The contrast could hardly have been starker.
Here we had the outgoing mayor, Mike Moncrief, and City Councilman Joel Burns, at a ceremony this morning officially opening Fort Worth’s network of urban bicycle lanes, talking about such things as smart growth, improving the environment, fostering healthful habits and easing congestion by getting more bicycles onto the city’s streets and roads.
And besides, they said, bike lanes will decrease property values. (See June 29 blog post, “A parallel universe in a city next-door.”)
Arlington’s Hike and Bike System Master Plan, a sharply scaled-back version of the original proposal, was approved by the City Council on 5-4 vote. For final passage, the plan requires a second reading before the council and a final vote, expected to be on Aug. 2.
Councilman Mel LeBlanc spoke for the council opposition, and Mayor Robert Cluck, apparently feeling the heat of the vocal critics, voted against the plan.
“The city of the future is not the city that puts bike paths in,” LeBlanc said. “It’s the city … that has a very low tax rate and a very low debt ratio. The city of the future is the city you can move to and not be robbed by taxes.”
Tell that, for example, to Minneapolis, or Portland, Ore., or Boulder, Colo. — or Fort Worth. All of those cities are considered very desirable places to live. (Just last week, Fort Worth was designated for the third time since 1964 as an “All-America City” by the National Civic League meeting in Kansas City.)
And all of those cities have taken aggressive steps to encourage people to ride bicycles — not as part of a United Nations conspiracy, but for such common-sense reasons as easing congestion, reducing environmental pollution and promoting health.
In contrast to the pain and angst in Arlington over installing a few bike lanes, Fort Worth’s City Council unanimously approved on Feb. 8, 2010, a “comprehensive bicycle transportation plan.” Bike Fort Worth aims to increase the number of bicycle trails, on-street lanes and signed bike routes from about 100 miles to nearly 1,000 miles over several decades.
The plan also proposes to sharply increase the number of bike commuters and “attain official designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community through the League of American Bicyclists” by 2015.
The city has been quickly implementing the plan. Bicycle lanes and racks have been installed on Magnolia Avenue, a bustling thoroughfare of restaurants, shops and watering holes on the city’s Near South Side; along major streets into and around downtown; along West Seventh Street from downtown to a thriving district of museums, restaurants and bars that some have dubbed “little Dallas”; and around Texas Christian University.
The urban bike lanes are designed to connect with the city’s excellent network of paved trails, mostly along the Clear and West forks of the Trinity River.
At this morning’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the downtown lanes, Councilman Burns, a Realtor whose District 9 includes downtown and the Near South Side, spoke of the economic benefits of bike lanes.
“Studies have shown that bike lanes are not only good for our health and the environment, but they’re also good for the health of the economy,” Burns said, noting that bicycle lanes promote tourism, drive traffic to local businesses and increase property values.
“Neighborhoods become more desirable when traffic slows down and residents have more transportation choices,” he said.
Are you listening, Arlington Realtors!
So which is the city of the future? Mel LeBlanc’s Arlington, where many residents seem to be mired in the 1950s? Or Joel Burns’ Fort Worth?
I’d put my money on Fort Worth.
For a full report on the ribbon-cutting ceremony check out the video below, shot by Kevin Buchanan for his Fort Worthology blog.