The rivalry between Dallas and Fort Worth — whose downtowns are 30 miles apart — dates back to the mid-19th century when both towns were little more than outposts on a still-untamed frontier.
As the cities grew and prospered, Fort Worth embraced its western heritage, reveled in the nickname “Cowtown,” and looked to the ranches of West Texas stretching into New Mexico as the source of its wealth. Dallas, meanwhile, considered itself a glitzy western vanguard of eastern commerce and civilization.
Despite the 21st-century buzz phrase “regional cooperation,” referring to the two cities’ joint efforts on such projects as playing host to Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on Feb. 6 in Arlington — part of the suburban sprawl between Dallas and Fort Worth — the rivalry is never very far beneath the surface of polite discourse.
The decision of the sports network ESPN, for example, to anchor its broadcasts during Super Bowl week in downtown Fort Worth prompted some nasty sniping in blogs and the comment sections of newspaper websites, mostly from east of Texas 360, a highway that runs north-south midway between Fort Worth and Dallas. ESPN’s decision, essentially, boiled down to foot traffic. Fort Worth’s downtown, though smaller than that in Dallas, is livelier at night. The canyons between Dallas’ skyscrapers are nearly dead after office hours.
The rivalry extends to art museums and performance venues, with each city trying to outdo the other. And perhaps even to bicycle paths.
Fort Worth has long had a fine, ever-expanding network of bicycle trails, mostly along the Clear and West forks of the Trinity River. Dallas has a nice loop of about nine miles around White Rock Lake northeast of downtown and a 3.5-mile-long biking and hiking path that runs through the Oak Lawn area of north of downtown, following the path of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, which was known as MKT or the Katy.
On Feb. 9, the Fort Worth City Council unanimously approved a comprehensive plan aimed at making Cowtown one of the most bike-friendly communities in the country over the next five years. (See Feb. 10 blog post, “From Cowtown to BikeTown?”)
On Feb. 10, a Dallas TV station, KDAF-TV/Channel 33, reported on its website that “Dallas City Hall is looking for bicycling enthusiasts to help overhaul a 25-year-old city bike plan.” Was that just coincidence?
The city unveiled its first version of the plan on Sept. 23. The third and last of a series of public meetings on the plan is set for Jan. 20 at Dallas City Hall.
The latest addition to the Dallas bike path network is the Santa Fe Trail, once the route of the Santa Fe Railway. The 4.2-mile, concrete-surface trail runs from near Deep Ellum, a nightlife district with a colorful past on the eastern edge of downtown, northeast through east Dallas parks and neighborhoods and links to the trail around White Rock Lake.
The entire trail only recently opened upon completion of a couple bridges over major thoroughfares near White Rock Lake.
I and two biking friends, one of whom lives in Dallas, rode the trail on Friday, a sparkling winter day. We parked on Main Street in Deep Ellum, where the parking meters are free until 6 p.m. We unloaded our bikes and rode on the Santa Fe Trail to White Rock Lake, did the loop around the lake, and then back to Deep Ellum for lunch at the AllGood Cafe, which serves as a music venue at night.
Fort Worth still has a decided edge over Dallas in bike trails, but it seems that Dallas aims to catch up with the city to the west. Rivalry is good. Perhaps some of that touted “regional cooperation” will one day lead to a linkage of municipal bike trails throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex into a seamless network so that a cyclist could ride on a paved trail from downtown Fort Worth to downtown Dallas.