Getting Fat Texans to Bike Is a Real Challenge, says NYT/Texas Tribune Report

bikecafedallas.jpg
richard wezensky
Fat Texas residents are slowly realizing that they should bike more, according to a Texas Tribune article co-published in The New York Times this weekend. Sourcing mostly "city officials," the report comes to the conclusion that fat Texans are biking more thanks to the efforts of -- you guessed it -- city officials. We might be dumb, but thankfully, there are intelligent bureaucrats willing to help. Apparently, our local bureaucrats want us to ride bikes because we kept embarrassing them with how fat we were getting: "The unwanted publicity of landing high on various 'fattest cities' lists has heightened interest in doing more to encourage bicycle use, according to some city officials."

Please, just talk amongst yourselves, Some City Officials and the Texas Tribune, we can't even read or hear you.

These City Officials, a vague, shadowy group of individuals who exist across Texas, claim to lead productive careers that encourage cyclists and drivers to co-exist, "balancing efforts to maintain and expand vehicular capacity while still encouraging new bike lanes and trails."

That proactive group of lawmakers apparently includes our own local government, which gets a quick shout-out in the story: "The Dallas City Council may soon require new
businesses to set aside space for bicycle parking." Reading that in this story, you might get the impression that we should thank our City Council for all it's done for us Texas residents, as we are a passive, obese group of overgrown toddlers. But that impression would be wrong. This story conveniently ignores the whole part about how local cycling activists had to bug City Hall for years before our local "city officials" agreed to paint in a few bike lanes.

In 2008, Bicycling Magazine named Dallas the worst city in America for cycling.Things looked up with the 2011 Dallas Bike Plan, but it's been moving at such a glacial place that in 2012, Bicycling Magazine again crowned Dallas as the worst place to ride.

As Eric reported in April, the 10-year bike plan is actually on pace to take much longer than 10 years unless City Hall puts more bike money in the budget.

Last October, a few impatient bad-asses in Dallas got tired of waiting for the City Officials to paint in bike lanes and decided to just make the lanes themselves, prompting a stern story at WFAA, Bogus bike lanes appearing on Dallas streets, which warned that "the unofficial markings are confusing drivers and even City Council members." Booya, who's the dumb now one now?

Of course, Dallas cyclists have had a few champions in local government, notably Max Kalhammer, the city's first bike coordinator who didn't think cyclists should be forced to fight traffic and who worked with advocacy groups like Bike Friendly Oak Cliff. Yet he stepped down in June, sounding pretty frustrated with City Hall in an interview with Eric.

Meanwhile, the Texas Trib/NYT report ignored all that and instead describes a major obstacle to cycling in Texas being that "it is more difficult to convince people that biking is a practical way to get around." Probably speaking in a slow voice, a biking manager in San Antonio's sustainability department is quoted saying: "We're not trying to take away cars." Nope, sorry, not convinced.


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18 comments
Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

I think the biggest challenges with getting people to bike in Texas is:

1. The weather - Let's face it, it's hot. And, when you are overweight/out of shape you have a harder time to dealing with the heat.

2. Sprawl - Because of all of the available land, Texas cities spread out. This means that most people riding a bicycle for anything other than exercise means a massive amount of time has to be devoted to get anywhere.

3. Infrastructure and drivers - In many places bicyclists are prohibited from riding on sidewalks. Meanwhile, we have drivers who will intentionally try to scare/hit cyclists. Even on residential side streets you will have people who think 50 mph is a perfectly safe speed to drive. 

Marvin Remmers
Marvin Remmers

Too hot. Dallas doesn't have enough nice days. It's either too hot or too cold. Northern cities have mild summers and the sun stays up longer.

Osvaldo Garcia
Osvaldo Garcia

Biking really the only people cycling is middle aged men and women on tights. That money should be spent on making our schools better or improving communities. Biking has for some reason become a fad, perhaps if dallas was like ny, chicago, san fran and so on it might work. But its dallas, can't go anywhere without having to hop on the hwy just to grab a bite.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu topcommenter

so look out for those beauties oh yeah.

Jerry Probst
Jerry Probst

I'm a Dallas resident. I spent some time in Chicago recently and was in awe of the bicycling culture up there. Every morning I saw hundreds of cyclists commuting to work and school down North Halsted Street. There are dedicated lanes and bike paths all over the area. It is clear that cycling is part of the city plan and people take advantage of what is available. I returned to Dallas and found a few stretches of pavement fixed and some new signage on White Rock Creek Trail. These repairs are nice but nowhere near the Pie-In-The-Sky promises of the Dallas Bike Plan. While billions are being spent to upgrade highways in the area, the city council cannot find the paltry millions needed to make the plan a reality. Glacial Pace is an understatement. Yes the current projects and additions are an improvement, but frankly, I am riding the same trails I rode when I came here 20 years ago. Don't pat yourself on the back for minor improvements. The 2012 Bicycling magazine ranking as the Worst City to Ride in is both an indictment and a wake up call. Get off your keester Dallas! This is the 21st century! If you want to be considered a world class city build the world class cycling system you have promised for years!

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

Getting fat Texans to do anything is a real challenge.

Don North
Don North

we Texans don't bike NY city folks we ride horses to work and hitch 'em to the post when we get in of course the big wigs like me we have our own stables, stupid POS hacks

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

If they want fat people to ride bikes, they should put bike lanes in the drive thru...

dsicle
dsicle

@Tim.Covington "Hot weather" is a poor excuse. It's only hot for 3 months (and even then, so what? Suck it up and ride, plenty of people do) while the remaining 9 months are excellent biking weather. But even if you do accept "it's too hot" as an excuse, there's still good riding weather the other 75% of the year.

Side note: NYC is melt-your-tires hot for 2 months and frozen-solid for 2 months, but they manage to ride year-round just fine.

Also: bicycles and sidewalks don't mix. Adult bicycles are vehicles, and as such belong on the road. It might be inconvenient to fast-moving vehicles, but traffic rules allow for and create predictable, safe situations for everyone involved when encountering slower-moving vehicles (bicycles, tractors, horse-drawn carriages, etc). There are no such rules for sidewalks. Pedestrians can't predict when a bicycle might fly past them at 20 mph, and cyclists can't predict when a pedestrian might stop, or turn 90º directly in front of them, or step out from around a corner, etc.

yoka
yoka

@Marvin Remmers Same reason I've never bought a convertible here.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@Sharon_Moreanus "do anything" would be the operative term here.  Relying on biking to reverse America's obesity trend isn't going to work.  Not everybody enjoys riding bikes.  Getting overweight people to engage in any physical activity should be the goal, not getting them on bikes.

kduble
kduble

@RTGolden1 @Sharon_Moreanus So, any idea that doesn't solve all the world's problems overnight isn't worth a second look.

dsicle
dsicle

@Tim.Covington Also, not saying you shouldn't get out on your mountain bike (because you should!) but one of my very good friends broke his back on a mountain bike trail 2 weeks ago. Thankfully his surgery went well and he'll recover fine, in a couple of months. Just thought I should point out that mountain biking isn't inherently safe, either.

dsicle
dsicle

@Tim.Covington See, now "fear of getting hit by a car" is a legitimate reason not to ride a bike. Totally acceptable. But "fear of being hot" is just a puss-out excuse for fatties to stay fat.

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