In 2012, Bicycling Magazine named Dallas, Texas the worst city for cycling for the second time. The lowest percentage of cyclists in the country and the lack of a single bike lane played a major role in the decision, but the title was given in great part because of the city’s failure to follow up on a citizen-developed bike plan from 2011.

2011 Dallas Bike Plan Central Core Connection map

Driven by grassroots efforts, an aggressive update to the city’s 1985 cycling plan rendered a new guide to modern cycling infrastructure in Dallas. The original plan built on the concept of training cyclists to feel comfortable in standard car traffic–negating the use of designated bike lanes.

In other cycle-friendly cities, a combination of cultural education and definitive infrastructure facilitates the easy assimilation of bikes into traffic. For example: beyond clear protected lane space for bikers and custom traffic lights, I experienced a completely different human dynamic as a cyclist while visiting Copenhagen–a sharp comparison to a common sense of intrusion felt over cyclists or pedestrians on Dallas roads. The idea of cycling the zig-zagged web of calmer side streets in Dallas seems life-threatening, as roads regularly facilitate traffic up to 40 mph, and deaths of the cycling minority often remain unaddressed by change.

Trail crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists

Citing a lack of funds and bureaucratic processes as the cause for delay in implementing the 2011 plan- the city has chosen to focus on select parts of the city where bike infrastructure will provide the greatest connectivity. Pending the reception of sufficient funds for the limited path forward, more lanes will be added. Whenever this point is reached, it will become an impressive step towards healthy, mixed use development in Dallas. Some acknowledgement of the consequences the city has experienced due to auto-dependency seems a critical part of stalled changes in city code, cultural animosity towards cyclists, and priority funding. Though genuine change in transportation logic to include cyclists and pedestrians is much easier said than done, Bicycling Magazine’s list gives hope: several of the reigning best cycling cities used to be on its ‘Worst Cities’ list.

Does cycling work well in your city? How could it be improved?

Credits: Image by Christine Cepelak. Data linked to sources.