Denton Bike Plans, Now and Future

In the past few months bike riders have noticed several changes around Denton. The addition of bike lanes to the west ends of Oak and Hickory is almost complete. The UNT pedestrian bridge has opened, offering an alternative to the North Texas Blvd bridge and Bonnie Brae underpass. The main span of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Pedestrian Bridge has been placed over Loop 288 and will soon provide a connection from Corinth, NCTC, and far southeast Denton to downtown (as well as providing a good route to cargo bike riders on their trips to Home Depot and Target). Tonight, City Council will hear a plan for improvements to East Hickory Street that will include back-in parking, a layout that dramatically increases visibility from parked cars and decreases car/car and car/bike accidents.

These changes would not have happened without the efforts of hundreds of citizens who wrote letters and called City Council, showed up to dozens of meetings for the bike plan, Traffic Safety Commission, Planning and Zoning Commission, and City Council, and represented bike riders and pedestrians. But, this goes further back than the bike plan in 2011 or meetings on the the rail trail in 2009. In 1999, the first Denton Comprehensive Plan was adopted which included real mention of bicycle and pedestrian accommodations. The Comprehensive Plan has guided planning, zoning, transportation and engineering decisions for the past 14 years in Denton.

Now Denton is writing a new Comprehensive Plan, and we need to make sure that bicycle riders and pedestrians are represented in this one as well. There are two input meetings this week about the plan:

Thursday Feb. 7, 2013
6 – 8:30 P.M.
Advanced Technology Complex
1504 Long Road, Denton

Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013
9 – 11:30 A.M.
John Guyer High School
7501 Teasley Ln., Denton

Bring your ideas about what Denton needs in the next 15 years.

 

- Devin

The State of Mobility in Denton, 20 years hence.

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Tonight in the upper room of Denton Square Donuts (208 West Oak St), City staff will be on hand to discuss the bike community of Denton and what it is we wish it to evolve into.

The input they receive will help mold the Comprehensive Plan for our fair town for the next 20 years. The Plan itself is a series of guideposts from which Council and staff can refer to develop policy and implementation for the future.

From the DentonPlan2030 website:

The Comprehensive Plan is:

  • A reflection of community values and aspirations – What do we want Denton to be?
  • A guide for the management of growth and change
  • A reference point for decision-making
  • A 20-year, community “to-do” list

For us, this could be how the Pedestrian & Bike Mobility Plan evolves; how road management, design and construction are handled; how trails and pedestrian pathways are made sensible and responsible to Denton’s walking public.

So, if you’d like to have a say in the future make-up of mobility in Denton, I would suggest showing up to DSD at either of the two sessions at 6:30 and 8:00 PM.

- Christopher

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Plan, Set, Match. Now what?

Of the many things Denton is known for, resident advocacy and passion for issues can certainly be considered the norm.

You see it with the public input towards the natural gas drilling ordinance rewrite. You see it with food trucks. And we most certainly saw it / participated in / reveled in the passing of the Pedestrian and Bike Linkage components to the Denton Mobility Plan.

Denton was passionate, Denton showed up, and Denton got a plan with funding.

But what happens after advocacy pays off?

Since the Bike/Ped Plan was unanimously approved by Council in late February, seemingly little has tangibly been put into effect. There has of course been time and energy spent in engineering of the plan, but where and when can we expect any infrastructure to be installed?

In August, we posted that the priorities of the plan were reshuffled following the slight debacle of Pennsylvania Drive. With last week’s Traffic Safety Commission meeting, we now have further details on the reshuffling from city engineers.

1. Windsor

After the stately residents adjoining Pennsylvania Dr vehemently expressed their disapproval of the free-per-county commissioner bike lane options along their street, the city backtracked. County Commissioner Hugh Coleman was gracious enough to stay his $50,000 contribution to the plan, as long as it went to a project still within his territory. Thus comes Windsor.

Windsor has a lot of great tenants to it: Safe Routes To Schools, in between a couple of parks, connects a few great Denton locations, etc., and represents a significant length of on-road infrastructure.

Staff’s update to the TSC last week is that the engineering is 90% complete on this project, and its implementation is shortly forthcoming. Awesome.

However, the last word we had on its installation (not mentioned last week) is baffling: 500 foot individual segments of bike lanes over the course of a few years. Not as awesome.

If its a matter of compliance with the grander Denton schedule of road-reconstruction, might we suggest striping the lanes now? A small redundancy of such will pay off better in the long run by setting the social and behavioral cues now of what will eventually be fully implemented.

2. Sycamore as UNT-DCTA connecting route (via Mulberry)

All parts of this are confusing.

The proposal calls for Sycamore to be accessed from Mulberry, because it has the stop lights at Carroll, whereas Sycamore does not.

TFC Commissioner Patricia Lyke pressed engineering Director Jim Coulter on how Sycamore ever came to be proposed as the connecting route between UNT and the DCTA Transit Center. Mr Coulter was a little ambiguous at first, but settled on the proposal coming from Council directive. This was quite puzzling, as it is our understanding that staff brought the proposal to Council who discussed it, but made no decision either way. We’re waiting on confirmation either way from Council on this one.

By Mr Coulter’s ready admission though, public input on the UNT-DCTA route has always been in favor of utilizing Oak/Hickory streets. More on this in a second.

3. To Be Determined

We can’t quite understand this one either, as staff indicated that there has not been anything offered, but they are open to suggestion.

4. Oak / Hickory

The DRC had a recent article prescribing Oak and Hickory streets as being re-signed and striped for uniform one-way directions, and that bike lanes were imminent. As hopeful as that is, it is a little misleading.

The re-directional striping and signage is effective only on these streets west of Ave C / Jagoe. The City is removing the parking on the north side of Oak, and the few spots on the south side of Hickory to accomodate bike infrastructure. All of this stems from a 2009 ordinance whose consideration was implemented into the Bike/Ped Plan.

Along this length, Oak will have a full bike lane. Hickory will likewise have a bike lane between Bonnie Brae and North Texas Blvd, but due to described spacing issues, will have an urban shoulder with signage between that point and Ave C. This all will supposedly be implemented by January 7, 2013.

This of course does not address Oak and Hickory to the eastof Ave C / Jagoe. According to engineer Frank Payne, additional spacing issues in these sections make it difficult to implement the infrastructure desired, unless the roads were reclassified as “commercial collectors” from their current designation as “arterials”.

This, again, does not make sense. Per the current Denton Development Code (in 35.20.2.A.4-5), arterials are supposed to have bike lanes attributed to them. It is not fully understood why any reclassification is in any way required.

Additionally, when TSC commissioners pressed Mr Payne on why $35,000 of the $200,000 available is needed for a study on whether its even possible to reclassify these streets, he answered with, “Well, since it is having to do with bike things, I would think it would come from that.” Given the current DDC, we’re inclined to disagree. It would not seem well to use significant portions of the funds set aside for the Bike/Ped Plan for anything other than physical implementation of infrastructure.

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Other projects were additionally touched upon in last week’s meeting, such as the completed engineering for the Bonnie Brae and Mayhill road expansions. These two will also have bike/pedestrian components, though not necessarily on the roads themselves.

An update was also given in regards to the Education component of the Bike/Ped Plan. Police Lt. Tom Woods is tasked with providing these components with the League of American Cyclists certification program – the same “vehicular cyclist” course used to certify our police force. I will be taking the next offered course in December, weather permitting, and will give an assessment of its effectiveness then.

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So Denton, what happens when advocacy pays off? Great things, but it is still up to those advocates to push and see that those great things happen in a timely and sensical manner.

If you have opinions or concerns on such, we certainly invite you to message your local Council member or staff engineer about it.

- Christopher

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Costume Ride this Friday (10/26)

The Denton Green Mile, a new ridership and safety community group is kicking itself off with a costume party and ride this Friday, October 26 at 5:30 on the Square.

Neal P – who, if anyone has been by Querencia in the last few months, would know him as the older gentleman who has kicked the shop into high gear – let us in on the goings on for this cool party.

Three musical acts, a costume contest and an easy-going one-mile family ride will be capped off by joining in on a bout with the Denton Haunts Ghost Tour. Those still in costume will get a dollar off said tour.

You can still RSVP for the party on their facebook event page or just show up for the good times on Friday.

 

- Christopher

Recent ride – west of Denton

Nearly any ride, in any direction, shows you things you’ve never noticed before. We wandered out Jim Christal, up Masch Branch, and found some fun things off smaller roads.

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-Howard

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“Can’t stop; don’t want to.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Premium Rush (NYT, Columbia Pictures)

Happy Labor Day!

Seeing as its my first post go-around, I thought I might begin with a lighter fluff piece.

The cinema lured me out with “Premium Rush”, the tale of a no-holds bar NYC bicycle messenger named Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who receives a package that sets him out on a perilous ride. Wilee is meant to represent the most stereotypical of fixed-gear riders; “Brakes are death. Pedestrians can get you killed. Taxis are a menace. Can’t stop; don’t want to.” make up his credo. His persona makes up the typically likable bad-boy protagonist.

Most of the way through the film, my mind went into PR worry mode. Bad biking image – bad biking image – bad biking image. The stylized recklessness with which Wilee and his fellow bike messengers take to the streets is both fascinating and unnerving, but really makes up the great bulk of action for the film. There’s an even a scene where a tiff between fixie vs. geared mentalities becomes a plot point and is only settled by an alley-cat race. It is all fast, dangerous and as a quick Google search can confirm, much akin to how these messengers make their frightening day-to-day pay.

My unease sat with me until I came to a crucial realization:

This is fixed-gear “Fast & Furious”.

Though those sort of films have their detractors, they are enjoyed by large groups of people – people who are not oft to join in on illegal street racing any time soon. Thus, I began to enjoy the film again, and found it easy to do so. “Rush” comes across quirky and cartoonish at times, but ends up a great summer action flick with some rather fun characters. Michael Shannon’s villainous cop is a great plus.

So, I would readily recommend this film, with the caveat that I’m not witness to any like antics going down Hickory anytime soon.

In other news, it looks like the City got some nice fresh paint over the existing lines of N. Carroll, and without needing $30k in consulting to boot. Now if only they had made a quick left at Oak and added some right-hand lanes while they were out there…

I’ll be keeping an eye out on the Traffic Safety Commission and Council’s plans on implementing the Denton Pedestrian and Bike Plan. Till then, I’d just like to say it’s great to be on board.

- CW

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change afoot

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When I started this website, five years ago, I thought of it as a social experiment — writing about something I considered dearly important to Denton — something I saw in other towns and loved them for it. Easy, everyday biking, everywhere. If I wasn’t moving away to seek it out, why not fight and write for it here? I thought “if it makes a difference, then great. If not, I’m sure I’ll learn some things along the way.” I was attracted to biking normalcy and culture other places. I wondered if Denton had it in spades, would more people stay after graduating from college? If more people rode, would they be healthier, would it reduce air pollution, would it save them money?

Most importantly, would it bring them joy as it does for me?

I hoped that if nothing else, the act of documenting people biking in Denton could create a context — a gravity to bring people together. Normalization. When I started riding in Denton, it didn’t feel normal. I used to drive absurdly short distances. I started riding, then riding more, and then I finally started writing about riding. Inspired by bikeportland.org, I registered this blog URL and made my first post after Jasmine was hit-and-run by a car, and it didn’t make the newspaper. She moved away to Austin, and I kept writing even though I was sure there was no audience. Now she’s back in Denton, and now I know there’s an audience.

My original premise was shortsighted or shy. This isn’t an experiment, it’s real life in the real world. We can make a difference much easier than I knew. In that sense, writing for BikeDenton has made me less cynical. I went from feeling like an anonymous person in town to serving on Denton’s Traffic Safety Commission, and I’ve encouraged others volunteer for similar roles. Same goes for Querencia, the community bike shop. Making a difference is as easy as getting off the couch, showing up, and sharing a civil opinion. That can improve your town forever, and the power is real.

So on to the point of this article. BikeDenton is changing hands (and feet). We’re moving our family to Portland, OR in two weeks because I accepted a new career there. I’m turning this site over to two people: Devin Taylor and Christopher Walker. They’ve both been involved and aware of city government, the ongoing fight for bike friendliness, and both have measured tones that fit the spirit of the blog. Seek them out if you’d like to contribute, I’m sure they’d love some contribution. I’ll make sure info@bikedenton.org goes to them.

Stepping away from this role is hard. But it’s life, and I accept the change and move on into new unknowns. I’ve lived 15 great years in Denton, and I became my adult self here. (Don’t worry, the child self never left.) Denton is a slow-cooker for ambition where shy folk can start with a tiny idea, build confidence, and grow it into something bigger than they’d ever imagined.

This won’t be my last post. I still have some ideas to share, especially some frank concern about the state of the Bike Plan. Who knows, perhaps I can remotely contribute, somehow. Maybe I’ll start a new blog. Anything can happen, and I’m ok with that.

-HD

(top photo taken at the top of Multnomah Falls, just east of Portland)

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Recycle Ride recap

Cans, bottles, boxes, paper, etc. We throw them all into our blue bins, but where to do they go after that? Who sorts them, and how?

On May 5th, Querencia and the city partnered to host a Recycle Ride out to the newly functional recycling center at the landfill. The ride was hot but not too long (at 4 miles each way), and we had people of all ages riding along. For those of us with a burning curiosity to know what happens to stuff after we recycle it, the recycling plant tour was a real treat. Thanks to Querencia and Alana Presley for hosting the ride. Should it be yearly? Anyone miss it and want to do it next year?

Check out the combined weight of 8 or so riders on this truck scale. Less than a car, and I’m pretty sure this scale is way off for this low!

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Bike Plan update, Oak/Hickory $35,000 study proposed

At the city council 2:30PM work session today, Public Works staff will report Bike Plan progress to the council, and the council members will discuss and give direction back to staff. The new priorities are listed as:

1. Windsor (Old North to Bonnie Brae)

2. Sycamore (DCTA station to UNT)

3. To Be Determined

4. Oak & Hickory.

The Windsor proposal is simply a redirection of county bike plan funds, and it will add bike lanes without removing any parking. The Sycamore route also uses county money, but from Commissioner Andy Eads, and the focus is on designating a route between the downtown transit center and UNT. Since Sycamore has no signal at Carroll, the new proposal favors Mulberry as a designated, non-bike lane route. (The Mulberry/Carroll timing and activation are also problematic)

Lastly, the Oak & Hickory bike lane proposal brings a new, untimely challenge. City staff says the roads need to be re-designated as “commercial collectors”, and that will require a $35,000 traffic consulting study. That’s nearly 18% of the total $200,000 allocated for the bike plan first year.

Oak & Hickory will be studied to determine if they can be re-designated as a commercial collector. If these roads can be re-designated there will be one way bike lanes on Oak and Hickory. The cost of the traffic study for this type of re-designation is estimated in the $35,000 range. Staff will work with a traffic consultant to verify the cost associated with this type of study.

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June polo tourney recon

I had a great time hanging out at the June polo tournament. The draw was good, and I think there were more visitors than Dentonites. Just seeing all these people from near and far coming to participate made me feel proud. Proud that the polo players and the city worked together to make this court happen. Love seeing stuff like this. Cheers.

Full gallery on Flickr.

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