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Biking in Dallas

They’re pretty far behind other Texas cities in infrastructure and general bike-ability.

City leaders, including Mayor Mike Rawlings, are eager to boost Big D’s cycling options — and soon. They’re looking at everything from more bike lanes to off-street trails, from bike-sharing programs to raising awareness about how bikes and cars should share the road.

What caused a 36-year-old engineer who’s lived in the bike-loving cities of Austin, Portland, Ore., and Tucson, Ariz. — but who’s also tackled major highway projects for the Texas Department of Transportation — to become the bike czar in car-centric Dallas?

The Dallas Morning News pedaled alongside [Ashley] Haire to find out.

Like most non-natives living in Dallas, she was lured here by a job.

Haire had been doing postdoctoral work at Portland State University. Portland was where she “drank the Kool-Aid” on biking, she said. In the 21/2 years she lived there, she put only 6,000 miles on her car.

“It became the lifestyle, in every sense of the word,” she said.

But TxDOT had an opening for a project manager on the massive reconstruction of Interstates 30 and 35E in downtown Dallas. Her education is in civil engineering, with degrees from the University of Arizona and the University of Texas at Austin.

And so, a couple of years ago, she came to Dallas to make the jump from bikes to freeways.

[…]

What are Haire’s thoughts on Dallas’ hot-button biking topics?

The helmet law? Haire wears a helmet whenever she hops on a bike, but she supported the City Council’s decision to repeal the helmet requirement for riders older than 17. Adults can make their own informed decisions, she figures.

Expanding hike-and-bike trails? She’s all for it, even though she notes that hike-and-bike trails come under the park department, not her office. She said the Dallas system is quite good. The key, she said, will be better connecting those off-street trails with on-street infrastructure.

Bike-sharing? She’s a fan of those programs, which feature rental stands at various locations where people can pick up or drop off a bike. But she worries that Dallas doesn’t yet have the biking infrastructure to support a citywide program.

Dallas is the only one of Texas’ five biggest cities to not already have a bike sharing program, and El Paso is working out the details with B-Cycle as we speak, with a goal of beginning operations early next year. I don’t know what the specifics are for biking in Dallas and the challenges that Ashley Haire will face, but some things like sharing road space and motorists’ attitudes are universal. I wish her and her city the best in getting up to speed.

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