Longform

Dallas's New Bike Coordinator Addresses the Difficulty of Updating the City's Bike Plan

Back in November 2008, Oak Cliff activist Jason Roberts wondered about the absence of bicycle lanes in Dallas. His curiosity led him to become the city's foremost bicycle lane and cycling infrastructure advocate. Roberts took on that role when he discovered that the reason Dallas had no bicycle lanes was because of one city employee, P.M. Summer, who pushed the notion that proper bicycle riding meant cycling with confidence in traffic. That fight is the subject of this week's cover story.

As Dallas tries to move past the controversy and accomplish the goal of updating the 1985 bike plan, they've hired Max Kalhammer, a transportation planner transplant from the greater D.C. area, as the new bicycle coordinator. Kalhammer has a strong background in getting the job done despite controversy and warring opinions, and he's confident he can get the job done.

"I'm good at leading a large group of people on a strategic plan who have varied interests," says Kalhammer. "I've led a lot of public meetings and public involvement efforts." That's a good thing because, as Kalhammer told Unfair Park before, there will be opportunities for public involvement in designing the new bicycle plan.

One critical aspect of the plan not up for dispute is the focus on connectivity between a new bicycle network and trains and buses. (Kalhammer is also on the board of DART Bike and Ride Advisory Panel.) "One major emphasis of the bicycle plan will be to provide better access to transit, to light rail stations and bus stations," says Kalhammer. "That's got to be a focus of the plan since the city is so spread out."

The ultimate goal is to design a network and provide enough bicycle parking and storage "so people could actually do an entire commute without using their automobile," says Kalhammer.

Kalhammer is busy creating a rough draft of the plan to present both to the selected consultants, as well as to the public committees. The draft includes an identified network of places to connect existing bicycle infrastructure to neighborhoods and transit systems, as well as proposed facility-type designs, like cycle-tracts and off-street paths. As Kalhammer says, "the network would be the combination of on-street and off-street bicycle routes that would be the future Dallas bikeway system."

This kind of groundwork is necessary, says Kalhammer, because the selected consultant will only get $300,000 to design a new plan, which isn't a whole lot.

"In an ideal world, to do a plan with detailed design on every street, it would cost in the neighborhood of $800,000 or $1 million, but we're going to make do with what we have," says Kalhammer. "We think we're going to come up with a very good plan because we've done a lot of background research."

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Kimberly Thorpe
Contact: Kimberly Thorpe