Max Kalhammer, the Architect of Dallas' Bike Plan, Is Leaving City Hall [Updated]

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Max Kalhammer seems like he was a much chattier guy when he first arrived at City Hall in 2009 as the city's first-ever bike coordinator who didn't think cyclists should be forced to fight traffic. He talked frequently with the media and worked closely with advocacy groups like Bike Friendly Oak Cliff.

Something's happened since then to shut Kalhammer up. Maybe one of his higher-ups told him to cut it out. Maybe he lost the power of speech after ramming his progressive bike ideas into an all but immovable City Manager Mary Suhm. We're not sure.

In any case, by the time I started this job a year ago, he wasn't returning phone calls, at least not mine. I wrote him off as a ghost, but he was, I was assured, plugging away behind the scenes and doing what he could to make cycling in Dallas suck less.

No longer. The city just posted Kalhammer's position on its jobs page. And Kalhammer has updated his LinkedIn account to list his job with the city as past employment. Several people have confirmed his departure.

Why he's leaving or where he's going, isn't clear. We've messaged Kalhammer to see if he'll explain. Maybe now that he no longer works at City Hall, he'll give us a call back.

Update at 3:38 p.m.: Kalhammer tells us that he's actually been gone since June 14 with lots of prospects but no definite plans for the immediate future. "It was a planned process that started sometime last year after almost every type of bicycle facility on-street had been implemented and demonstrated," he says. So now, the city has experience doing a two-way cycle track and buffered bike lanes as well as the shared lanes that now crisscross downtown.

Kalhammer was cautious when discussing his decision to step down, but his frustration was evident. "It was a combination of things, and I can't deny that the conditions under which i was performing my job was a factor when making my decision," he says.

In general, city staff and elected officials weren't keen on making the types of changes necessary to establish cycling as a means of transportation rather than just a hobby. His pleas to roll bike infrastructure into the city's master plan for transportation, thereby avoiding the type foot-dragging that has slowed the bike plan, fell on deaf ears. The departments charged with implementing the bike plan were under-resourced. His insistence that the newly revamped Continental Bridge, as well as pretty much every other span across the Trinity, should have dedicated cycling facilities went basically nowhere. Basically, very few people of his bosses seem to fully realize the potential of cycling. "I think there's a little bit of disparity between the willingness of people to ride and how much advocacy there is...and how much support there is now at the city."

That's not to say it's been all frustration. There's the cycle track on Jefferson Boulevard and the pedestrian and bike improvements that will be added to the Calatrava bridge planned for I-30. Things are a lot further along than they were when Kalhammer started four years ago. They're just not quite where they need to be.

Kalhammer is cautiously optimistic that the city will remain committed to the bike plan and will eventually get there.

"It would be a benefit to our neighborhoods and businesses, which will prove to be the case once what I'm talking about is actually done," he says. "Right now, you can't really see the demand for it just because of the lack of it being a ubiquitous or fairly regular sight or reality on the streets. You need to have that familiarity from all road users for it to work. We haven't reached that critical mass yet but i'm sure that if the city is committed to it, once we reach critical mass, the city will look at this as just as valid as other [form of transportation].

"At the point when there is a critical mass of bicycle lanes and other connected facilities, it's also likely that most would-be bicycle commuters and the majority of the traveling public will see bicycling as a valid form of transportation, too."


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11 comments
ianbrettcooper
ianbrettcooper

It's a tough job when cyclists make up only 1% of the community and motorists make up 90% or more. You're basically pushing against a community that likes motorists to come first, and any improvements to cycling will be seen as a threat to that. I don't agree with Kalhammer's segregation strategy - I think it's self-defeating. In my opinion, integration of cyclists into the traffic pattern, traffic slowing and the installation of 'bike boulevards' are the key to revolutionizing cycling and improving safety, but it's hard to criticize when I'm sure that Bike Coordinator is a nasty and thankless job.

Annonnymous
Annonnymous

Poor Max. He probably left before being pushed out the door by Forest Turner. The City is full of unqualified Turner soilders who are hired to salute him or who are friends/relatives of Tennell Atkins and Dewayne Carraway. All strays who couldn't find or hold down a job anywhere else. Turner is city hall's version of John Wiley Price. He takes care of folks by squeezing them through the through the "competitive" bid and hiring processes. You know how to ride a bike but you cannot spell the word bike? You're hired!

sleepyhead420
sleepyhead420

I was at the original bike plan meetings. All we got promised was (I think this is the exact phrase) a can of paint. We had commitments for bike striping when the city was already painting. I think everyone heard or thought a lot more was going to happen - but alas, all we got was what was promised and that was some paint. Best wishes Max and next time, answer your emails or the phone.

sidewalkastro
sidewalkastro

Dallas is such a fuck up city and I grew up here. Ft. Worth, Austin and San Antonio are so much more liveable cities.

parck
parck

Max Kalhammer was in way over his head, never there when needed, an ineffectual non-starter from Day One.

Excellent entry by Eric Nicholson as usual.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

A shining example of the Eric Nicholson Effect: The better and more newsworthy the story, the crappier the writing.  

"...We haven't reached that critical mass yet but i'm sure that if the city is committed to it, once we reach critical mass, [cycling] will look at this as just as valid as other [form of transportation]."  So cycling will look at cycling as a valid form of transportation?  Or the city will look at cycling in such a fashion?

Slow down and proofread, partner.  Nobody is going to scoop you on Dallas cycling stories.

kduble
kduble

@sidewalkastro  Liveable compared to Dallas. A low bar.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

No is gonna scoop Eric for n e thing.

Wonder what they pay at the DO for rebloggin?

On the other hand.....

Hell the food blogger likes to get his cock sucked at my house.

FYI... Not by me..

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