From Colin McDonald’s recent piece in MySanAntonio, we see a scenario both similar to Denton yet further advanced:
For years, San Antonio has built streets and approved developments with little to no accommodation for anything but motor vehicles. Now with obesity rates off the charts, the region on the verge of violating federal air standards and a new mayor who sees bicycles as part of being a competitive and attractive city, bike lanes are gaining ground.
It’s a move Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Minneapolis; and New York made decades ago.
According to a study for the Metropolitan Planning Organization, San Antonio and Bexar County could add 350 miles of bike lanes just by restriping pavement, without impeding traffic or widening roads. The “road diet” plan would more than triple the miles of bike lanes and go a long way toward forming a grid.
The timeline on the left side of the article lays out the sad life of a master plan: negligence, edits, negligence, edits etc. Negligence aside, the city still managed to increase bike lanes and routes from 34 to 136 miles over the last decade. But for a metro area facing violation of air-quality standards, rising obesity epidemic, and traffic congestion, they need a full scale transit mode shift away from cars. To help get there, the region’s health czar wants San Antonio to adopt a Complete Streets policy:
Metro Health Director Fernando Guerra likes bike lanes because they encourage people to be active. This spring, his department received a $15 million federal grant to fight obesity.
Along with measures to improve eating habits, funds are dedicated to create a ride-to-own-bike program, establish a “complete-streets” policy so the city considers all modes of transportation, and start ciclovías, where miles of streets would be periodically closed to make room for bikes, classes and recreation in a citywide celebration of being active outdoors.
To assure actual change and not just a grandiose master plan, the city’s director of public works and a city engineer created a requirement, stating “Bike facilities must be considered as part of all roadway-related projects that are not further along than 40 percent design approval stage.”
For Denton, I see some valuable lessons:
- Denton’s planning paradigm must shift away from moving cars and towards moving people
- We need to work more closely with our MPO, which is NCTCOG. Dallas is receiving NCTCOG funding for their new bicycle plan, so why aren’t we asking for help too? NCTCOG has some great advice, and the bicycle coordinator, Deborah Humphreys, would be pleasantly surprised if Denton started asking her for help.
- Clarify and expand our existing development code requirement which already requires “bicycle lanes” on all arterial roads
- Adopt a Complete Streets policy for the entire city