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

DART Green Line coming to Oak Lawn

24-mile extension of DART train route will include 4 stops in, around Oak Lawn, making travel easier for YFT and food pantry clients

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

ALL ABOARD | DART’s Green Line already includes a stop in Deep Ellum, pictured, and Victory Plaza. Beginning Monday, the train will also make stops near Youth First Texas’ location, the Resource Center Dallas Food Pantry and Parkland Hospital. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

On Dec. 6, DART opens a 24-mile extension of the Green Line with four stations in and around Oak Lawn.

The four new Oak Lawn-area stations are Market Center Station, Southwestern Medical District/Parkland Station, Inwood/Love Field Station and Burbank Station.

Market Center Station is the first stop north of Victory Station. The American Airlines Arena was the northern terminus of the original four miles of the Green Line that opened in 2009 in time to connect riders from the Red and Blue Lines to the State Fair.

Located on Harry Hines Boulevard, Market Center Station should have greatest impact on the youngest members of LGBT community.Located across the street from Youth First Texas, the rail link will make services to the center available to hundreds more young people.

Youth First Texas Director of Development and Administration Sam Wilkes said the organization chose their new location partially because of the proximity to DART.

“Being at a DART hub, we’re excited to see how many will access Youth First Texas now that the line has come to fruition,” Wilkes said.

Bus service has been available, but waiting for a train at a well-lit station at night is safer and the service easier to access, he said.

Parkland Station, the second new Oak Lawn area stop, is located between Maple Avenue and Harry Hines Boulevard near Hudnall Street. Once the new Parkland Hospital is built, the stop will be at the facility’s entrance.

For now, DART will be a short one-block walk away from the main hospital, AIDS clinic Amelia Court, Zale-Lipshy and Children’s Hospital. St. Paul Hospital and the rest of UT Southwestern are a longer walk and connected by shuttle bus service.

Inwood Station on Inwood Road at Denton Drive Cutoff is across the street from the Resource Center Dallas Nutrition Center/Food Pantry. The Dallas Eagle is a block south and Cathedral of Hope is two blocks north. Resource Center Dallas’ proposed new building is also a block from this stop.

“It will make it quicker and easier for clients who access the pantry, especially those who travel great distances,” said Resource Center Dallas spokesman Rafael McDonnell.

The pantry is bracing for new clients who will now be able to access the agency’s services more easily. But McDonnell wasn’t worried about shortages of food due to additional clients.

“We’ll let folks know and we hope they’ll step up as usual,” McDonnell said.

Cathedral of Hope spokesman Coy James said, “We have lots of people who commute from all over the place. We have people who currently use the bus to get to services.”

He said that a number of church staff members were looking at ways to use the train to commute to work.

“We’re looking forward to it,” he said.

To travel by DART to Love Field, bus 39 will connect Inwood Station with the airport terminal. That bus line will operate daily.

Large parking areas will open for commuters from Oak Lawn at Market Center, Inwood and Parkland Stations. Parking in DART lots is free.

The final new Oak Lawn area station is Burbank Station at the north end of Love Field adjacent to Southwest Airlines corporate headquarters. Southwest employees can get to work and Love Field West neighborhood commuters may take advantage of this stop, although no parking is available.

North of Love Field is Bachman Station, located just south of Northwest Highway at Denton Drive. Two more stations in Dallas are located at Walnut Hill Road and Royal Lane along Denton Drive before the Green Line heads into Farmers Branch and Carrollton.

Rafael McDonnell

Next summer, Green Line commuters will be able to travel all the way to Denton when the A Train opens. That line will connect Downtown Denton to Trinity Mills Station with four other stops along the 21-mile route.

From the southern end of the Green Line at Fair Park, four new stations in Pleasant Grove and South Dallas extend the line to the southeast corner of Loop 12.

Also opening Monday is the first phase of the Orange Line. Eventually, that route will connect the system with DFW Airport. Originally the Orange Line will duplicate service from other lines on a limited schedule.

The Orange Line will follow the Red Line route from Plano through Downtown Dallas. Rather than continue to Oak Cliff, the Orange Line will head north along the Green Line route from West End Station to Bachman Station.

When the Orange Line is completed, it will head west from Bachman Lake through Irving and Las Colinas to the airport. The first Irving phase should open in 2012.

Also opening on Monday is the new Lake Highlands Station on Walnut Hill Road at White Rock Trail. This infill stop is between the White Rock Station and LBJ/Skillman Station on the Blue Line. That station will provide an extra stop for White Rock Lake skateboarders, joggers or bike riders taking their bicycles on the train to the trail.

The Blue Line that now terminates in Garland will continue to Rowlett by 2012.

Also planned but without construction dates are a second Downtown alignment. During rush hours, three lines heading through Downtown on one set of tracks gets congested. Now the Orange Line and the expanded service on the Green Line will add extra rail traffic.

The Blue Line will expand south from Ledbetter Station to the new UNT Dallas campus in South Dallas. No date for that expansion is set.

The opening of 15 stations along 24 miles of new track is the largest single-day expansion of a light rail system in the country since 1990. The $1.8 billion Green Line opens on time and within budget.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens