Fort Worth Skunks Dallas on Bike Plan

It was shortly before or not long after I read Robert Wilonsky's post from earlier this week about Dallas retaking its rightful crown as the country's worst major city for cyclists that I wiped out, in suitably humiliating fashion, as I rode my bike to work down Hillcrest Road. I would blame the fall on the city's reluctance to lay down bike lanes as called for in last year's bike plan, but this was in University Park, and it had more to do with the water gushing onto the road. A tap of the brakes at the Mockingbird Lane stoplight and the wheels start sliding.

Don't worry. I'm fine. All I lost was a little bit of self-respect. But it did get me wondering why, given the seeming momentum at City Hall behind becoming more bike friendly when I left the city two years ago, riding one's bike in the city remains as suicidal as it was when I was in high school and thought nothing of barreling helmet-less down major streets, yelling obscenities at the F-350-driving assholes who would see how close their side mirrors could get without actually hitting me.

City spokesman offered Wilonsky something of an explanation:

The bike plan was developed over a yearlong period with extensive community input. Post adoption, some members of the bike community were advocating for more aggressive implementation and departure from the original plan for a much more accelerated implementation schedule and calling for a reallocation of current year general fund revenues to accomplish their goals. Staff is on track with implementing the recommendations of the adopted bike plan in a fiscally responsible manner that does not disrupt or delay other prior commitments and obligations.

OK. I haven't spent enough time with the 2011 bike plan to know its ins and outs. The argument from the bike plan's advocates -- Why the hell aren't you laying bike lanes when you restripe roads like you said you would? -- seems pretty damn reasonable, but what do I know? Maybe it's just any large, cash-strapped municipality would be this, um, deliberative when implementing what amounts to something of a paradigm shift in thinking about transportation.

But wait, Bike Friendly Oak Cliff points out. Have you looked at Fort Worth?

I hadn't, but now I have, and there seems to be quite a bit of bicycling infrastructure over there. Last I checked, Fort Worth is also a conservative, North Texas city built around the automobile, and I assume that their sales and property tax receipts have sucked just as much as they have in Dallas. Maybe they had a head start?

But BFOC's Zac Lytle, who knows these things, said that no, they developed a bike plan around the same time Dallas did. The only difference is, Fort Worth has actually implemented its proposals.

Lytle doesn't buy the argument that the city is holding back for want of cash or that people like himself are trying to move faster than the bike plan calls for. For some reason, Lytle says, the powers-that-be with the city simply don't want bike lanes.

"I've been watching the streets that have been designated and it's always a disappointing surprise when I see them restriped without the street infrastructure they're supposed to be having," he said. "Then the city just drops the ball and restripes it as it originally was striped."

The hope is that Dallas' last-place ranking will spur implementation of the bike plan -- not only because it's embarrassing, Lytle says, but also because it contributes to the perception of Dallas as somewhere that sucks.

"It's something that lots of people, when they're looking at where to live, this is one of those things we look at when we're weighing where we want to live."

And we all know that our city's leaders do not want people to think we suck. How else to explain the Calatrava?

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson