Last Monday eve, 54 citizens showed up to give input to the city Engineering staff about cycling infrastructure in Denton. 54! They included all age ranges and walks of life: parents with children, seniors, middle agers, college students, etc. We noticed the pastor of First United Methodist, Rick Leisner (Jacobs Group consultant for the Downtown Plan), Brian Lockley (head of Planning), Parks and Rec director Emerson Vorel, Police Lieutenant Tom Woods, and council members Dalton Gregory and Jim Engelbrecht. In other words, people in power were paying attention to the input we gave.
City engineer Clay Riggs kicked off the meeting with a presentation on the general state of cycling facilities in Denton, a several page survey on what types of facilities cyclists prefer, and then he got to the heart of the meeting: blank maps! At several tables around the room, citizens used markers to draw desired bike routes on large city maps. I noticed similar routes on most of the maps, and major arterials in central Denton were all similarly marked as desirable for facilities.
Clay Riggs came across as straightforward and interested in citizen input, as quoted in the NTDaily:
We want an increased use of bicycles, and we want people to be safe doing it. The city staff wants your input. We want to know what you want in bicycle facilities.
Riggs mentioned that the city wants to hire a bicycle consultant after the existing infrastructure has been assessed. He also explained that as drainage and utility easements are upgraded, he hopes that bicycle/pedestrian paths can be included.
After the route mapping session, Clay turned the microphone over to citizens, who made articulate and compelling statements supporting Denton’s new interest in cycling accommodations. Up first, local mom Amber Briggle and her daughter Gracie made the case for bike facilities that accommodate all user types, including children.
All of the speaking citizens expressed dissatisfaction with the WOL’s (Wider Outside Lanes), and all citizens spoke in favor of striped and separated bicycle facilities. Longtime Denton cyclist Ken Royal talked about the disparate trail segments around town and his wish that they should all be connected. I mentioned that Austin engineers Nathan Wilkes and Jason Fialkoff are a great, willing resource, and they’re implementing great facilities at low cost. We at BikeDenton are happy to share any contact info and research with city staff. Denton citizen, Joe Gregory, offered to take the staff engineer on a ride around town to experience the streets from a cyclist’s perspective.
In general, Clay Riggs of Engineering seemed genuinely interested and willing to work with the cycling community to improve facilities in town. Emerson Vorel, Director of Parks and Rec, stated that a way to fund cycling infrastructure would be through the CIP bond election process, a cycle which is due to come up soon (and is apparently overdue).
After the meeting, city engineering staff is to deliver results from the input hearing to the city council, and early in April we can expect a city council work session to discuss how they’d like to pursue improved cycling infrastructure. All in all, this is a really good sign that if citizens continue growing cycling interest and advocacy, we could see some real potential for positive change.
We’ll post details on the followup council work session when we know a solid date.