October 22, 2005

Down with the big "D"

Well, I have to be honest -- as important as family *IS*, this trip to Texas is a little bittersweet: I was SUPPOSED to be riding in the Tejas 500, if all things had gone to plan this year. There is always next year, I suppose, but hey - I can moan a little. Even though plans were initially cancelled for financial reasons, we somehow managed to muster up the cash to drive down here after all, but stopped short of Cleburne and ended up in the northern suburbs of the big "D", Dallas. Ugh. My favorite town.

You all know how I feel about overcrowding, suburban sprawl, SUVs, seas of pavement choked with traffic, and complete lack of shoulders, ridable side-roads, and any semblance of cycling culture, right? If you've read ANY of the stuff I've posted, you know: this is my hell.

It's not neccessarily Dallas in particular, but Dallas makes for a pretty good representation. Yep. Sure as my hair is missing, I guess I'm a small town guy - and as much as I complain about it, I suppose Overland Park and Olathe, KS, are still "small" towns - but dang. I'm glad I left the bike at home. I think that * I* have it bad having to ride a few miles south to get to the 'good roads'? I get the solid impression that, here, you'd have to drive to ANY ride no matter what the start location. How do these people DO IT? I never caught up with anyone to ask, unfortunately, and not once, on any road I happened to be on, did I see a cyclist, casual or otherwise (save for one, that I'll mention later). I don't think the whole 'ride to work' thing would fly down here.

This is the kind of thing that only strong advocacy and good planning can prevent. Kansas City, although decades away from being this BAD, is certainly on the fast track to "Dallas-ness", and that's not good. With GKCBF and MoBikeFed on the case, however, there is still hope for us. Dallas, however, might well be a case-study for the proverbial "lost-cause"; The interstate collector roads, the maze of highways, the flawed road designs, apparent lack of trails, apparent lack of bike lanes, and apparent lack of apprisal of most of the drivers makes this one nasty city from a bicyclist's perspective. Dallas readers, if any, and Texas hard-cases will probably have a problem with this assumption. Too bad. Your city is a nightmare, man. It's pretty clear that it's too late to do anything about it, too. That's sad.

If I hear anyone in the KC area complain that Mission Rd is too narrow, I'm dropping you off in Coppell, TX. Good luck with that. I'll give you odds that you won't be pulling your bike out from under a Hummer within the first day.

Ok, ok, ok -- it's all relative; it's all acclimation. A few rides down here, and yeah - I'd probably get it. But, would I be happy, knowing there was something better? Doubt it. My bike handling skills and traffic-tolerance would be honed to a fine edge by the time I was done, though. That's for sure. Even the skill-level of the downtown bike messenger would be taxed out here in the sprawl -- these drivers don't live by the same set of rules the downtown driver does. Can you actually scitch off of a bus that's doing 45MPH and weaving in and out of traffic? Ok, I know people that would try, but geez. Texas suburbia SUCKS.

I either need to move downtown, or move out into the central rural counties to feel safe. Down with suburbia!
Boo!!! Hiss!!! The only three things I can think of good to come outta Texas: My dad, Shiner beer, and Pantera.

The best and most ironic part of this trip to Dallas: The ONLY TIME I saw a bicyclist on the road (and only real life is better than fiction): The intersecion of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Malcolm X. Avenue, just outside of Fair Park. Seriously. The two roads that Chris Rock warned us all about, and there's a cyclist. I don't know how that guy sits on his saddle with a pair that big.

So, back in vacation-land amid the EIGHT children, the TV re-runs, the guest bedroom, and the bad Italian food, I find solice and a silver-lining:

I don't live here.

I get to ride to work every day with relative ease, on clear roads with wide lanes and shoulders. If traffic gets too nasty, I have access to a bike trail that actually goes somewhere. And, shockingly enough, most KC drivers are lucid enough to actually afford me a little bit of room. While most people go on vacation to find out what they've been missing in life, I managed to find out some pretty good things about 'back home' on this trip.

We'll see how long after I get back that I start complaining about Johnson County again.


Anonymous said...

Hey, look at it this way. You are only about 30 miles north of some of the best cycling in the US. You can ride all the way to Mexico on paved secondary roads once you get south of Dallas. Unless it has gotten substantially worse since I left in 2003 the SUV factor was roughly the same as Johnson county...... Metro Houston is the same as Dallas.

Anonymous said...

Sorry pal, but you could not be anymore wrong about Dallas. Yuo may lack the resources to make it a cycle-friendly city for yourself, but with enough diligence, you can always find a route to commute. throw in the many miles of decent off road rides in the immediate vicinity, and some truly great experiences very nearby and i'd say we have a pretty damn good cycle "culture" going on.
Check in with www.dirtdawgs.org if you'd like.... plenty of folks there will be more than happy to point you in the right direction in the Big D

Anonymous said...

The Dallas area does present it's challenges, but there is a very active cycling community. Off road is where I started out but now I'm spinning most of my mileage on the roads through some of those exact same areas you complained about.

Don't get me wrong, I do understand where you are coming from. You have to choose your routes wisely around here, the main arteries are not cycling friendly for the most part.

Next time you are down our way bring your sled and let us know you are coming. We'll hook you up.


All have forums where you can find riding partners and info.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, you got the locals all steered up now.

I can see where just passing through would not be able to discern the hard underbelly but we're out there. I have been riding to work in Dallas since 1978 off and on, I currently have a 12-mile commute and it is almost entirely through quiet residential and deserted commercial streets and I actually find it quite relaxing.

Give us a break, we bitch and moan but we do pretty good with what we have, the few hardass commies that I know would agree.

Drop by the Commuter Channel sometime, you'll find kindreds.



Anonymous said...

I ride 14 miles each way to and from work, through the area you mentioned by fair park and yes its not ideal but I make it work... check out the commutter forum like chuck said and youll see a whole bunch of us tough it for no other reason than to say "I did it"..... I would love to have lanes and such for bikes, but I think its made me a better cyclist not being spoiled to these things.