Fort Worth City Planner, Don Koski

Bike Friendly Oak Cliff published an interview with Fort Worth City Planner, Don Koski, discussing how he incorporates consideration for bike/pedestrian planning into his overall design philosophy.  Fort Worth has committed itself to an incredibly ambitious people-first multi-modal transit plan, and Don is the key player who will oversee execution of the transit plan.

I have a lot of experience in the planning of bicycle and pedestrian transportation systems and the development of bicycle and pedestrian transportation projects. Bicycle and pedestrian planning has always just been one of the many duties that I have had, along with arterial street system planning, project identification and prioritization, capital program development, and others. I jumped at the opportunity in Fort Worth because of the tremendous challenges and opportunities the city has with its rapid pace of growth and evolving development strategies.

I was intrigued by Fort Worth’s walkable downtown, investment in mixed-use urban villages, relatively unconstrained growth potential, and interest in improving its bicycle and pedestrian transportation systems.

Cool, that sounds like Denton too: rapid pace of growth, evolving development strategies, walkable downtown, mixed-use investment, unconstrained growth potential, interest in improving bicycle and pedestrian transit.

Fort Worth has had some great recreational trails along the Trinity River and elsewhere for many years. What was lacking was a way to make connections for people interested in cycling for transportation purposes. In 1999, the city worked with the North Central Texas Council of Governments to develop an on-street bicycle route network plan that would create linkages between downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods. The City came across some difficulties implementing the plan and the bicycling advocates in Fort Worth became frustrated with the lack of progress.

That reminds me of the Denton Mobility Plan, which proposed ambitious changes.  The bicycle component was never fully realized.

When I came on board in December 2006, I was immediately approached by the late Dr. Byron de Sousa – a community leader who had been Chair of the Fort Worth Plan Commission and was an avid proponent of bicycle transportation infrastructure – to develop a truly comprehensive bicycle transportation system plan encompassing infrastructure, education, encouragement, city policies and programs, and law enforcement. That was when we kicked off the effort that led to the Bike Fort Worth plan.

Excellent!  A comprehensive program touching all aspects of a properly planned endeavor: infrastructure, education, encouragment, city policy, and enforcement.  Bike lanes alone won’t do it, this holistic approach is the most likely to succeed, and the only logical choice.

However, there are a number of streets that are oversized for the level of vehicular traffic that they experience today or are likely to have in the future. In some of those cases, a “road diet” may be possible that could provide dedicated space for cyclists. We look at these on a case-by-case basis to determine how best to accommodate cyclists, based on the criteria established in the plan.

Bike lanes are a nice accomodation, bike racks are a nice accomodation, road diets would show incredible commitment to the growing Denton cycle community.  Does Carroll Blvd need to be 6 lanes wide?  I don’t know, but perhaps that could be asked of every huge artery which squeezes out cyclists and pedestrians and encourages traffic congestion and high speeds.

Regarding temperature, I don’t buy the argument that people won’t bike because it’s too hot/cold/wet/etc. Look at the cities that have the highest bicycle commute rates in the country: Portland (wet), Minneapolis (cold), Seattle (wet), and Tucson (hot). Certainly there are many cyclists who won’t bike for transportation purposes when it’s hot, but there are other ways to address that, like by promoting the provision of shower and change facilities at major employers. In fact, I would say Fort Worth has great potential as a bicycling city: relatively flat, decent street block pattern, great trail system to which to make connections, great cycling weather 8 months out of the year, etc.

Ditto.  Here, Denton has an advantage over Ft Worth in smaller size, reducing complexity and cost of cycling infrastruction improvements.

From the city’s perspective, the impetus behind this effort today are many, but include making transit service (bus and rail) more accessible and attractive, making the city more attractive to the creative types who want to live and work in bicycle-friendly communities, helping residents lead more active and healthy lifestyles, and giving people more transportation options – especially those that help alleviate air quality problems and that are easy on the wallet during these tough economic times.

All true, and very reassuring to see a comprehensive, progressive, sustainable vision from the transportation head.  I’d like to do an interview with the Denton transportation czar for comparison.

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