits are in place and it's clear the ride is actually going to happen.
Here, in case you were wondering, is the route:
View Bike the City-Dallas to McKinney Tour in a larger map