Highway-Closing Dallas-to-McKinney Bike Ride Cancelled in Sketchiest Way Possible
Last month, Gary Lacara was "100 percent" sure that Bike the City, his 30-mile, Dallas-to-McKinney charity bicycle tour scheduled for a Sunday morning in April, was a go. "I wouldn't attempt this if I wasn't," he told Unfair Park at the time.
You can bike a city, just not this city.
And there was no reason to think he couldn't organize a bike event in three months, other than the not insignificant facts that 1) the event would require the closure of all northbound lanes of U.S. 75 that the route runs straight down U.S. 75 and 2) he had permission from neither the Texas Department of Transportation nor any of the cities -- Dallas, Richardson, Plano, Allen, McKinney -- the highway passes through.
Both trifling matters, he assured us, and TxDOT confirmed they'd been in talks with Lacara and were, at least in theory, open to closing the freeway assuming the cities were on board. In other words, there was no reason people should worry about going to the website and cough up $45 to $240 for registration.
But now, the bikedallas.com website, where the Dallas-to-McKinney ride had been advertised, links to a website promising "cycling tours across America" but offering only one: a May 19 date in Oklahoma City. All mention of the Dallas event has been scrubbed from the site.
"We're moving the date and we have to change the deal because Plano blocked it," Lacara told Unfair Park this morning. The ride had gotten the go-ahead from all the other cities along the route, he said, but the city had refused to close "egress and access ramps."
The people who had already signed up and paid their registration fee -- he said he didn't know the number off the top of his head -- were informed of the cancellation last night via email. They were given the option of a full refund, keeping their space in the event for whenever and wherever it's rescheduled for, or participating in the Oklahoma City ride.
Then, after telling us all that, Lacara asked if we could hold the story until after Plano's mayoral election in May, explaining that he didn't want the nixing of the bike tour to become a "political issue." Since there would be little point in writing about the cancellation of an event the month after it was supposed to take place, and because the request was ridiculous on its face, we told him no.
He called back 10 minutes later to ask that his name not be used as it might hurt ongoing negotiations with members of the Plano City Council, which he alluded to in vague terms. This, too, was a nonstarter, since we had just spoken on the record and he has been the public face of the Bike the City event since it was announced. We did agree to speak with his co-organizer, Tijmen Felix, who he promised would call us.
In the meantime, we heard back from the city of Dallas' special events manager, Lori Chance. Under to the city's special event rules, which require permit applications to be submitted a minimum of 45 business days before the event, Lacara would have had to apply by last Friday for the April 21 tour. But: "The City of Dallas has approved nothing on this event," Chance wrote in an email. "An application has not been filed nor have any face-to-face meetings taken place with the Office of Special Events since the initial contact in September 2012."
That's because the Bike the City group had been dealing directly with the city manager, Felix said when he called a few minutes later. When we asked, rather incredulously, if Felix was referring to City Manager Mary Suhm, whom one imagines is too busy running the city to meet with a couple of event planners, he said yes. Suhm was on board, but Plano wasn't.
"I mean, we had all the best intentions starting out to be goodwill thing for Kiwanis and Rotary and Boy Scouts and all the other charities involved," he said. "It turned out to be a nightmare getting it approved." He put most of the blame on Plano's police chief, which is news to Plano police.
"I heard some talk about that but the PD wasn't really involved in this," said police spokesman David Tilley. "You might check with the city and they might have more information on it."
City spokeswoman Mary Vail-Grube confirmed that there had been some discussion with the mayor and city manager but that there had never been any serious support -- from Plano or the other towns the tour was slated to pass through -- for Lacara's plan: "I just think honestly everyone thinks 'How could this possibly work to close 75 to traffic?'"
City of Dallas spokesman Frank Librio said much the same thing and dismissed the notion that there had been direct negotiations with Mary Suhm. Lacara had never had a face-to-face meeting with city officials, Librio said.
Both Lacara and Felix deny Bike the City is some sort of scam and insist it will be rescheduled, albeit on non-highways. For now, they say they're putting their efforts into Oklahoma City.
Felix says the emails notifying registered riders of the Dallas event's cancellation had elicited "very good responses. From the emails, people say they are bummed out that the thing is not going ahead and good luck for the future."
He also couldn't recall how many people had signed up. "I would have to ... phone the website guy," he said. He promised to call when he hears back.