The 2022 budget allocates $2 million for Dallas’ bike lane program. Some of that money will go toward filling “critical gaps” in the city’s 2011 bike plan. The city is also trying extend the bike network’s reach and connect it to more destinations. With the update, Dallas' leaders want to figure out where biking infrastructure is needed and reconsider current routes.
Dallas has several projects lined up to spend the $2 million on in the next year or so.
In Southwest Dallas, construction aims to connect the bike lanes on Zang Boulevard as well as the ones on Bishop Avenue, according to a Nov. 5 city memo. Protected bike lanes will also be built on Vernon Avenue to connect residents to transit and commercial areas. Some of the money will go toward building the first on-street bicycle infrastructure in Dallas’ District 4.
Last month, several Dallas City Council members participated in 2021 Bike to City Hall event to promote bike safety. When they got to City Hall, some of the council members spoke about the importance of cycling infrastructure.
“We can’t ask our residents to go out there and ride a bike and walk to work if it is not safe, and that’s on us as a city to make sure to give them an infrastructure,” Chad West, council member for Dallas' District 1, said at the Bike to City Hall event.
The city is lacking a lot in the way of biking infrastructure. In 2008 and 2012, Dallas was named the worst city for cyclists by Bicycling magazine. In some parts of the city, there are remnants of the 1985 Greater Dallas Bike Plan, like old street signs and faded blue lines on the concrete. Just two years before, in 1983, a Texas law was passed that defined a bicycle as a vehicle, giving riders the same rights and responsibilities as motorists on the road.
The 2011 plan was supposed to update and ultimately replace the one approved by the city in 1985.
That plan was meant to do a lot of things but ultimately fell short. It was supposed to create 1,300 miles of bike routes, bike lanes, street markings and trails to encourage more people to cycle in the city. Additionally, an advisory board was going to be created to monitor and track the implementation of the plan, which was set for completion in 2021.
But there's no advisory board today, and only a fraction of the plan is finished. This is primarily due to a lack of money, resources and political will. Michael Rogers, who was then Dallas’ head of transportation, told the Observer last year the city has focused more on building safer, protected bike infrastructure, rather than focusing on the numeric goals laid out in the 2011 plan.
“There wasn’t a single year until this year’s budget that the council fully funded the bike plan in accordance with the plan requirements." – Chad West, City Council
"Even though we've only done 11%, we're trying to do them differently — more holistic — and in a safer way,” Rogers said.
In 2014, Austin created a similar bike plan, which included $20 million for new bike lanes; a quarter of the plan was complete by 2017.
Others at the city have pushed for more bike infrastructure over the years, but Dallas council member West told the Observer, "I just don’t think that the city as a whole has made it a priority."
Now, he said, things are shifting. The $2 million in funding for bike lanes in 2022 is evidence, he said. “There wasn’t a single year until this year’s budget that the council fully funded the bike plan in accordance with the plan requirements,” West explained.
But this new infrastructure is about more than making rides around the city more convenient for cyclists, West said. It's also about creating a healthier and more connected Dallas.
“Having connected bike lanes, it opens up the door for more healthy options,” he said. “It opens up the door for connected neighborhoods for people who might not have cars who might be able to use a bike to get around. It opens up the door, really, to just a whole new way of travel for individuals.”