Catharsis abated.

Sometime during the weekend around May graduation, my Schwinn Tourist was stolen off my front porch.

It was not a spectacular bike in any semblance of the word, and when Howard handed BikeDenton to Devin and I last year upon his ceremonious exit from our beloved Denton, I quietly felt sheepish about riding on such lowly a frame while writing in this space. Foolish, I know.

But this bike was a dear friend to me; my loyal steed throughout my collegiate career at UNT. To have it just disappear from my home at the point my studies were over and degree completed seemed oddly unfitting. I followed all the right procedures, filed the right police reports, and patiently waited, hoping to hear something… anything…

Thus swept in the disconnect.

Without my two wheels, I very quickly experienced a detachment from the bicycling community around me, a feeling that had regretfully already been creeping a little before that day in mid May. Sure, I was still ambulatory and experienced life at street-level, but the separation was definitely there. Summer came and went. I road tripped in moving some good friends to Minneapolis and got a sneak peek at the bicycling mecca they’ve got going on up North. I bought a mysterious “D.K.” road bike from another California-bound friend, but it turned out to be just under my size and later resold it.

Time dragged on and all the while,  a nagging feeling of unworthiness or lack of qualification to keep posting emerged. As such, I missed covering the completion and opening of the MLK pedestrian bridge over 288, showing up adequately for some exciting meetings for a Better Block initiative, and getting the ball rolling soon enough when Devin spotted the egregious offerings by staff for updates to the City’s Criteria Manuals.

Three weeks ago I corrected my pedal problem. Kevin & co. from the ever-amazing Bullseye Bike Shop set me up on a wonderful date with a Bianchi Tangent and I’ve been in love ever since. All my pent up anxiety over the last few months was completely washed away as soon that light frame and I hit Locust street. Now, am I saying that not actively riding was the primary factor in my absence from this site? No, a lingering apathy was. But the absence of active riding certainly did not help.

I don’t exactly enjoy writing about myself whatsoever, and I do not anticipate doing so again, but felt I owed a deserved explanation to this site’s readership and if no one else, Howard, for letting much of this year fall to the wayside.

But now I’m back…

David Minton/DRC

David Minton/DRC

… and what in the ever living hell?

This story from Denton Record-Chronicle writer John D. Harden on Sunday has ceased any warm and fuzzies I had from my return to riding. It’s excellently written and hits on some major players like Lt. Tom Woods with Denton PD and Councilmember Dalton, but there are a couple of choice quotes that I cannot move past.

Since 2008, more than 280 accidents in Denton involving a motor vehicle and either a bicyclist or a pedestrian occurred primarily on Denton’s busiest roads, according to records.

280 too many.

“They [cyclists] think they own the roads and they hold up traffic,” said resident Kris Peeples. “In smaller cities and around the universities, I think cycling is OK. But elsewhere — I don’t think so.”

Peeples said that confrontations with cyclists on the road have ruined her idea of what sharing the road means and she believes accidents happen because there’s a lack of respect on both ends.

“Roads are for cars. It’s just safer if you’re in one,” she said. “Yes, there are cyclists on the roads and it’s normal to see them, but we live in a culture where you’re only looking out for other cars.

Emphasis mine.

This is the primary reason why bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure is so damn important. For us as a town to ever experience a complete streets mindset — a safe and welcoming environment for all legal road traffic and peripheral pedestrian viability — the natural cues for driving awareness and comprehension need to be set in place, whether that’s striped lanes, clear signage, enforced ordinances, etc. We live in a culture that has been designed to have extreme favoritism for cars, but four wheels will never out rank two and vice versa. Remedial and future planning should always reflect that equality.

And often, the accidents are the result of a distracted driver or someone violating traffic laws.

Many records tell stories of bicyclists who pedal through stop signs, pedestrians dashing into streets as cars approach, and inattentive motorists failing to yield the right of way.

Additionally, a records analysis shows a nearly even split between motorists and pedestrians/cyclists regarding who was at fault for the accidents.

Again, /b and /em mine.

That lunatic who was snapped going the wrong way down Carroll with massive headphones on in the DRC story needs to absolutely have his wheels pulled be chided to oblivion. It is incredibly hard for me to contain my desperate anger and frustration over this individual and others like him who willfully put his life and the lives of those around them into such potentially-fatal chaos.

That goes for those behind a wheel and steering column as well.

There are still legitimate arguments to be made however for the cases of bicyclists not being recognized at lit intersections by the proper equipment or timers. As Portland is mentioned as a model elsewhere in Harden’s story, it should be noted that Howard had the blessed opportunity to put in a crosswalk timing change request in “Stumptown” on a Thursday only for it to be answered and modified the very next day. When a similar request — and its many repetitions — were made here in town, it took over a year to be addressedShameful.

Last year, the council dedicated $50,000 to begin implementing the [Bicycle & Pedestrian Mobility] plan, but little of that money was spent as bike lanes were added only to a few streets near UNT. At a workshop looking ahead at the 2013-14 budget, [Councilmember] Gregory lobbied for a metric — that the city measure itself against a goal of implementing 7 miles per year — but the idea didn’t get much traction.

Even more shameful is City staff’s dodging in providing adequate facilitation for the popular plan or, as mentioned previously in the Criteria Manual business, giving any due consideration to future road designs that stops cars going 40+ unchecked and ‘besmirched’ by alternate infrastructure.

—–

I was really looking forward to this post being a positive “get back on that bike” antiphon, but stories like this one just go to show how far we as both a bicycling and non-bicycling community have yet to go before we can adequately prevent accident #281_____. Thankfully, measures like the potential ban on mobile device use while operating a motor vehicle are coming forth from the Traffic Safety Commission and will hopefully be seen by Council and make it as an ordinance soon enough in Denton.

- Christopher Walker

3 thoughts on “Catharsis abated.

  1. bearc0025 says:

    Glad to read of your return to passion. :)

    I think there’s a few things to point out of the idea of Denton becoming more ‘bike friendly’ (I hope that’s a politically correct term or is it wheel-count agnostic or ???).

    One, I think, is that we aren’t currently very bike-minded. We just aren’t there and really no means is going to get us there overnight so patience is necessary for change. Cyclist will win much more goodwill and favor by being appeasing and polite than anything else.

    Along w/ this is the culture. We spent a good bit of time in a town in Colorado this Summer where bikes are everywhere and are recognized better. But it’s a general mindset throughout the town. Denton is a more mixed town – the area around the two universities is very different from the Loop by the mall which is very different from a working farm somewhere else. Working towards commonality is going to get farther than making new laws.

    Bad apples spoil bunches. When I had a motorcycle, I was always annoyed at some other riders b/c they weaved in and out of traffic giving us all a bad name. Cyclists should (as you have here) chide abusers – they set a bad example and make it that much harder for any respect to grow.

    Don’t shoot the messenger here, but I think the perception is that a vast majority of the cyclists are students and such. They don’t pay property tax and may not even be here more than a few years. Yet, they expect tax payer money to cater to them. Again, don’t shoot the messenger – I’d love for a much more bike-friendly area.

    Of course an argument can be made for the improvement it would make to the area, bring in more young-professionals, more tax money, etc. Fine. Make that argument (assuming the people you’re talking to want that).

    But I think cyclists would catch more flies with honey – maybe have a hearing to listen to the objections. Educate (somehow) the opposition (not just appear to expect things change and created for them by the gov’t). Raise awareness (have a bike event supporting Keep Denton Beautiful). PR goes a long way.

  2. araph says:

    Great read, welcome back.

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