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Dude, where’s my bike lane?

Submitted by on December 27, 2011 – 9:20 pm10 Comments

Back in June of this year cyclists in Dallas celebrated as the Dallas City Council adopted the 2011 Bike Plan , and with ease it seemed.  Everyone who participated in the many planning sessions, provided feedback, contacted their council members, and provided other contributions were rewarded for their effort.  As as Bike Friendly Oak Cliff described it,

Richardson has bike lanes, Dallas not so much. photo credit Richard Wezensky via Suburbanassault.com click for source

“…the city’s 2011 bike plan was unanimously adopted by the city council with no opposition and encouraging words by several of the council members who championed the project, including Angela Hunt, Sheffie Kadane, Linda Koop, Delia Jasso, and Pauline Medrano.”

Dallas was finally going to carry out a modern and progressive bicycle infrastructure that utilized striped lanes, cycle tracks, enhanced routes while leveraging our existing bike trail system and DART light rail and bus service.  Happy days were here…for once.  But we’re talking about the City of Dallas, after all,  so naturally six months later a council committee was advised that implementing the Dallas Bike Plan would cost in the neighborhood of $16,000,000 and there was no money in the budget for it.  The numbers even got sketchier, some claimed the 16M figure was not high enough while others said it would cost closer to $0. Let’s just say the “he said she said” thing was in full swing, and this was going on in mid-December when not many people are watching the bike plan, we’re busy planning for the holidays instead.

The Dallas Morning News City Hall blog covered one event here. They wrote,

“The first Dallas bike plan was approved this year with the promise that the city of the car would take big steps soon to stripe streets with dedicated lanes for bicycles.

But a council committee was told Monday that implementing the plan will be complicated and costly.

Now, what had seemed like a simple and straightforward effort to change Dallas is suddenly tangled up in the bureaucracy of City Hall.

Specifically, the plan to re-stripe 840 lane miles for bikes and place accompanying signs will cost some $16 million that is not available and that drafters of the plan hadn’t anticipated.

“There was not funding identified (in drawing the bike plan). It was not a fiscally-constrained plan. This was the ideal plan. This was my daughter’s Santa Claus list,” said Theresa O’Donnell, director of the city’s development department.

Council member Angela Hunt, who chaired the city’s bike plan committee, appeared angry at that information.

The cost, she said, was supposed to be minimal because striping was to take place during the normal street re-construction process.

“I recall as we worked on the bike plan, that a point was made during more than one of the presentations by our consultants – with city staff present – that the bike plan would be implemented during re-striping processes.”

“No staff member jumped up and said, wait, wait that’s not correct we don’t have the funding for that. No one pulled me aside …and said we aren’t gong to be able to implement this as easily as our consultants are telling us,” she said.

O’Donnell said she didn’t have a good answer why the additional cost of re-striping wasn’t explored by staff during the drawing of the bike plan.

when we started hearing that the City had no money to fund these improvements, that said improvements could cost billions (or nothing at all, depending on who was quoted) we felt right at home, again.”

A few days later, as reported by BikeDFW, the city issued a clarification, sort of, claiming they remain committed to implementing the Bike Plan.  Then Jim Schultze from the Dallas Observer weighed in and describes it as a game of chicken, one that the “bike advocates” won, this round at least (note to Jim Schultze, not everyone who’s vocal about supporting the Dallas Bike Plan is 30-something or a hipster, just sayin’ bro).  Bike Friendly Oak Cliff kept readers up to date with each new round of developments.  it’s been a bit of a circus to say the least.

If your head is spinning from all this you’re not alone.  I don’t have the bandwidth to attend most council meetings but I can let them know my thoughts on the subject. If you want to help make sure that the 2011 Bike Plan gets implemented my suggestion is that you write a letter or email to your city council member and let them know what’s important to you. They get more than their share of bitter and/or psychotic rants, so writing something thoughtful to your council member, something that indicates why the bike plan is important to you and how you feel Dallas will benefit from it, is probably the best approach.  It will take about 5 minutes of your time and if you click here you’ll find an interactive district map that indicates what district you live in and links to contact your city council member.

I hope you’re enjoying these holidays and if you’re not working this Thursday then plan to join us at the Biking in Dallas Arts District Crawl.

- Chris

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Chris started riding a bike again when he noticed the Preston Ridge Trail being constructed across the street from his house. Since then he co-founded Biking in Dallas, has gone through countless Craigslist bike projects (some better than others) and can be found pedaling around town on a Electra Ticino with a camera in tow.

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