Last week, as a City Council discussion of the don't-throw-stuff-at-cyclists ordinance degenerated into a litany of members' pet peeves about cyclists (we're looking at you, Sandy Greyson), Angela Hunt became visibly frustrated. Hunt, who rides a bike herself and has been the council's most vocal critic of City Hall's hesitant implementation of the 2011 bike plan, told her colleagues that the current half-hearted embrace of cycling, with its shared bike lanes and cosmetic tweaks to city rules, is doomed to failure. It's time to take "big people steps," she said.
Yesterday, on her blog, Hunt doubled down on her critique of the city's cycling policies and detailed some suggestions for how Dallas can become more bike-friendly.
There are several things that need to happen. For starters, she said, the city can repeal its mandatory helmet law. She cited a recent New York Times op-ed arguing that those rules discourage cycling.
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Next comes a higher hurdle, since it will require actual money. Hunt proposes building 10 miles of bike lanes per year over the next decade -- not the half-assed sharrows that now crisscross downtown, but bike-only lanes that are physically separated from other traffic. And these shouldn't simply be plunked down on whatever isolated stretch of road happens to be convenient. They should be carefully planned to connect with other bicyclie infrastructure, like trails and other bike lanes, so riders can actually get from point A to point B.
All reasonable solutions, and ones Hunt thinks are achievable given proper focus.
We can go all-in on bike infrastructure and get it done. We can dramatically increase bike ridership in our city. We've seen what can Dallas can do when it sets its heart on Big Ideas. That's why Dallas' remarkably meek approach to bike infrastructure is so frustrating. We pride ourselves for taking on extravagant, bold initiatives -- the Calatrava Bridge, a park over a freeway, a city-owned convention center hotel, a massive toll road in a floodway. Let's apply that same laser-like focus to making Dallas the best bicycling city in the country.
Unfortunately, Dallas' laser-like focus seems reserved for shiny, expensive monuments like the ones Hunt lists, not pragmatic infrastructure projects. No big-name philanthropist is going to dump money into the project -- the Margaret Hunt Hill Memorial Buffered Bike Lane, anyone? -- and there's no need in the project for some world-famous architect. So bike infrastructure will continue to simmer on the back burner until, as Hunt predicts, the city will declare its efforts a failure, paint over the sharrows, and go back to driving.