Wednesday, May 26, 2010

GUEST POST: Bicycling in Dallas

Go ahead, drivers. Make my day.

These are fun. Why? Because I don't have to provide all the written content. Thursday afternoon, 5 to 8 pm, at City Hall in downtown Dallas is the Bike Plan open house. Will anything substantive come of this particular session, probably not. But, it is a chance to commiserate with your like-minded peers...and there'll be punch and pie!

Putting My Hard Hat On and Going to Work.

Yes, I ride my bike. Or, should I say I am the pimple that the city of Dallas drivers can’t seem to rid themselves. I may be a speck in the grand scheme of a City where commuting is an antagonistic affair, but I am certainly the most annoying of all opponents delaying you from that rat race.

It might actually seem feasible to reach a downtown job by bicycle for a resident of the yuppie village region of Uptown Dallas, not more than two miles away. Too long to walk, the trolley is as reliable as its century old parts, and driving just seems ostentatious. It ought to be the perfect distance for what should be a safe, enjoyable ride if in a City that accommodated it.

Well, in the City of Dallas, it isn’t. With the luxury of great weather year round, I began commuting by bike three months ago. The trek is not far. I can see my building from my apartment, but the absurdity of navigating the region on two wheels is far too intimidating for most. As a safe, energy efficient endeavor, it shouldn't be. Alas, we've entitled those pointing and pedaling the much more deadly machines.

People comfortably ride bikes around White Rock Lake and on the Katy Trail, but hardly anyone rides on the street. Why? Because you can’t. Sure, you can physically ride on the street, but good luck. Without a bike lane to be found you are head-to-head with impatient motorists not interested in your safety, but rather, reaching their destination as expediently as the law does or does not allow.

My commute is unable to take the logical, direct route: McKinney Ave, or snake through some side streets that might be more pedestrian friendly. No, my commute begins on the sidewalk to get to the intersection of Hall and Cole, or shall I say, the intersection of bicycle death. After I turn onto Hall, I then weave through a drive-thru bank (without making a deposit or withdrawal mind you) to get to the Katy Trail. Alas, I made it….alive. This is the only enjoyable portion of the commute. The Katy Trail is beautiful to ride alongside other bicyclists, people out for their morning jog, and experience some of the most beautiful green spaces in the city.

ed: Ryan's route vs. the more direct one.

On the roads forget about common courtesy or patience from drivers. Usually the best strategy at intersections is to let every car go first, hoping that the next wave of motorists realizes your turn, but this is risky business. Look out for Sally Sorority in daddy's beamer on her cell phone willing to make you part of the street, or her vehicles grill. Three separate times I have been nearly killed as I perform a basic left turn onto Hall Street, with the right-of-way. Common theme: cell phones. All three motorists have been on their cell phones not paying attention. I could have been a biker, a walker, or a double-decker bus in London. It would matter not. A wreck or manslaughter is in their future. No worries. Daddy will cover it.

Once this portion of the commute is over, the real journey begins as I navigate a sea of parking lots in order to avoid Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, and the late Dale Earnhardt on their way to work. Crossing the highway is always the next obstacle where I stare death straight into its steely grate. Surprisingly, it is not too bad. With a preponderance of lanes, motorists provide bicyclists the right-hand lane. However, I do not doubt for a second that I would be run down for the next changing traffic light.

When my day is up, back to the Texas Motor Speedway we go. The return trip always follows the same route because the only safe section is the Katy Trail no matter how far out of my way it is, which in the afternoon with the sun out is even more enjoyable. There are no safe streets for a bicyclist. Of course not. You are a second class citizen. Perhaps soon we will have to drink out of separate water fountains.

The commuting back and forth is not nearly as bad as the first time one tries it. Like anything else, you get used to it, all of it. You have to accept that this City, not just its inhabitants, its drivers have cast you out. You are undesirable. Even dressed in office attire, as might be the case in any other City in the world, you are lumped into the small niche crowd of hardcore enthusiasts in spandex when all you want to do is get to work.

I suppose it actually is my fault foolishly thinking that biking to work, since it is such a short distance, was a good idea. I mean that bro honking and glaring at me from his Hummer because I properly turned left at the four-way stop, with the right-of-way, is clearly right. Look how important he is, he’s in a car. Duh!

A city shouldn’t have to “get used” to alternative, healthy forms of transportation. This city needs bike lines, a plan for nearby residents to commute safely to downtown, and a real conscience about promoting healthy commuting for a city known for the opposite. I am not Lance Armstrong, but I also don’t want to be that dead squirrel on the pavement.

Ryan DiRaimo is a local architect. He wants you to know that he's 6-5, 240 and plays in the NHL, but not for the Stars. Those endeavors might lead you to believe that he would be too busy to maintain a sports blog, a twitter account, AND be a favorite of the lovely ladies of Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. He does all of the above. Except for some.