Bike vs. Bike

09.23.11-Cover-B

Jed Billings in Fort Worth, left, David Smith on Cedar Springs, right

Which is the best city for cyclists: Big D or Cowtown? Both cities have plans in place now to create safer, more convenient options for riders

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

This weekend, Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS riders can decide for themselves which city is more bike-friendly — Dallas or Fort Worth — as the fundraising cyclists ride through Cowtown on Saturday, and Big D on Sunday (see separate story, New Routes, LSRFA).

Both cities have bike plans in place to increase bicycling for fun and fitness and to encourage two-wheel transportation as a viable means of commuting. But which city’s plan is the best?

The Dallas advantage in bike commuting is DART. Both cities have buses equipped with bike racks, and the Trinity River Express, the train running between the two, also welcomes bikes on board.

But the new center section on each DART train car eliminates the stairs and has hooks for hanging bikes.

Plus, the bike trails in Dallas are accessible from DART stations.

The Katy Trail begins across the parking lot from Victory Station. Fair Park Station is blocks from the new Sante Fe Trail. White Rock Station is adjacent to the White Rock Trail, and Forest Lane Station is right next to the Cottonwood Trail.

But on the other side of the Metroplex, Fort Worth has the extensive and interconnected Trinity Trails in its favor. The trails are named, of course, for the river and its forks, along which much of the 40-mile trail system runs.

Lone Star Ride will use 22 miles of the trail system on Saturday, the first day of the event.

Both cities have developed bike plans to make cycling a transportation alternative. The plans include a variety of ways to make the streets more bike-friendly.

Dallas

In Dallas, the plan includes creating bike lanes, cycletracks, shared lane markings, climbing lanes and paved shoulders that crisscross the city.

Some bike lanes will share a lane with a bus. Cycletracks are dedicated lanes separated from traffic with curbs or other barriers.

Dallas plans 840 miles of on-street bike lanes, with another 255 miles of off-street trails.

“That doesn’t include the trail network,” said Max Kalhammer, project manager of the Dallas plan.

Plans are to connect the Katy Trail and Sante Fe Trail through downtown Dallas with a lane over the Jefferson Street Viaduct to link the Bishop Arts District. That plan should be implemented by 2014.

The next phase involves a network of lanes within a three-mile radius of light rail stations. The full plan should take 10 years to implement, according to Kalhammer.

Fort Worth

The Fort Worth bike plan is simpler, with just two types of bike lanes — shared and dedicated — but no less aggressive.

City of Fort Worth Senior Planner Julia McCleeary said the Fort Worth plan extends more than 1,000 miles, but that includes expected future development and will take 30 to 40 years to fully implement. Currently, the city has 14.1 dedicated bike lanes and 30 miles of shared bike routes.

Over the next six months, another eight miles will be added.

Residents seem to be responding to the new lanes.

“I left work Friday and within five minutes saw three cyclists,” McCleeary said. “Wow. You wouldn’t have seen that before.”

She said that Fort Worth is the first city in Texas to pass a safe passing ordinance: Cars need to leave three feet between themselves and anyone vulnerable, including bike riders, horseback riders or the handicapped. Commercial vehicles must clear by six feet.

“We also passed a bike parking zoning ordinance,” she said. “Developers must install racks according to specs.”

Striping downtown streets was done with a Department of Energy grant. McCleeary said that when a street is repaved and must be restriped anyway, the cost of adding the bike lane is minimal.

Coming soon

“[In Dallas] none of the on-street lanes have been implemented yet,” Kalhammer said, but he added that the first lane should be opened soon. He said that will be on Mary Cliff Road in Oak Cliff, in conjunction with some road reconstruction.

The next project will be Bishop Street, which will have dedicated bike lanes.

The Dallas bike project includes destination signs that point in a direction with a distance to the destination. Those replace the current bike route signs that point down a street but usually go nowhere.

McCleeary said she would like to see standardized bike lane marking between cities to minimize driver confusion and promote safety. Kalhammer said he thought the markings will be similar enough to not confuse riders.

Dallas would like to see many more people using bikes as part of their intermodal commute to work.

Fort Worth’s goal is to triple the number of bike commuters, decrease bicycle-related crashes by 10 percent and earn the Bicycle Friendly Community designation given by the League of American Bicyclists.

Where do we rank?

Currently, the “bike friendly” designation hasonly been awarded to smaller cities — Steamboat Springs, Col., Burlington, Vt., and Santa Fe, N.M. are typical examples.

In Boulder, Colo, more than 95 percent of city streets have bike lanes. One Texas city was recognized by the group this year for the first time — The Woodlands — and another — College Station — received an honorable mention.

According to the census, of the top 50 cities, Portland is the No. 1 biking city in the United States with as much as 9 percent of commuters using bikes in some neighborhoods and 3.5 percent citywide.

San Francisco, which ranks fifth, has one of the densest populations in the United States and counts about 40,000 people commuting regularly by bike.

Even more — possibly 75,000 people — get around in New York City by bike.

With .02 percent of commuters using bikes, Dallas ranked 41st and Fort Worth 42nd. But those census figures were released in 2007, before either city instituted their current bike plans. DART added its bike-friendly trains and buses with bike racks just last year and the census undercounts intermodal bike riders by listing them as public-transit users.

Of course, even the bike-friendliest cities in the United States rank far behind many European cities.

In Amsterdam, the world’s top biking city, 40 percent of traffic moves by bicycle. Centraal Station, the Dutch city’s main train station, has parking for 7,000 bikes.

Trondheim, Norway became one of Europe’s top bike riding cities by tackling its hilly topography with bike lifts along some of the city’s steepest streets. That sounds like a great idea for the hills that climb into Oak Cliff.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

LSR Journal: A barroom promise worth keeping

David Smith

LSR much deeper than a dare for rider representative — even if it started that way

M.M. ADJARIAN  |  Contributing Writer

If there’s one thing David Smith has learned, it’s this: Never underestimate the power of a barroom promise made in the presence of a friend with a videophone.

Thanks to both — the promise and the incriminating recorded evidence — Smith had all the incentive he needed to sign up for the 2010 Lone Star Ride.

Not that Smith wouldn’t have signed up for the Ride … eventually. But as it so happened, the person who recorded the IT consultant’s vow was in the process of training for the event himself.

“And I said, ‘You know, I might like to do that one of these days,’” recalls a grinning Smith. “That’s when he made me commit to it.”

His reasons for participating in the Lone Star Ride go much deeper than simply wanting to follow up on a dare, though. He’s seen firsthand just what the funds raised through the event can do for people in need of  HIV and AIDS services.

“I’ve had numerous friends over the years who’ve come in contact with the three [agencies the Ride benefits],” he says. “And I’ve seen through them a lot of what the LSR does for the community.”

Smith is also a man of conscience. He came out in the late 1990s, just as the worst of the AIDS epidemic had passed. By contrast, his partner, who’d been out since the late 1980s, had directly witnessed the devastation AIDS had wrought in the gay community.

“I see the emotion in his eyes when he talks about losing [so many] of his friends to the [disease],” says Smith, his voice breaking. “And so I feel like since I wasn’t there to see that, this is my way of giving back.”

He also believes that the LSR is an important symbol, especially for LGBT youth and young adults. Despite the great strides medical researchers have made in combating the AIDS virus, the epidemic continues.

“When you see advertisements for HIV medicines in magazines today,” he remarks, “you always see very healthy people. But in the ’90s, you’d see people moving past the bars down Cedar Springs with walking canes or in wheelchairs. [Twenty-somethings] have no idea what it means to have to go through that.”

Prior to joining the LSR in 2010, Smith had been one of the many casual cyclists you often see riding around White Rock Lake on any given day. He has since traded in his $200 bicycle for the leaner, meaner road bike he initially borrowed from the LSR Locker, but which he now owns.

Participating in the Ride for just one season has also converted Smith into a committed LSR volunteer: He is now LSR’s rider representative. Part of his work involves counseling new cyclists, especially those feeling uncertain about their ability to do the event.

Says Smith, “People ask me, ‘How can you ride 40, 50 or 60 miles — that’s just too far!’ But if you’ve ever ridden your bike once around White Rock Lake, which is just shy of 10 miles, you [begin to] realize just how easy it is to do.”

As the LSR rider rep, Smith also leads individuals and groups on unofficial training rides.

“One of the things I learned along my training path was that if I’m riding with somebody, it’s easier than if I’m riding by myself,” he explains. “Their energy pulls you along and yours pulls them along.”

And that energy is crucial, especially for new riders who haven’t attempted long distances before.

“There’s a [back-and-forth] mental argument you end up having with yourself,” Smith says. “It goes something like this: ‘No, you can’t give up’ and,  ‘It’s too far.’ But if you push, you do get there.”

Smith pauses and smiles. “And then you realize — wow, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Sept. 24-25. For details or to donate to a specific rider or team or to the ride in general, go online to LoneStarRide.org. If you are interested in talking to David about the ride or want to schedule an unofficial training session, you can contact him at david@davidsmith71.com.

—  John Wright