Increase in cyclists prompts look at plans
Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are jostling for space in area cities, prompting Southlake to consider an ordinance regulating them.
Southlake City Councilwoman Pam Muller said she has personal experience from her own walks.
“People are taking rights on reds, and there have been a few times I’ve nearly been hit,” she said.
The City of Grapevine also is looking at cycling and pedestrian issues, and has hired a consultant to look at possible bike routes.
Cycling has proliferated North Texas with recreational users and racing groups taking to the roads and trails in large numbers, especially on weekends.
Cyclist Carl Beaman, manager of bike shop Knobbies and Slicks in Colleyville, said he’s had few problems cycling in groups.
But, he said, “If you’re alone, especially on your two-lane roads, you have people honking at you, throwing Cokes at you. I know it does happen.”
The need for courtesy cuts both ways.
“A lot of cyclists will kind of cruise through stop signs if they don’t see any cars. That frustrates drivers when they see that happening,” Beaman said.
Muller asked Southlake city staff to look into a vulnerable road user ordinance, which would apply to pedestrians, riders and drivers. The measure could come before the City Council in the next few months.
Such ordinances, which are in effect in Fort Worth, Denton, Plano, Austin, San Antonio, Beaumont, New Braunfels and other Texas cities, set safe distances between road users, among other things.
The problem, as Southlake City Council members noted, is enforcement.
“We know it’s difficult to catch conflicts between cyclists and motorists,” council member Brandon Bledsoe said. “The police can’t always be there.”
But he said an ordinance also can help promote awareness. Some cities, he said, have an awareness week with a public campaign during which police focus heavily on enforcement.
Cities also are focusing on connecting sidewalks and linking bike paths between municipalities.
Ken Baker, Southlake planning and development director, said the city hosted a regional bicycle and pedestrian coordination meeting in January with staff members from cities including Grapevine, Westlake, Colleyville, Keller and Trophy Club.
“We wanted to make sure we understood each others’ sidewalk and trail plans so we can make critical connections,” he said.
The City of Southlake is getting many new sidewalks this year, including some down both sides of busy Southlake Boulevard.
In Grapevine, bids should be let in August on a new 1.35 -mile trail from Great Wolf Lodge along Hwy. 26 to Grapevine Mills mall, said Doug Evans, city parks and recreation director.
Colleyville has the Cotton Belt Trail, which runs alongside Hwy. 26.
Even shared off-road trails can be hazardous — a jogger died after being hit by a bicycle on the Katy Trail in Dallas in 2010.
“If you’re a pedestrian, either a runner or just walking, you can’t hear bicycles coming up from behind you on the sidewalk,” said Bledsoe.
“I know personally you can say ‘I’m on your left,’ but sometimes they move right in front of you because they’re startled.”
Common signage for cyclists and pedestrians across all the cities also was among the topics considered at the joint meeting, Baker said.
The cities lack established on-road bike lanes, which can be expensive.
Baker said many areas have 20-foot-wide streets with ditches on either side. To add bike lanes and still provide drainage, cities would have to install pipe in the ditches, which he said would be “very costly.”
Serious cyclists, who ride fast and cover 40 miles or more at a time, would like to see on-road lanes.
Good street routes also are important for environmental reasons and to alleviate congestion, said cyclist Clarence Muller (no relation to Pam Muller), owner of Mad Duck Cyclery in Grapevine.
He and others rode for days to map out proposed routes to schools, employment centers and shopping areas.
They presented the resulting map to Grapevine officials several years ago, he said, adding that the city has been receptive.
Assistant City Manager Jennifer Hibbs said the city has hired Dallas consultant Bowman-Melton Associates, Inc., to look at routes.
“It should go to council sometime in the next few months, we haven’t quite internally sorted through it,” she said.
The city police departments do not file accidents by pedestrian or cyclist involvement, so accident figures were not immediately available.
But a study by Transportation for America shows the Dallas–Fort Worth area as the 10th most dangerous spot in the U.S. for pedestrians.