Although Dallas may have a reputation as a city where cars are king, City planners are working to create a system of bike paths to make cycling a viable transportation option for commuting to work, shopping and entertainment.
If completed, Dallas — and East Dallas in particular – will benefit from cleaner air, fewer cars on the roads and a good excuse for exercise.
Dallas’ current bike route system dates to 1985 with a grid of north-south and east-west streets designated as bike routes with signs displaying the blue “Pegasus on Wheels” logo.
The City has identified more than 400 miles of streets for the system (300 miles have been signed so far) based on citizen input and traffic analysis. The system includes 35 miles of paved recreational hike and bike trails.
New trail facilities planned by the Dallas Public Works and Transportation Department would add dedicated bike/pedestrian paths to allow for faster bicycle travel and less competition with automobiles.
The long-range vision is to create two “loops” of designated bike paths, one north and one south of the Trinity River, using abandoned rail lines, DART rights-of-way and designated bike lanes along City streets.
The north Dallas bike loop would start from Downtown with a bike trail to Fair Park and Deep Ellum along DART rights-of-way, streets and converted alleys. From there, the City has proposed to build a bike path on the abandoned Santa Fe Railroad right-of-way running northeast, skirting Woodrow Wilson High School and the Hollywood Heights neighborhood, to its intersection in Tenison Park with the abandoned Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way.
It would then run on the SP line north to Royal Lane, where it would connect with the White Rock Creek Trail at Central Expressway.
This proposed 10-mile trail is known at the “East Dallas Veloway,” a term denoting is as a true transportation facility. The Veloway would have limited access, a concrete surface and a minimum width of 12 feet to safely accommodate one bike lane each way.
It would feature relatively long stretches uninterrupted by street intersections and traffic lights allowing for faster commuting, in some cases faster than by car.
In March, Dallas applied for $4 million in federal funding for the Veloway with a local match of $1 million. If the federal funding is approved, Dallas would have to pay for the entire project and seek reimbursement of 80 percent.
A second bike trail proposed for East Dallas is the Northeast Corridor trail. The three-mile trail would run inside DART’s light-rail right-of-way on the north side of the old MKT tracks.
This trail would run east from the DART station at Mockingbird Lane and intersect with the Veloway near Northwest Highway. The City has applied for $1.2 million in federal funding for this project.
The Veloway would be a boon for East Dallas, providing an efficient and faster bicycle pathway to Downtown, Baylor Hospital complex, Deep Ellum, Fair Park, White Rock Lake, Tenison Park, Park Central and Presbyterian Hospital.
The Northeast Corridor trail would benefit us by extending the bike link to Greenville, SMU and DART light-rail stations. Both trails could be a source of civic pride by linking neighborhoods and providing a quiet, non-polluting, aerobic alternative for commuting around town.
Eventually, the Northeast Corridor trail could be tied into the proposed Katy Trail hike and bike path via the McCommas Street bridge across Central. The Katy Trail could give bikers a direct link to restaurants and shops on Knox, McKinney and Oak Lawn and eventually could take bikers to Union Station Downtown, completing the north Dallas bike trail loop.
The Dallas Public Works and Transportation Department estimates that three-quarters of one percent of the total daily mileage traveled in the City is by bicycle. It aims to increase that to three percent. Such an increase would mean thousands of cars taken off the streets each day and would reduce vehicle emissions of ozone-forming compounds to help Dallasites breathe easier.
If federal funding is approved, Dallas will be challenged to meet its share of the cost, and we will see if City leaders are committed to making bicycling a viable commuting option for its citizens.
It’s an opportunity we shouldn’t pass up.
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