City Hall

Oak Cliffers Say Methodist Hospital Killed a Plan to Make Streets More Bike-Friendly

Update at 3:46 p.m.Methodist says nuh uh. Spokeswoman Sandra Minatra sends word via email:

Thanks for contacting us for a response to the release of a statement by a small subset of members of the Oak Cliff Gateway committee.

It is our understanding that the full recommendations of the committee have not yet been released to the City. As Methodist Health System was just one of many key community stakeholders - both private and commercial - that participated in this public process, we will respectfully decline comment until the full committee has reviewed the complete plan and both majority and minority opinions are submitted to the City.

We were privileged to serve on the Oak Cliff Gateway committee and commend all its members for their efforts to listen to divergent voices from all stakeholders and make recommendations that are consistent with the goals and objectives of the committee outlined by the City.

Back in 2009, the City Coucil approved a comprehensive plan designed to make a portion of Oak Cliff -- roughly bounded by I-30, Davis, Beckley, and I-35 -- into a more livable, bike- and pedestrian-friendly place that more closely resembled Jason Roberts' daydreams.

For the past 15 months, something called the Oak Cliff Gateway Steering Committee, a collection of citizens appointed by City Council members Delia Jasso and Dave Neumann, has been fleshing out the details of the plan that will eventually be implemented by the city. Things hummed along smoothly until fairly recently when, according to a scathing letter posted by several committee members on the committee's blog, Methodist Hospital torpedoed important parts of the plan:

Again and again, both commercial stakeholders and neighborhood citizens expressed preferences for design standards that reduce vehicular speeds, address parking, provide safety amenities for pedestrians and cyclists, increase public space and offer more transitional and mixed-use opportunities. Yest, it is the opinion of the minority that as work unfolded into the winter months of 2011, the committee experienced a heavy handed campaign to invalidate neighborhood desires and to advance private agendas at the exclusion of promoting what is best for the area as a whole.

Specifically, Methodist blocked parts of the plan that would have made Beckley Avenue and Colorado Boulevard complete streets, places where pedestrians, cyclists and cars could coexist in a comfortable space. Other roads in the plan will be made complete streets, but Beckley and Colorado were particularly important, said committee member Michael Mendoza.

"Those two roads are key to connecting neighborhoods, right?" Mendoza said. "You can't get from East Kessler to Lake Cliff Park without using Colorado, without using the streets that connect you to it." Similarly, Beckley will connect residents to the parks planned for the Trinity. Keeping them as they are will discourage walkers and bikers and go against the spirit of the city's 2009 vision.

Methodist, however, was adamant that adding bike lanes, allowing on-street parking, and otherwise limiting the space available for cars, would be dangerous. (That's from Mendoza. I'm waiting for a response from Methodist.)

Of course, the minority's points are moot now, since the plan was passed by a majority of the committee and will move forward through the city's zoning process. Mendoza says they just thought it was important to air their grievances publicly.