Why the Need for Thoroughfare Amendments for Bike Lanes? Well, It Was 30 Years Ago ...

costofrestripingbikelanes.JPG
From one of two briefings today dealing with the implementation of bike lanes citywide
On Saturday we previewed today's council look-see at how the new Bike Plan will be implemented; both the Quality of Life and Transportation and Environment committees got the docs Friday night. (There's also a very related briefing on the agenda: the boringly titled but nevertheless fascinating Pavement Markings, which, as you can see above, breaks down the cost of re-striping.) Since posting over the weekend, I've heard from several Bike Plan advocates unhappy with the prolonged process that will involve thoroughfare amendments needing to be passed through City Plan Commission and the council each time someone want to stripe a street. The way they read the docs prepped for today's briefings, the plan's really nothing more than a suggestion without real teeth, since, as the briefing points out, plans are "not designed to be legally binding," and setting them in motion requires adhering to rules and regulations -- in this case, the charter amendment requiring thoroughfare amendments whenever the city wants to touch the concrete.

Theresa O'Donnell, head of Sustainable Development, says her department discovered the requirement following a recent Complete Streets briefing: A little research dug up the 1981 proposition OK'd by voters that said folks living within 200 feet of a proposed street alteration need to be notified of the do-over, and that there needs to be a public hearing.before council can sign off on it. The historical docs follow.

Says O'Donnell, the change to the city charter came about following what she calls "the East Dallas wars" of the late 1970s and 1980, when "the plan commission and the city council approved some new thoroughfare alignments on Skillman and Abrams to widen them to six lane divided so Lake Highlands people could get in to downtown more quickly. And the economic development people said, 'No, absolutely not.' As a result of those concerns, it was put to the voters, and they approved the charter amendment that requires this. So it wasn't by accident that we have this process, because lots and lots of people are affected when you change the width of the road or if there are bike lanes or parking or not or parking issues or whatever."

The most the city can do without the public's OK is a temporary pilot project, which can last no longer than 90 days.

"So you hope your pilot is successful and becomes permanent," O'Donnell says. "You don't want to spend funds on things where you'll have to grind up the markings 90 days later. Safety concerns and operational adjustments are one thing on paper but something else in the field. You can see it in action: Is it safe? Do other considerations need to be made? The test is a real-world test, and you hope you tested the right area for the right operational change."

Leslie will bring back the council members' takes later today; till then, the history lesson's below.Thoroughfare Plan Proposition
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Ben
Ben

So, why didn't any of the city budget staff, professional bean counters or city attorneys tell everyone that not only would this be impossible to implement due to the city code, it would be too expensive to afford and the legal issues make it a non-starter. There are a number of private citizens who invested many, many man hours for this project. We(people who attended these meetings) were lectured and by some speakers spoken to as if we were children. The big joke in the room was that the people in the crowd knew much more than the talking heads at the front. Should have been a warning sign! The speakers kept on harping about how the last bike plan drawn up in the early 80s was a "failure-to-launch". Ummm hmmm. This one is even worse than that!

Richard Wharton
Richard Wharton

I do find it ironic that none of the City Council or Mayor(s) have attended the Traffic Skills 101 courses or Cycling Savvy courses that have been held in Dallas since 2008 or so. It really is a mind-opening experience. In today's fiscal conservative themes, pushing for something that less than 1 or 2% of the population will use on a regular basis, seems misguided. These 'road diets' really are nothing more than atherosclerosis of the road system, and the bike lanes are the plaque. Anyone have some industrial Fish Oil?

jl
jl

it's about equality in the transportation system. I'm an avid cyclist and yes, I do want infrastructure for cycling when I go places (I also drive 70+ miles a day). We need to provide safe options for all forms of travel (bike, walk, car, etc.). Cities spend tons of money providing for car-only infrastructure which has to be repaired in a short amount of time. Bike trails/lanes hardly see any wear and tear and last much longer, which make them more cost efficient in the long run and so, the costs get balanced out. (Not to mention it spurs local economic development over big development far away.. galleria, park lane, outlet malls...). The reason that a very small percentage of people walk/bike in Dallas is because they don't feel safe. Put bike lanes, and bam, people use them and cities begin to see a change in health and economy (Portland, Seattle, New York, Boston, New Orleans, Austin).

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Don't bike advocates now say it's safer to "take the lane" vs. using a bike lane?

So why not just focus on improving the existing streets as opposed to creating bike lanes?

Gabe
Gabe

For experienced adult cyclists, it tends to be better to ride in traffic, be aggressive with lane control, and not depend on what many deride as "magic paint". For younger and less experienced riders, bike lanes seem to work better. For one, auto traffic tends to slow when it has fewer lanes (even when bikes aren't present). That's my understanding, anyway.

Richard Wharton
Richard Wharton

aggressive? 

How many hours does it take to go from 'less experienced' to 'more experienced'? It's a lot fewer than you think, and it'll cost less than .01% of that $16 million. Educate cyclists how to be better bike drivers, like they do in www.cyclingsavvydfw.com, then enforce the laws on the books (don't run red lights, use your hand signals, etc.), and encourage riders to use the roads and the bike routes that already exist (they're pretty good, and Dallas has a great grid pattern), and see what a difference that makes. 

One last thought - how many people on this forum are cyclists? How many want to be? How many blocks are there in North Dallas with no sidewalks? Why? Shouldn't that get priority, since there are about 100 pedestrians per cyclist? Just saying...

Ben
Ben

Yes. Traditionally anything with the work "bike" in it, makes it more dangerous to ride a bike on. Bike path, bike trail, bike lane. Better to chose your own route and take however much lane you feel is needed. Works better for the cyclists and the drivers.

Greg
Greg

In the words of the Joker..."This town needs an enema!"

Cliff Dweller
Cliff Dweller

But the thoroughfare plan only covers a small number of Dallas streets, right?  The vast majority of streets are categorized as "minor streets".  So maybe we should be using those in most cases for bike lanes and staying off the thoroughfares.  Not only would it be cheaper and easier, but there's probably a better chance the bikers will coexist peacefully with other traffic on those streets as well.

Jumping off the cliff
Jumping off the cliff

I commute by bike quickly and safely using "minor streets" to get to the river. The downside using side streets is that there are a lot of stop signs constantly killing your momentum.

What I want to know is why they aren't starting with the links to downtown. If they would just give me one effing protected lane on a bridge of their choice heading into downtown it would be a great start.

elbueno
elbueno

Also, $24K for a buffered bike lane pales in comparison to $10M for Calatrava's design fees.

elbueno
elbueno

This is so typical of Dallas bureaucracy. Don't make anything easy...

Branden Helms
Branden Helms

So I guess on the other end of the spectrum, you'd want to nullify the voters wishes to be a part of the process that changes the road outside their residences? That way, TxDoT can expand the street outside your home to eight lanes on their own whim.

You want democracy, you got it, but it will never be snooth because the public, in all its plurality, by nature have to be involved. If you want bike lanes, then you have to let the public get involved. Period.

Anything else you want to complain about without any merit?

elbueno
elbueno

when it comes to obtaining right of way, yes, by all means the public needs to be involved, but when the measures are dealing with simply reworking the existing streetscape...why does every single block need to have a say?? That doesn't make any sense when you are dealing with holistic measures such as this. You could potentially have a fragmented thoroughfare that shifts from 2 lanes w/ bike lanes to 3 lanes and back, simply because one block doesn't want bike lanes.

I'm all for the democratic process, but it needs to be more overarching. Bring in a proposition for all to vote on that says YES for bike lane implementation citywide (with no right of way changes) and NO for no bike lanes.

Ron
Ron

Also, we have a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. In other words, we elect council members to represent our districts...this is done so things (like this) get done. Similarly, if we decided we wanted to create a new sewer line that relieved pressure from the existing city network and it had to run from downtown to uptown, we wouldn't want to have to get a thumbs-up from every single property owner who would potentially have land that is adjacent to the line. That would be impossible. Inevitably, someone will be against, and the entire city would suffer. The right-of-way does not belong to you or I, it belongs to all of us (unless you're were willing to foot the entire bill for the road in front of your house/business).

uh_whats_a_constitution
uh_whats_a_constitution

Don't you just love it when the city employees spend hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars for a plan that is worthless?  That's OUR property taxes being wasted by people who couldn't care less, as long as they collect a pay check.  No accountability.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

After all they have a hand in our pockets for those never enough tax dollars. 

Paul S
Paul S

Lovely sentiment, I want to work where people always assume I do everything half assed.

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