Have you tried running errands on your bike in Dallas? I’ve recently made it a point to get back on the bike for short trips around town, and to exercise my energetic puppy. Using my bike for transportation gets me out in the fresh open air and uses zero gasoline or electricity. The downfall: it’s still a mad house out there on the roads. But that is changing, slowly.
Since the adoption of the 2011 City of Dallas Bike Plan, there have been small movements forward. Operating under their $500,000 per year budget, the bike department (made up of one) can only create painted lanes and flex posts. A far cry from what a biker dreams of: a protected bike-only lane. The current tally of on-street bike lanes is 48.6 miles and if mountain bike and off-road lanes are included, it’s 188.6 miles (35.5. miles shared lanes, 10.4 miles bike lanes, 2.7 miles protected bike lanes, and 140 miles multi-use pathways). The shared lanes intrude into vehicle space and bike lanes reside on the edge of the street. Some of these painted lines have already heavily faded in just a few short years.
There may only be a few miles of protected bike lanes but Jared White, City of Dallas Bicycle Transportation Manager, is working to find other projects with larger budgets to build more bike infrastructure. The most exciting upcoming project is in West Dallas. A small section of Fort Worth Avenue will be brought down from six lanes to four and two protected bike travel lanes will be installed. Construction due date for that project is summer 2018. That’s not too far off!
With these protected bike lanes come issues. This past week while getting my bike tuned at a local bike shop, I noticed a petition on the counter addressed to the City of Dallas. The petition is asking the city to purchase street sweeping vehicles that fit in the narrow bike lanes. If a protected bike lane is on a street marked for sweeping, the current street sweeper is too wide to fit in the lane. This leads to a buildup of broken glass and other trash in the bike lane. Because of unsafe conditions, bikers are forced to ride back in traffic, making the bike lane useless without being maintained.
White understood the importance of cleaning the bike lanes and the current issue with their maintenance plan. Currently, the bike lanes must be cleaned by hand taking up staff time and money. The bike community has also lent a helping hand, many riders mentioning they stop and pick up debris as they go. As more protected lanes are built, maintenance needs to be top priority.
On my recent outings, it’s obvious many vehicles are still not comfortable with the presence of bicycles on the roads. But with more small projects and additional protected bike lanes, comes a chance to familiarize people with bike transportation. More people will use the alternate transportation, and motorists will become accustomed to seeing bicyclists moving about the city. “In some cases, people aren’t familiar with bike lanes, or not supportive of them, so it’s trying to get people on board with this type of change and trying to build in a new network related to walking and biking,” White said.
The transformation of Dallas into a bike friendly city is certainly moving slow, but progress is still shifting forward. There are several thriving bike shops and signs of bike culture in Dallas. However, in my research for this article, I noticed a lag in the use of social media to rally the bike troupes. Many Dallas bike pages have been stagnant for years. If you’re out there, let’s revive the bike chatter! Use #BikeDallas to connect!