Bicycle Advocates Win a Game of Chicken

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Roberts, in particular, understands that this whole new way of building the city — making it harder for cars to move inside the city, easier for pedestrians and bikers — is a foreign language to most of the city's professional staff.

"Multimodal infrastructure is really a post-'90s kind of model for development," he told me. "The education for it didn't happen until much later. For a lot of these guys who are in place now [in City Hall], a lot of these ideas are actually completely counter to everything they learned.

"We're saying you're going to have slow traffic a bit more, invite more people into the mix, actually create potentially more conflicts," Roberts said. "All of those are foreign concepts to these people, so what's happening is that they're nervous. They're scared. They really don't want to do those things."

Griggs, the new Gen X council member from Oak Cliff, sees it as a fundamental conflict of values. "We can build a half-a-billion-dollar convention hotel. If we really want to build bike lanes, the money is not an issue. There are so many ways to do it cheaply and fast."

I am aware that those views were being conveyed to city officials all week long after the bad briefing. At the end of the week, I called Hunt, who had seriously good news. She told me she had conferred with City Manager Mary Suhm, and Suhm was now talking a line that sounded much more like what Austin and the Arizona cities have done.

"I talked to Mary," Hunt said, "and she indicated to me that, since we have a bike plan that was overwhelmingly approved, it will in the future be included in any street costs, and the expense will be incremental."

Later, in response to my request for comment, I received a speakerphone call from Suhm and O'Donnell, the director of helping developers. They told me O'Donnell's presentation to the committee earlier in the week had been egregiously misconstrued by reporters (I hate those guys), and "We're going to take every opportunity we can to make bike lanes."

Last Friday Robert Wilonsky, editor of our news blog, Unfair Park, was out trolling for catfish on the City Hall web page and found a sort of odd, out-of-the-blue manifesto under the title, "City clarifies Dallas bike plan implementation status and outlook."

It said: "The cost differential between standard street striping and bike facility markings will involve weighing the needs for maintaining existing street striping with the benefits of implementing particular bike routes along key corridors."

May I translate that for you? Do you mind? I've been at this awhile. Here's what that means:


The manifesto sounds grouchy. It's pretty grudging. And there's the usual problem: Just by looking at the words, it's impossible to figure out what it really means.

But I know what it means. It means blink. It means that Griggs and Hunt and Roberts and probably a bunch of other people I don't even know made it clear to City Hall during the course of last week that Dallas — the new Dallas — wants bike lanes. And it's going to have bike lanes.

That's wonderful. Nothing is easy. Getting City Hall off the dime certainly is not easy. But it can be done. It is being done. Change is happening. Dallas is getting better.

I'm so thrilled, I may even be in a good mood over the holidays. Let me look at a calendar here.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze