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May 20, 2011

Bike to Work Day in Fort Worth: What can be done to make cycling safer and more popular in the city?

Biketowork05202011 FORT WORTH – For Doug Black, the three-mile bicycle ride to work is relatively safe and easy. He sticks mostly to streets such as Magnolia and Jennings avenues, where bike lanes are striped on the pavement.

But for most Fort Worth-area residents, pedaling to work isn’t a realistic option. While the city streets and Trinity Trails system is conducive for cycling in central Fort Worth, many parts of the city are – like much of North Texas – inaccessible by bicycle.

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The region continues to miss opportunities to give residents alternatives to driving to work alone, although Black and other cycling enthusiasts who gathered Friday for a National Bike to Work Day celebration in downtown Fort Worth are starting to see signs of progress.

“We have to break down the car-is-king mindset,” said Black, a city attorney who often takes his 5-year-old son, Wynton, to daycare on a Trail-A-Bike contraption attached to the back of his bike. “I’m taking one car off the road. I’m small. I’m not polluting the environment.”

A lighter-than-normal 50 or so people took part in the annual bike to work event, many apparently kept away by the threat of morning thunderstorms. For those who did attend, police offered an escort through downtown, and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority provided refreshments at the Intermodal Transportation Center. Bicycles Inc. offered free bicycle inspections for participants, many of whom were quick to point out some things Fort Worth leaders could do to make the city more bike-friendly.

Bike lanes, signal sensors Avid riders nearly universally agree that striping city streets for bike lanes is the best way to make bicycle commuting a safe and attractive option for the casual user. Also, the city needs to install traffic signals that recognize when a bike is present and waiting for a light to change. Many loop detector sensors embedded in the street pavement don’t detect bike riders because they don’t weigh enough to trigger the signal.

But such plans often encounter resistance. In Arlington, a proposal to create more than 200 miles of bike lanes had to be dramatically scaled back after opposition emerged form residents who thought the changes would hamper car traffic, although a compromise plan is in the works.

Start ‘em young Schools and cities should step up their safe routes to schools programs, said Rodney Bailey, director of marketing and training for Bicycles Inc. in Fort Worth. Children who ride bikes to school are more likely to become adults who ride bikes to work, he said. “We should teach kids how to ride safely,” he said. “It should be part of their program in school.”

Public awareness A public education media campaign would remind motorists that cyclists have a legal right to share the road, and also could promote the social benefits of riding a bike. “That 11 minutes buys me the ability to see what’s going on in my neighborhoods,” said Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, who rode his bike downtown Friday. “I see things I don’t see while driving a car.”

Bike sharing The Fort Worth Transportation Authority is exploring whether to buy about 200 three-speed bikes and install locking bike racks across town, so people could rent bikes for short trips. A Fort Worth-based company, Bodhi Bicycles, is marketing an electric bicycle that uses a lithium ion battery to give riders a boost. “You don’t have to put torque into the bike,” co-founder Paul Jung said.

Better transit T President Dick Ruddell on Friday repeated his assertion that “with a combination of a bike and the buses, all of which have bike racks, you can go anywhere in Fort Worth.” But many parts of the city are served only by express bus service, with only one to three trips per morning to the downtown areas. That’s not frequent enough to make buses inaccessible – and bicycle commuting practical – for most city residents living outside Loop 820.

-- Gordon Dickson, [email protected]

Twitter: @gdickson

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Comments

Jessica Sample

Cycling would be a lot safer if riders would obey traffic laws.

cathy

As a motorist, I don't mind sharing the roads with most cyclists, but I do think cyclists need to take some responsibility for their own safety. This probably isn't a very popular suggestion, but I have seen too many times cyclists refusing to share the road (2 or 3 abreast on a two lane street) or worse, not stopping at stop signs and traffic lights. I saw a cyclist today turn right on a red in front of a pick-up truck. She never even slowed as she rounded the corner against the light!

I suggest very strongly that cyclists offer basic classes on traffic safety and courtesy to each other. The message of sharing the road should not be directed only at motorists especially since more and more people are taking to cycling as a form of exercise and also to save money on gas. As the ranks of cyclists grows, I fear the bad behavior will become more common place as the newcomers will not know any different.

lowtolerance

Cathy, the classes will be for you as well, for, as you probably don't know, if the lane is less than 14ft wide we have right of way - just like a slow truck, work vehicle, or any other vehicle. That's why they won't crowd into the gutter to let you pass by dangerously close. Good luck!

chris

evryone should learn to share the roads, it seems to me that everyone should take responsibility to avoid accidents no matter who is at fault. as a user of a roadway you are responsible for your own actions. some cyclist seem downright suicidal riding on two lane country roads with heavy traffic and 4o plus speed limits, but its still the responsibility of an automobile operator to avoid injury or death to others in the roadway. the mad max mentality of hit em if they're in the way is prevalant on all roadways, car on car as well. im saying, please be carefull in your cars, dont run into stuff,even if they pulled in front of you, we can all get where we need to go. be responsible for your actions on the road in cars and on bikes. its really just good common sense.

chris

watever happened to public safety announcements? this is a perfect use of a defunct media tool. driving safety tips, rules, regulations,and so forth. fact is after drivers education there are no other driving or road use instructions given in a lifetime unless you screw up and get ticketed and take a defensive driving course. once again, good ole common sense. cyclist are in danger because drivers are ignorant of road use rules and regs. blame the system.

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