“The city needs a car like a fish needs a bicycle.”
— Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway
It has some way to go before it’s a Portland, Boulder or even an Austin, but Fort Worth turned a big crank of the pedals Tuesday night toward its goal of becoming one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in America by 2015.
In a chamber packed with cyclists, many of whom rode their bikes to City Hall on a frigid evening, the Fort Worth City Council unanimously approved the city’s “comprehensive bicycle transportation plan,” which aims to increase the number of bicycle trails, on-street lanes and signed bike routes from about 100 miles to nearly 1,000 miles.
The city estimates that only about 0.2 percent of Fort Worth’s 720,000 residents currently ride their bikes to work. That’s a figure in the hundreds, rather than thousands.
By comparison, in Austin, the state’s most active bike-commuting city, about 1 percent of the population commutes to work by bicycle. Home of Lance Armstrong and the main campus of the University of Texas, Austin is the only Texas city designated as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Cyclists.
Bernie Scheffler, Fort Worth cyclist, bike shop owner and activist, and Brad Blessing, architect and cycling advocate, were featured in a report on the City Council action by the local CBS station, KTVT-TV/Channel 11. (To see the video report, go to KTVT-TV’s video library and search for “Fort Worth cyclists.”) Scheffler and Blessing recently founded the group Bike Friendly Fort Worth, which helped organize the ride to City Hall.
Local clubs, such as the Fort Worth Bicycling Association and LMRA Bicycle Club, also took part in the ride. Kyle Carr of the LMRA designed the yellow T-shirts, declaring “I Support BIKE Fort Worth,” that were worn by cyclists in the council chamber.
The Web site FortWorthology, dedicated to such concepts as “smart growth,” “transit,” “bicycles” and “sustainability,” carried a report on the City Council vote and the cyclists who rode to City Hall to demonstrate support for the plan, called “Bike Fort Worth.”
“Bike Fort Worth calls for the expansion of the bike transportation network to nearly 1,000 miles, with 224.7 miles of off-street trails, the conversion of the 1.4 miles of bus lanes downtown into bus & bike lanes, 218.3 miles of on-street sharrow [shared roadway] bike routes, and an incredible 480.3 miles of dedicated on-street bike lanes, with lanes to the city limits and dense webs in the urban core,” wrote Kevin Buchanan of FortWorthology.
“The plan even spells out the need for very progressive infrastructure where needed, including Bicycle Boulevards in residential neighborhoods, bike boxes, bike-only traffic signals (and signal recalibration for bike routes), contra-flow bike lanes for one-way streets, physically separated on-street cycle tracks, and more.”
The Huffington Post carried an item on Feb. 4 on how some cities around the world “have come up with creative and unique ways of trying to make biking a safer, more pleasant experience.” The post featured a nice selection photos of bike lanes in such cities as Munich, New York and Tokyo.
The estimated capital cost of the Bike Fort Worth plan over the next two to three decades is about $160 million. Some who are wedded to gasoline-powered vehicles might rather see this money spent on improving roads for motorists. But there could be an economic impact from making Fort Worth more bike-friendly that would benefit the city overall.
A new study by the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison says that bicycling generates more than a $1.5 billion annual economic impact in Wisconsin, exceeding the impact of even the deer hunting industry.
That sounds a lot like what Fort Worth is doing.
(See two previous blog posts on this topic: “Making Cowtown more bike-friendly,” May 15, and “Arlie Robinson: Pioneer bike commuter,” Aug. 17.)