A kerfuffle over City Hall showers


FORT WORTH — It could be expected that a City Council decision to spend about $50,000 on showers for City Hall employees who ride their bicycles to work or jog at lunchtime might raise a few hackles in this very conservative city.
That it didn’t raise much of a public clamor at the time of the decision early last month was perhaps a hopeful sign of changing attitudes as Fort Worth pushes ahead with its comprehensive bike transportation plan and goal to make the city a “bicycle-friendly community” in the eyes of the League of American Bicyclists by 2015.

Mayor Betsy Price on Fort Worth's Trinity Trails

But a story about the City Hall showers in Sunday’s Star-Telegram by Dave Lieber, the newspaper’s “watchdog,” and the online comments that followed indicated that cyclists have a long way to go in persuading car-centric Fort Worthians that bikes are a viable means of transportation.
That news of the City Hall showers seemed to slip under the radar, even though at least two local TV stations reported on the plan Dec. 6, was indicated by the opening of Lieber’s piece: “A Fort Worth City Hall employee tipped The Watchdog that the city is spending almost $50,000 to build five showers so city workers can clean up after biking to work or exercising at lunchtime.”
Lieber outlined a pretty good case, in my view, for City Hall providing five showers for its bike commuters, including quotes from Mayor Betsy Price, an avid cyclist, and City Councilman Joel Burns, whose District 9 includes downtown.
“We all need to focus on health and wellness,” said Price, a Republican. “This is a small step to help move that forward.”
Added Burns: “I had a number of employees say repeatedly they wish they had this type of facility. It’s a customer service issue. … Part of my support for this is we, as an employer, ask our employees to be healthy because we are self-insured. … It’s not an opulent health club. We’re just providing the means to clean up and have a professional appearance after heeding our request [to exercise] and help us reduce the city’s healthcare cost.”
One of the sillier online comments in response to Lieber’s piece: “Those employees that want to be healthy — give ’em an outdoor job with the parks department. No shortage of physical labor there. And if you want to shower, get the maintenance guys to leave a hose hooked up outside city hall. Either that or gather up all the folks who wanted the shower and ask them, ‘Which two of you want to be fired so we can pay for this silly idea?’”
Another critic asked: “Would McDonalds or Best Buy or any profit making organization do this? Of course not. There are health spas everywhere. Use one of them. Don’t waste my tax money.”

Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns (left) and former Mayor Mike Moncrief cut a ribbon on June 30, 2011, officially opening the city's downtown bicycle lanes

I was pleased to note that one of my friends and fellow cyclists responded to that remark: “Well, yeah, actually my employer did exactly that … I sometimes ride my bicycle to work, 17 miles each way, and my employer provides showers.”
I had a similar experience. Before I retired from the Star-Telegram in June 2008, when I was training for various long-distance cycling events that culminated in a ride across the United States in the fall of 2009, I rode my bike to work about three times a week.
When I asked about the possibility of shower facilities, the powers-that-be afforded me access to a shower and lockers in the maintenance department. That arrangement worked out fine, but I suggested that any future renovations at Star-Telegram facilities include a few showers for bike commuters.
As a cyclist and Fort Worth homeowner, who this very day paid a significant chunk of tax money for city and county services, including for schools and hospitals, and, presumably, a few pennies for those showers at City Hall, I applaud the City Council for trying to improve the lot of cyclists and for providing those shower facilities. I hope that other employers follow that example and do the same.

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4 Comments

Filed under Americana, Politics, Texana, Urban cycling

4 responses to “A kerfuffle over City Hall showers

  1. There should be (maybe there is) a term in logic or debate or whatever for the fallacy that when something doesn’t benefit all people equally, it is not in the public interest.

    Showers at City Hall, bike lanes, public transit, road projects, etc., ALL fall into this category. By that logic, there is very little that would be publicly funded and we’d still be hand pumping our own water out of the ground, getting around in ox carts, and forming militias to protect our homes.

  2. Mazer

    It has been a challenge to find shower facilities to use after commuting to work. Colleges and Universities have and can add such facilities on their campuses. It seems there is more interest in facilitating such an important addition. Keep your fingers crossed and keep pushing for peddling to work.

  3. Dan Baldwin

    The problem was that Mayor Price (an avid bike rider) was taking money that had been allocated to the animal shelter budget for the showers at city hall. The current system at the animal shelter is largely to blame all the sickness and disease there. Animals come in healthy, but in less than 24 hrs the begin getting sick and being put down. Put that budgeted money back where it belongs. Fix the shelter first, then see if the tax payers want showers at city hall.

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