There are Bike Lanes Downtown, But it Might Take a While for Everyone to Play Nicely
The four, soon-to-be five miles of new bike lanes downtown got the front-page treatment this morning in the Morning News (paywall), and deservedly so. Sure, they're not bike-only lanes, and it's taken the city a lot longer than it should of to paint stripes and little bicycle-man icons on the pavement. (The first bike lanes were striped more than 40 years ago, in Davis, California.) Still: It's the clearest signal yet of a new mindset among city planners, who are coming to view cycling not just as a pastime for 12-year-old and spandex-clad weekend warriors but as a viable means of transportation.
Dallas Trinity Trails
That's City Hall. The Dallas driver has been slower to embrace this new way of thinking. Things are better now than they were a decade ago, when, anecdotally at least, lumbering pickups were more liable to buzz you and an over-muscled guy on Main Street in Richardson were more apt to threaten to kick your ass for taking up a whole lane before being talked down by his girlfriend. But the prevailing view is still that roads are made for cars and that it's a bicyclist's responsibility to get the hell out of the way.
Case in point: yesterday afternoon, a shade before 6 p.m., I was riding through the Arts District to pick up my kid from preschool. As I headed west down the short stub of Flora Street by the AT&T Performing Arts Center and Meyerson, a black Mercedes pulled behind me. The light at Akard, some 75 yards ahead, was red, so there was no need to peddle terribly hard. This did not please the woman in the Mercedes, who revved her engine and sped past, giving me the angry eyes.
She reached the light a good five seconds before me, and it was still red when I pulled beside her. She already had her window down for a friendly chat. She demanded to know just what I thought I was doing riding my bicycle in the middle of the road. She grew up in Europe where lots of people ride bikes, she said. One can't just ride in the middle of the street where cars are supposed to go!
I explained to her that my Kona had just as much right to the lane as her Mercedes did.
"This is the law in Texas?"
"I will Google this," she concluded defiantly as the light turned green and she sped away.
Google will take her to the Texas Transportation Code, Chapter 551, the basic gist of which is this: "A person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle." A further provision stipulates that a cyclist moving more slowly than traffic ride "as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway," which I was not doing. I'd argue that the lengthy red light at Akard made how fast we got there irrelevant; she'd argue I should have just gotten out of her way.
Shared bike lanes might mitigate some of these clashes. It will take time for people to drive on the roads and equate the little painted bike people on the road with the actual bike people on it, but it could happen. The Morning News, which is accompanied by a sort-of training video for drivers and bikers, implies that the new shared lanes are baffling drivers. But the most confused person they could find actually understands things perfectly:
"I've seen them, but I have no idea," Rhiannon Buono, a valet at the Omni Dallas Hotel, told the Morning News. "I just drive and watch out for bicyclists."