Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Dallas bike plan is necessary but flawed
You don't get cyclists by maintaining car prioritization when a balance of transportation mode is what is needed.
Recently, as you may or may not not know, the Dallas City Council passed the City's first bike plan. You may not know because, like all public plans, enthusiasm waned when the plan belongs no longer to citizens but rather consultants and, even moreso, various interested parties within and without the city. As I've said, public planning is dead in its current format. Hence, the distrust, which I've discussed aplenty:
The proposal essentially turned into a critique of the public planning process as well as how transportation is designed and delivered. These are ideas that I expanded upon in three successive posts not more than a month ago: here, here, and here.
If you see above, you'll see that we have our work cut out for us. And if you click here you see the Lance Armstrong spandex crowd saying, "we don't need no stinking bike plan." Those people should not be listened to, because they're not the ones we need on bikes and streets. They're experts. We can't expect everybody to be experts. And that is precisely why the bike plan is necessary: to make bicycling safe and available to the entire populous through the provision of a proper network of infrastructure that protects cyclists from what might kill them, mostly a few thousand pounds of vehicular mass at the hands of somebody likely texting and applying makeup at the same time.
I won't get into a full critique because I haven't looked at the entire plan, but only the central city area. Call me selfish, but this is the only area that I would actually use: downtown, uptown, near east Dallas, Deep Ellum, and North Oak Cliff. That is my bicycling range, filling the gap in the transpo hierarchy that bikes fit ever so comfortably, the one to three or five mile range that is just a bit too long to walk and there lacks other suitable transportation options if I don't feel like driving or parking or dealing with the incapabilities of all you drivers. Because really, don't we always feel like everybody ELSE is the bad driver? And we're all right.
But having looked at the downtown and vicinity area plan, I saw everything I needed to see. And I tweeted the primary criticisms the other day (besides the fact that several areas are still under "need more study." You've had a year). There appears to be little logic behind it, hardly any of it. Main Street, already narrow and pedestrian-dominated for much of it, gets separate bike lanes, while Elm and Commerce, roads we should be carving out excessive lanes and width for new, alternate modes of transportation, are ignored. No matter the fact that the misplaced priority on moving rush hour traffic on these two streets 1) kills life on them, 2) ensures the streets are dead and overscaled off peak hours, and 3) boxes in the life on Main Street from spreading outwards.
Also no matter the fact that there isn't the room to carve out new lanes on Main Street, a street of traffic so slow that bikes can already share lanes without much threat to their safety. Instead, in other parts of the city, on absurdly scaled streets designed for "smooth auto sailing" bikes are to share lanes. I hope you can cycle at 45 mph comfortably without Lance's steroids. Heresy! He's a Texan! Don't you blaspheme!
Another curiosity is the Copenhagen bike lanes, an example of which is shown to the right and are designed to buffer bike lanes from both cars and pedestrians in their own lane, are only of short distances and scattered about haphazardly. These operate (at least in Copenhagen by my own observation) like bicycle highways. They need to cover a reasonable distance to maximize utility and utilization while benefiting from cost efficiencies of scale since these will be the most expensive of the bicycle infrastructure. Furthermore, from a design standpoint and precisely because of the cost as well as the chance to make these the most attractive of bike-friendly infrastructure, these should be reserved for the most important of streets.
Yet, there is little evidence of that logic infusing the plan, which seems more designed to ensure that vehicular traffic is in no way disrupted, thereby not pursuing the actual goals of the plan which is to get people out of their costly cars/roads and onto more cost-efficient and healthy forms of transportation for the good of one and all.
You don't get cyclists by maintaining car prioritization when a balance of transportation mode is what is needed, which makes all of it a waste of money and another opportunity missed where we started dreaming of the moon and barely jumped off the ground. Maybe we can catch Phoenix if we're lucky.
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