Dallas is the only major US city without on-street bike lanes. Bike lanes have proven to increase ridership and safety and most every major city in the US is currently undergoing major bicycle infrastructure build-outs. Below are answers to a few common debate points given by those opposed to building bicycle infrastructure:
1) Dallas isn’t dense enough for bike lanes, right?
Portland’s inner city density in the 1980’s (pre-bike lane years) was comparable to Dallas inner city area (inside Loop 12) now. This is THE time to build, not once more people arrive. As an example of the major growth occurring in the inner city area, Dallas downtown population was 500 in 2000, and projected to be at 10,000 by 2010.
2) Isn’t it too hot in Dallas to promote major bicycle ridership?
Tempe, Phoenix, Austin, Houston, and New Orleans have bike lanes and they’re hot. The latter three are extremely humid. Fort Worth just unveiled a plan for 490 miles worth. Melbourne, Australia hit 108 degrees during their summer this year, and they have a very high bicycle ridership with lanes. In the end, ALL cities have issues with climate (Portland – Rain, Minneapolis – Cold, Austin – Heat, Copenhagen – Freezing). This is not a legitimate excuse. Dallas has 8 months of extremely mild weather. Copenhagen “Bike Capital of the World” has 4 months of freezing weather.
3) Don’t Bike lanes bring out more inexperienced riders, who are fearful and actually pose a greater danger?
If this is the case, then one would expect to see an exponential increase in accidents/fatalties in cities with major bicycle infrastructure. Remember, a place like Portland has 150+ miles of bike lanes and 8% ridership (Dallas has 0 miles, and 0.2% ridership). Given the above assumption, the massive number of inexperienced students bicycling in lanes and crossing the path of cars at thousands of different intersection points would show exponential increasesin accidents. In 2008, Portland had 0 fatalities…Dallas had 7. There is not a single study out that notes where the percent increase in ridership surpassed the accident rate in any US or European city. Multiple studies now show that the reason for the inverse relationship is due to “safety in numbers” and greater awareness.
4) Aren’t the “Safety in Numbers” studies flawed, because John Forester plotted numbers on a page using random phone numbers from a phone book to show how this test’s findings are inconclusive.
Actually, John Forester’s attempt at debunking the test was flawed. Here is a complete breakdown by the study’s author on where JF went wrong.
5) There’s a study in Denmark that shows the following: Cycle tracks increase cycling 18-20%, Cycle tracks increase accidents 9-10%, Cycle lanes were less effective at increasing cycling and it was unclear if they raised accidents more than cycle tracks. Isn’t that proof that bicycle infrastructure is a failure?
Look at the numbers again. The Jensen study referenced does not show a greater percentage increase in accident rates over ridership. That’s the key. In other words, if you had 1 accident with 100 riders one month, and 2 accidents with 1000 riders the next month, you’d have an increase in accidents of 100% (a great example of how percentages can be used to scare), but an increase in ridership of 1000%. As long as the accident rate stays below the ridership level (which it ALWAYS does, and by great margins), then the accident ratio drops. Jensen also replied to us and thoroughly vetted this attempt to mask the numbers here. His final conclusion, “Dallas should add cycle tracks. Ridership will definitely increase. Accident ratios will definitely decrease.”
6 a) Bicycle Ridership will never be high because Dallas doesn’t have a single University. That’s why the other cities can have high turnout.
We have SMU.
b) SMU is in University Park, not Dallas
University Park is 3 miles long, 4 miles from Downtown, and completely surrounded by the city of Dallas. Also, Dallas Baptist University.
c) Dallas doesn’t have a University with 30,000 students.
How did this become the magic number for successful bicycle infrastructure? For this to be a legitimate excuse to not build bicycle infrastructure, one would have to produce a city with a University that has 29,000 students, and implemented bike lanes that failed. For that matter, there isn’t a city in the US that has completely removed its bicycle infrastructure. The reality: All cities with bicycle infrastructure have not only successfully attracted riders, but they’ve all added or are in the process of adding more lanes. Also, this argument goes completely counter to the “bike lanes bring out more inexperienced riders” talking point constantly returned to. If a city has 30,000 students that you provide bike lanes for, you’d have a greater number of inexperienced riders, thus an assumed greater numbers of accident ratios.
7) If you implement bicyle lanes, cars will expect you to ride in them, and become more hostile if you drive on the street.
Cars are already hostile to bicyclists in the road and expect them to stay off the road. I’ve been honked at, encroached on, and had brakes squealed/engines revved on more occasions that I can count in Dallas, and we have no bike lanes. The person in charge of informing the Dallas public at large that bicycles are allowed on the road did not do a good job of spreading that message.
8 ) Dallas doesn’t have the culture for bicycling that other cities do.
According to Mia Birk, former planner of Portland, Oregon, neither did they. Ridership started out only slightly greater than Dallas. Roger Geller, the new planner stated, “If you build it, they will come.” Now, the city has built a 120 Million dollar industry surrounding bicycling, including a major tourism, and production industry. Also, Cyclesomatic proved that the culture can be fostered and grown.
9) So where exactly are you going to build these bike lanes. Dallas is sprawled out, and it’s going to cost a fortune.
You wouldn’t create bike lanes throughout the entire metro area (read our article titled: The Transect for more). A major bicycle infrastructure should largely be developed within an urban zone (ie. inside Loop 12). Beyond that, the sprawl is an obstacle. As the inner city grows, you can’t add more car lanes. The only option is to accommodate multi-modal traffic. This is exactly what Chicago, Seattle, NYC, DC, Portland, Phoenix, Atlanta, Boston, et al. have begun doing, and to great success.
10) There’s debris in the bike lanes. No one’s going to clean them.
Dallas already provides street sweeping once a week on all Downtown streets, and once a month on all major thoroughfares.
11) Aren’t bike lanes far too expensive to implement?
Bicycle lanes in most cities are installed when the City happens to be resurfacing a road anyway. This allows the money to come from the regular budget for repairing a road and requires very minimal costs. Plus, less wear and tear occurs within bike lanes, requiring far less maintenance on the surface, since the cause of most pot holes is due to heavy trucks. Also, the return on investment for streets with bike lanes, and businesses surrounding these has proven to far offset any cost. Remember, you’re not building roads to move people as quickly as possible (that’s what highways are for), you’re building them to allow interaction between commerce and individuals, as well as transport. Forsaking the former for the latter has shown drastic effects in increased accidents, crime, and health.
For roads that aren’t being repaired, but lane implementation buildout was sought, cities around the US have opted for the following funding methods:
- TIF (Tax Incremented Financing) Districts : In Oak Cliff, we’re lucky enough to already have three in place, and they are currently allocating funds for pedestrian/bike amenities.
- PID’s (Public Improvement Districts): We have one being planned now by merchants all along multiple corridors in Oak Cliff. The Uptown PID currently pays a portion of upkeep for the MATA trolley, the Katy Trail, and McKinney Avenue streetscapes
- Parking Improvement Districts: This is a very popular way that urban communities are now applying to develop infrastructure projects from streetcars, bike lanes, and more. A municipality will build out a parking structure near an area that is tight on space to allow more businesses to bring in greater traffic. The funds brought in from these Parking Districts are then channeled to
- Federal Grants: Safe Routes to Schools, Main Street Improvements, TIGER grants, and a host of others are all being applied for now by members of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, and other agencies to bring in funds for bicycle infrastructure. It’s the exact same funds other cities have applied for and used to build out their networks.
- Friends of Organizations: From rails to trails, to historic building renovations/upkeep, “Friends of” organizations are built out throughout the nation using fundraisers, grants, and more to build and create infrastructure projects on a routine basis.
12) Why are you comparing Dallas to Northern European cities? We’re nothing like them.
Portland used Copenhagen and Amsterdam as its model when developing its multi-modal infrastructure plan. NYC just completed its street redevelopment program with the aid of Gehl Consulting from Denmark. Currently Gehl is working with Mexico City on a plan for its downtown. So yes, European cities are a fair model. Watch the following clip where you’ll see Copenhagen streets in the 1960’s that looked much like ours. Full of parking lots and high speed roadways. Year after year, they began rolling these back and creating a more pedestrian friendly environment. Note that, the interviewee states “When we implemented this, everyone said ‘we’re Danes not Italians…we don’t have a culture for walking!’. 40 years later…
13) Do you just hate cars? Taking away a lane for bicycles will cause a nightmare for traffic.
I own two cars, but I understand that we can’t continue to build our inner cities for automobiles only. Also, every study has shown that an increase in ridership occurs when you accomodate multi-modal traffic, and that the end over end volume levels out, and capacity remains unchanged.
14) Don’t Bicycle lanes increase accidents due to Right Hooks, confusing left turns and more?
There have been multiple engineering techniques applied to overcome right hooks and left turn issues, including bike boxes, the Copenhagen-Left, no-right turn exclusions, and more. There was a rudimentary attempt at drawing a right-hook failing point by a bike lane opponent, but her methodology would have also shown how a jogger on a sidewalk could also be injured by crossing an intersection via sidewalk. Again, Portland had 0 fatalities in 2008 with 150+ miles of on-street bicycle infrastructure and 8% ridership. Dallas had 7 fatalities with 0 miles of on-street bicycle infrastructure and 0.2% ridership. Also, Copenhagen, the world’s bicycle capital, has the highest ridership levels (over 50%), and lowest accident rates (decimal point levels). New York City just released its 200+ page guide on street design. Multiple examples of how to overcome many intersection issues are noted here.
15) Experienced Cyclists do not want bike lanes.
Not so. Read multiple Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong’s take on bike lanes. Also read Boston’s new bicycle coordinator’s, racing champion Nicole Freedman, take on bicycle infrastructure. Lastly, League Instructor Paul Dorn gives a great account of the failure of Vehicular Cycling advocates position on bicycle infrastructure here.
16) So you expect to put bicycle lanes on every streets?
No. We are for a mix of infrastructure buildouts including bicycle boulevards for some residentials (mixed car and bike roads, that discourage pass-through traffic, and make safer for children in neighborhoods), and separated bike lanes on streets at 35 mph or greater, but not all streets. Separated (ie. dedicated) bike lanes have proven to bring the highest increases in ridership. Also, intersections are key areas to focus on for traffic calming. If an intersection feels unsafe, a bike lane will fail at increasing numbers to a high degree.
17) The Katy Trail is expensive, and no one rides to work on it.
The Katy is actually fairly successful for being a long linear park, which is why it was built…not as a commuter bikeway. Because of this, there are very few connection points onto the trail from the streets it crosses, and at its terminus, you are dropped onto a one way street. It would be no different than building a long highway with no ramps onto it except at a distant end and beginning point, and at its end you were dropped on a one way going the wrong way. You would expect little commuter traffic.
18) Why are you so adamantly for this?
Several reasons. 1) Our generation demands this type infrastructure, and our friends and family are leaving in droves for cities that adopt them like Portland, Chicago, and Austin. Some orginally claimed these cities have a different culture, but we’ve proved through Cyclesomatic that a major culture exists in our area, and it just needs to be fostered and cultivated. Our friends and family weren’t moving to Portland in 1990, but they were in 2009. 2) The infrastructure allows a more pedestrian friendly business environment, that allows for more “eyes on the street” which increases safety, and improves the environment, all while supporting more local business. We’ve already lived through the alternative.
19) We only need education. Everything else is far too expensive.
First of all, education for whom? All drivers? All bicyclists? Most likely both. So a statewide education campaign that educates all drivers and bicyclists wouldn’t be expensive? Also, all drivers go through testing currently, and we still have 42,000+ fatalities on the roads a year. The proven option for cities to increase bicycle ridership and safety is to create facilities and educate.