Last Night, a Vow That New Bike Plan Will Lead to "A Radical Transformation of Dallas"

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The third public meeting for the 2011 Dallas Bike Plan, billed as an opportunity to review the first full draft of the document City Council will see this spring, was as much pep rally as policy session.

The map unveiled last night has been tweaked to incorporate citizen suggestions, so pink dashes denoting cycletracks in some places have been replaced by blue lines showing bike lanes. Andy Clarke, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, advised the meeting's 80 attendees not to sweat it.

"You need to be focused on the vision," said Clarke, who's considered a superstar in the multimodal community. "Don't get lost in the details. Don't get hung up on one type of this, that or the other thing."

Instead, Clarke advised, cyclists need to devote their energies to getting the plan approved.

"You're going to need to keep on showing up," he told the crowd, a vast majority of whom identified themselves as cyclists in an informal, raise-your-hand survey (despite there being only six bikes in the bike corral, one of which was mine. To be fair, it was cold.)

"This is going to be a tough thing to sell," Clarke said. "We all know budget times are hard."

But Clarke stressed the project's potential was sufficiently impressive to lure him from Washington, D.C.

"We look at places like Dallas and think if we can move the needle here, that's a good sign for the entire country," Clarke said. "We're here because you're going to help set the standard for a new generation of cities."

The draft plan calls for the development of 770 miles of on-street bike facilities and 418 miles of trails, with an emphasis on connectivity. Planners overlaid maps of employment density, major colleges and universities and light rail stations to determine where the city's need for bike facilities was greatest: "You start to get a sense of where you should spend your funds," consultant Peter Lagerway explained.

According to the plan's time line, work on some projects could begin as early as this year. Lagerway touted a series of highly visible "signature projects," intended to address cyclists' most pressing needs and perhaps excite plan skeptics. The current list includes a connection between the Trinity Strand and Katy Trail, featuring a dog run, public art and scenic overlooks; a Katy Trail bridge spanning N. Central Expressway; and a bike-ped boardwalk on the north side of the Houston Street Viaduct linking downtown to Oak Cliff.

In addition to infrastructure improvements, the draft plan also recommends the city create a bike share network; citywide bike map; interactive website; summer youth cycling camps; commuter reimbursement program; economic incentives for workplaces to install bike lockers and showers; and a street maintenance hotline.

"In a short span of time, you'll see this city transformed," Clarke promised. "I want to see nothing less than a radical transformation of Dallas."

Interestingly, amid all the pro-plan positivity, a Dallas Police Department officer was invited to lecture attendees on bike safety. The officer pointed out relatively few of the city's 23,000 car crashes last year resulted in fatalities, and predicted the mortality rate could jump with more bikes on the road.

"The traffic laws apply to all y'all, and one or two of you choose to ignore them," he said. "I would just ask you to please be more aware. The culture in Dallas certainly can be made bike-friendly, but these are things that need to be considered."

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