Texas cities like Houston, Austin, and San Antonio have all invested in their bike culture. Austin has numerous bike lanes, still has a trail named after Lance Armstrong for some reason, and possesses a budding bikesharing program. Bikesharing is popular in San Antonio, too, while Houston has taken steps to make cycling in the city safer.
Dallas, though, consistently ranks among the worst cities for cyclists and outdoorsy types, according to magazines like Bicycling and Outside. The bikeshare program has been mocked mercilessly, and its dearth of bike lanes has long been a source of trouble for cyclists.
Still, there are signs of life. The bike lane situation is beginning to improve (the city went from a pathetic eight miles of on-street bike lanes in 2012 to 39.3 miles as of last fall, with a not-that-embarrassing 107 miles on the horizon in the years to come). And long-distance bike commuters who work in the Metroplex have an even bigger reason to be hopeful: another $7 million in funding for a proposed 64-mile “bike superhighway” that would connect Dallas and Fort Worth was recently approved.
That’s a big deal for cyclists for a few reasons. Chief among them is that a trail that connects the two cities—and thus all of the suburbs in-between—is a much safer way to get around than even shared bike lanes on city streets. As KERA notes, “A 2011 citywide survey found nearly 80 percent of Dallasites would bike more often if there were more off-street trails.”
Karla Weaver, program manager for the NCTCOG, said 30 of the 64 miles of the connection already exist, and cyclists and pedestrians could access them today. The remaining 34 miles will connect those trails already in place in Forth [sic] Worth, Arlington, Irving, Grand Prairie and Dallas.
“When you look at the population of people that would come in contact with that trail or are within two miles of that trail, it’s close to a million people,” Weaver said.
Bud Melton, a bicycle and pedestrian planner for the North Texas region, said the trail redefines convenience. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in urban areas like Dallas-Fort Worth, half of all trips — via cars, buses and bikes — are less than three miles, and a quarter of them are less than one.
“We shouldn’t be burning a gallon of gas to be getting a gallon of milk,” Melton said. “People realize that we’re locked in irons when we have to wait 15 minutes to get out of a cul-de-sac to get our kids to school when the school is just on the other side of the block.”
According to a 2014 map of the trail, much of the route either already exists or had funding at that point in the process, and the additional $7 million approved this week is good for roughly another ten miles remaining. That goes a long way toward a dream of a more bike friendly DFW—and in a way that keeps cyclists and drivers from getting in one another’s way, too, which should help keep tempers down in the Metroplex.