Monthly Archives: May 2012

Baseball and bikes: A follow-up


The Fort Worth Cats baseball club is a business that could benefit from the patronage of cyclists – if the club makes an effort to accommodate them.

The Fort Worth skyline from the Trinity River Trails near LaGrave Field

LaGrave Field, home of the Cats, is on a spur of the Trinity Trails just north of downtown and offers spectacular views of the Forth Worth skyline from seats along the third-base line.
On Wednesday evening, Mayor Betsy Price led one of her “rolling town hall” bicycle rides, which started and ended at LaGrave Field. The 10-mile ride on trails along the Trinity River was timed to end before the 7:05 p.m. start of the Cats’ season-opener against Rio Grande Valley so that the mayor could throw out the first pitch.
The Cats’ management provided free parking for cyclists who drove to LaGrave Field for the ride, and there was talk before the ride of a bike corral, where cyclists who rode to the field could park their bikes if they wanted to stay for the game.
Unfortunately, there was no bike corral and security personnel seemed to know nothing about it. I had ridden from home on the Near South Side to take part in the mayor’s ride and had planned to stay for the game. But with no secure place to park my bike, I decided to skip the game and ride home.
I wondered if the Cats’ management realized that LaGrave Field could be a great summertime draw for cyclists who might ride together to the field, park their bikes in a secure spot, enjoy a game and a fireworks display and then ride home.
So I called the Cats and had a satisfying conversation with Nate Dwelle, the Cats’ spokesman.

A 1954 program for the Fort Worth Cats when they played in the Texas League

It turns out that the ball club does have plans to cater to cyclists, and Nate even threw out a tentative plan for a “Go Green” game on June 3, a Sunday, when environmentalism would be promoted and cyclists would be encouraged to come to the game on their bikes.
Nate apologized for the lack of a bike corral or racks on Wednesday evening. He said the mayor’s ride was arranged on short notice with little time to set up racks or a corral.
I pointed out to Nate that an increasing number of local businesses and events are catering to cyclists and cited as an example the bike corrals at the Main St. Arts Festival in downtown Fort Worth in April and at the Crowne Plaza Invitational golf tournament this weekend at Colonial Country Club.
I suggested that he get in touch with the local cycling clubs to spread the word that cyclists would be welcome at LaGrave Field and would be accommodated. We talked of the possibility of games offering discounted tickets to cyclists or maybe a free hotdog.
I suggested that a group I ride with, the Night Riders, might consider a Sunday night ride to LaGrave for a game.
Nate seemed very receptive to all of my suggestions and seemed eager to follow through on them.
The Cats, under new ownership this season, play in the South Division of the North American League, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. They have 56 home games scheduled this season, with the final game on Sept. 3.
So cyclists will have plenty of opportunities to take in a game and test out the promised amenities at LaGrave Field.
Here’s hoping that the Cats are one more local business that recognizes bicyclists as a growing segment of their customer base and that cyclists tend to patronize places where they are welcomed.

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Baseball and bikes!


“When you get out in a casual setting and you put on your spandex, people will ride up and talk to you and tell you stuff.”
— Betsy Price, the bicycling mayor of Fort Worth

If you need to meet with the mayor of Fort Worth, you could, of course, arrange an appointment at City Hall. Or — and this is an option appealing to an increasing number of Fort Worth residents — you could hop on a bike and ride with the mayor during one of her “rolling town halls.”

Mayor Betsy Price, an avid cyclist for 25 years, stages weekly bike rides throughout Fort Worth to meet and greet her constituents, listen to concerns of residents and to gather ideas on how to improve the city. She is usually accompanied by scores of cyclists – people of all ages and cycling ability on all kinds of bikes.
The mayor’s next rolling town hall is scheduled for Wednesday evening. The start and end point will be LaGrave Field, home of the Fort Worth Cats baseball team on the near north side.
Cyclists are asked to gather for a ride start at 5:30 p.m. After the ride around the north side, the cyclists can attend the Cats season-opening game, beginning at 7:05 p.m. Ride participants will be able to buy a game ticket at a reduced price of $7, and cyclists who come to La Grave Field by car will be offered free parking.
“I’ll be throwing out the first pitch, too, so keep your helmets on,” the mayor wrote on the city’s website. A fireworks show will follow the game.
Baseball and bikes! Sounds like a splendid way to a spring evening.

NOTE: The mayor’s spokesman, Jason Lamers, has posted the route of Wednesday’s 10.73-mile ride on MapMyRide.

Hey, that’s me (in black at left) riding with the mayor on Saturday.

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Musings on Bike to Work Day


Some interesting observations gleaned from the Internet on National Bike to Work Day:
— Grant Petersen, founder of Rivendell Bike Works in Walnut Creek, Calif., struck a blow on Friday for utilitarian bikes and comfortable clothing for bicycle commuting, suggesting that commuters abandon racing bikes and spandex livery.
“Wear the clothes that you’re going to wear at work,” he said in an interview with David Greene on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition program.
“If your commute is reasonable – say, 10 miles or under – no problem. Dress the way you’re going to dress for the weather, or the day.
As for the equipment a commuter bike should have, Petersen recommended: “A bell, lights, reflectors, kickstand, baskets, bags. You know, make the bike useful. Certainly for commuting, it is not a workout tool. It should be a pickup truck on two wheels.”
Petersen told NPR that for more than two decades he was caught up in the notion that bicyclists should aspire to be like professional racers, who ride lightweight, high-tech bikes in gaudy, tight-fitting clothing.
But now, he said: “I totally don’t believe that. Racing is fringe. Racing ruins bicycle riding for a lot of people. … Racing bikes are just workout machines, really. So, you can’t put a basket, you can’t put bags on them, you can’t carry weight on them. They aren’t designed to carry weight.”
Petersen’s remarks seem to reflect a changing public perception of bicycles and the people who ride them. Even Bicycling magazine, long the preeminent publication for cyclists, has reflected this change. It used to focus almost exclusively on high-tech bikes and gear. Now it also includes stories on utilitarian urban bikes as an alternative means of transportation.
— Kevin Buchanan, a friend who writes a blog called Fort Worthology, wrote on his Facebook page on Bike to Work Day:
“You know, it’s amazing to me when I think back to when I started Fort Worthology five and a half years ago … one almost never saw human beings on bikes on Fort Worth streets. Only the hardest of the hardcore spandex racer dudes. Today, I see people every day rolling up and down the streets — regular people, in regular clothes, men AND women, often with kids. We have group rides that draw anywhere from dozens to hundreds of riders, every time. We have miles of new bike lanes on the pavement, with more showing up at a regular rate. We have bike racks popping up all over. And hell, we even have a mayor who leads regular rides. It’s hard to believe this is still Fort Worth — truly amazed at the progress we’ve made. We still have a long way to go to catch cities like Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, or New York (let alone Copenhagen and Amsterdam), but I’m so proud of what we’ve done so far.”
— As an indication of how far some cities have to go, there was a somewhat poignant message on a bicycle club’s listserv from a bicyclist in Arlington, adjacent to Fort Worth, who had resolved to ride to work today.
Arlington, it should be noted, is the largest city in the United States with no public transportation. It has a sizable number of folks who not only are hostile to cyclists and bike lanes but consider them tools of tyranny, part of a United Nations plan to drive people into cities and give up their cars. (See June 29, 2011, blog post, “A parallel universe in the city next-door.”)
The Arlington cyclist wrote that he lives about three miles from his workplace and has to be there early in the morning. Last night, he wrote, he prepared a backpack to carry shoes and a ball cap “to hide helmet hair” and got up early to set out for work. But then he thought about the route, considered that he’d be riding during rush hour and wondered: “Is this really a good idea?”
“I love my bike; I ride a fair amount, around 5,000 miles per year,” he wrote. “But on the roads at rush hour with all the motorists who so dearly love us, I chickened out.
“For all the bikers who rode in this morning in support of making bikes truly a viable means of transportation in our everyday lives, I applaud you – keep up the effort. But until and unless we can convince our cities … to provide bike lanes and trails to facilitate everyday use of the bike as a transportation alternative, I am worried that the Ride of Silence will be in memory of too many bikers who lost the battle for the roads to the automobile.”

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A memorable milestone


Wednesday evening marked a significant milestone for Fort Worth.
More than 200 bicyclists
– the official count was 217 – turned out to participate in the Ride of Silence, an annual event held worldwide to honor cyclists who died in the previous year, most of them in road accidents.
It was probably the largest group of cyclists ever to ride as a group in a city that is fast developing a culture of cycling.
With a bicycling mayor who leads regular rides called “rolling town halls,” a City Council committed to implementing a comprehensive plan aimed at promoting the bicycle as an alternative means of transportation and a continually expanding network of paved trails and bike lanes on city streets, Fort Worth seems to be well on the way to achieving its goal of becoming a “bicycle-friendly community” in the eyes of the League of American Bicyclists by 2015.
Thanks to Scott Strom for organizing the Ride of Silence and to all who showed up to ride.

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A tale of two cities … and mayors


First impressions can be deceiving.
Two cities: Toronto and Fort Worth.
Two mayors: Rob Ford and Betsy Price.
Toronto, Canada’s largest city, prides itself on being the country’s cultural, entertainment and financial capital. It has the third-largest mass-transit system in North America – after New York and Mexico City. Its population of about 2.6 million is more ethnically diverse than Miami, Los Angeles or New York City, says Wikipedia, citing figures from Statistics Canada.
— Fort Worth, my hometown, boasts that it’s the place “where the West begins” and cherishes its western heritage. “Cowboys and culture” is an unofficial motto. With a population of nearly 758,000, it’s the western anchor of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, an urban area of about 6.5 million. Fort Worth is at the heart of a county – Tarrant — that prides itself on being one of the most Republican in the country. Freeways abound. The car – or, should I say, the pickup — is king. And mass transit is considered by some to be downright socialist.

Rob Ford

So which city – Toronto or Fort Worth — has a mayor who embraces bicycle lanes and the bike as an alternative means of transportation? If you guessed Toronto, you’d be wrong.
In fact, the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, is vehemently hostile to bicyclists and has begun removing bike lanes on the grounds that they take up space better used by cars.
Ford was elected mayor on Oct. 25, 2010, by a margin of 47 percent to 35 percent after pledging to end what he calls “the war on the car.”
“It’s no secret,” Ford said as a Toronto city councilman in 2010. “Cyclists are a pain in the ass to motorists.”
“I can’t support bike lanes,” Ford continued. “How many people are riding outside today? We don’t live in Florida. We don’t have 12 months of the year to ride on a bike.
“And what I compare bike lanes to is swimming with the sharks. Sooner or later you’re going to get bitten. And every year we have dozens of people that get hit by cars or trucks. Well, no wonder, roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks, not for people on bikes. My heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.”

In the late 1990s, Bicycling magazine named Toronto the best city in North America for cycling. A study in 1999 by the Canadian firm Decima Research showed that 48 percent of Toronto’s residents were cyclists and that 60 percent of households owned bicycles.
Despite bicyclists’ protests against Ford, the mayor seems intent on turning back the clock in Toronto. It’s an example of how a mayor can change the character of a city.

Betsy Price

Now, let’s take a look at a city about 1,200 miles to the southwest of Toronto: Fort Worth, under Mayor Betsy Price.
Since her election as mayor on June 18, 2011, Price has used the bicycle as a tool of her office. An avid cyclist for about 25 years, Price has been organizing weekly bicycle rides throughout the city, which she calls “rolling town halls.”
“We started out about four weeks ago with 25 people and last week we had 74 people,” Price, 62, said in a report this morning by the local CBS affiliate, KTVT/Channel 11. “And if you’re brave enough to wear spandex in public, people will come talk to you and tell you all kinds of things.”
“It’s really interesting what people will tell you on a bike,” Price says in a video about her rolling town halls on the city’s website. “Because they get warmed up and they get loose and you feel friendly and accessible. That’s what we want. This is all about being real open and free with the citizens and letting them know we are here, and listening to their issues.”

The city has a comprehensive bicycle transportation plan, Bike! Fort Worth – put in place under Price’s predecessor, Mike Moncrief — and aims to make Fort Worth a bicycle-friendly community in the eyes of the League of American bicyclists by 2015.
Under Price, the city has been busy expanding and improving its fine network of bike trails, mostly along the West and Clear forks of the Trinity River, and has been striping bike lanes on major thoroughfares downtown and those leading into the city center. Price has even directed the installation of showers in City Hall for municipal employees who bike to work.

Mayor Betsy Price on the Trinity Trails

“Texans love their pickups and trucks,” Price said in the CBS report. “But they’re getting better and better about watching out for cyclists. … It’s a very bike-friendly town.”
But it turns out that other U.S. mayors are also getting out and about on bikes and promoting bicycle lanes in their cities.
Bob Davis, editor of the The Anniston Star in Anniston, Ala., and a friend and former colleague on the editorial board at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, wrote a piece for his paper on Monday called “Politics on two wheels.”
Bob, himself a dedicated cyclist, wrote of Betsy Price and the mayors of Ogden, Utah, and Huntsville, Ala., and their efforts to promote cycling.
What a difference a mayor can make in the character of a city!

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