Tag Archives: city politics

City council considers allocating $192,000 to bicycle plan

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Denton has a budget surplus of $192,000, and some city council members suggest allocating it to the Bicycle Plan. Public hearing on Sept 6, vote on Sept 20.

Council member Dalton Gregory advocated using the money to help implement the city’s ongoing bicycle plan, which would receive only $50,000 under the proposed budget.

“I completely agree with Chris that we need to not spend money that’s not there,” Gregory said during the meeting. “But on the other hand, we’ve invested some money on this plan. We’ve actually been talking about bike and pedestrian needs for over 30 years and not really invested a lot. … If we’re really serious about this, we’ve got to do more than plan.”

As councilman Gregory points out, discussions of bicycle accommodation stretches back decades in Denton’s history, but there were never any long strides. The fragments of those discussions are what we have now: the UNT Language Building bike “parking mall”, failed plans to paint lanes on Fry and Welch, previous P&Z discussions of bike lanes here and here, and the short (yet popular) W. Hickory bike lane.

Here’s some context on the $192,000:

  • one four-way traffic signal intersection costs $225,000+
  • $192K is only 3.3% of the target $5.8M street maintenance budget
  • $192K is .032% of Denton’s overall $585M city budget
  • cost of Hickory and Industrial restriping to add ~10 parking spots: $60,000
Council will hold a public hearing at the Sept 6 council meeting, and then they vote on the spending on Sept 20. Expressing support is as simple as coming to the meeting and filling out a comment card, or you may speak to the council for three minutes.
You can RSVP to the Facebook event, or just show up.
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Planning and Zoning board to review Bike Plan

This Wednesday at 5:30PM, Denton’s Planning & Zoning commission will review the Bike Plan draft. The plan includes proposed bike accommodations and project costs, and it’s the cumulative result of all the public input so far. RSVP to the Facebook Event, if you plan to go. The plan can live or die by these meetings, as we’ve seen in Arlington, TX.

This is the public’s first look at the plan, and from here it goes to the Traffic Safety commission, then another public meeting, and then on to city council for final approval. This is the first of three approvals the Bike Plan needs before it’s incorporated into the Mobility Plan (which I would link to, but I can’t find it on the city website).

The meeting is at City Hall, and I’m not sure if it’s in the council chambers or work room. If the council chambers are empty, just head down the hallway to the right and enter the glass meeting room.

 

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Bike-friendly champions in May 14 council election

On May 14th at these locations, you can cast your vote for city council candidates. Early voting runs through May 10 at the Joseph A. Carroll Building (401 W. Hickory) or the new Denton County Administrative Complex (535 S. Loop 288). Some of us like the ritual of voting on election day and will enjoy a nice ride to our polling location.

If you don’t know which district you live in, put your address in at this handy map.

This year, instead of doing a candidate questionnaire, we’ve chosen to recognize the candidates who’ve made bike-friendliness a high priority, not just a talking point.

1. Kevin Roden – District 1. Via his ThinkDenton site, he’s covered bike-related topics, and he’s attended recent formal and informal bicycling input meetings for the city Bike Plan. He’s a strong advocate for walking, biking, and public transit. He really, really wants safer streets for his young children, who’ll soon be able to bike. He understands the class divide in transportation planning: not everyone can afford to drive, so we especially need to encourage biking and walking in poorer areas.

Kevin Roden, District 1 hopeful

2. Dalton Gregory – District 2. From the beginning of his current term, Dalton championed biking and walking working for a year to get the Safe Passing ordinance approved. He communicates directly and often with cycling citizens, and he’s in favor of trails expansion (the number one citizen request for Parks & Rec). Dalton has been known to measure road width to see if bike lanes will fit. Seriously.

Dalton Gregory, district 2 council hopeful

3. Jim Engelbrecht – District 3. You might not know this about Jim, but he helped save the Rail Trail last year when the city considered taking it from DCTA (along with money), and not rebuilding it so they could spend the money somewhere else. Jim worked behind the scenes to prevent that from happening. He’s listened to cyclists and supported bike-friendly initiatives, and he recently told the city that they should start counting people on bikes, so they can understand the ridership and measure changes.

District 3 council candidate (incumbent) Jim Engelbrecht

Honorable mentions:
– Mike Sutton – District 3. At the DNA forum, Mike seemed generally in favor of bike accommodations, and he says that although all of his employees bike to work, about half have been hit by cars. He voluntarily created the city’s first on-street bike parking stall in front of his business, Big Mike’s Coffee Shop.

– Derrick Murray – District 4. At the DNA forum, Derrick said that bike and pedestrian accommodations are part of the overall road funding woes, and money should be allocated to fix roads and create separate paths for people walking and biking. A runner himself, Derrick applauded the recent Safe Passing ordinance and said some people on the roads are very inconsiderate. He mentioned that Southridge residents want sidewalks and bike lanes.

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Council candidates support bike accommodations

4/28/11 Denton Neighborhood Alliance council candidate forum

I could describe what each of the candidates said last night in support of improved bike accommodations, but there’s a bigger story here: 8/9 spoke in obvious support. One gave sort of a non-answer, but the big picture was that nobody opposed a bike-friendlier Denton. Two years ago, the bike accommodation discussion fell flat during the same forum. Two years before that, it wasn’t asked. By comparison, the forcefully relocated Quakertown community lived with unpaved, undrained dirt roads for forty years before forward-thinking women fought for street improvements.

Bike-friendliness has traction; it’s woven into the dialogue between our citizens and city. Stay tuned for some portraits of candidates who’ve championed bike-friendly causes, because we’re not doing a candidate questionnaire this year. The champions stand out, and actions deserve more recognition than words.

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Denton council unanimously approves Safe Passing ordinance

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Denton is the eighth Texas city to approve the Vulnerable Road User ordinance, aka Safe Passing, by a unanimous city council vote. Council member Dalton Gregory first brought up the idea in February of 2010, and after discussion this afternoon, the ordinance sailed through council at the evening meeting. The ordinance says cars must give 3 feet minimum passing distance, and commercial vehicles must give 6 feet passing distance. The law also criminalizes harassment of cyclists and right-hook accidents, and it explains that cyclists may ride two abreast as long as they don’t impede reasonable flow of traffic.

Gregory explained that the ordinance was one of many steps the city needs to take to encourage active transportation (biking and walking). He also said he’d like to see some educational signs representing the ordinance to replace the standard “Share the Road” signs seen around town.

During afternoon discussion of the ordinance, district 3 council member Jim Engelbrecht said the city should study cyclist ridership and accident statistics.

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City to vote on Safe Passing ordinance

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Tomorrow at 3PM, city council will hold a work session at which citizens may speak regarding the Vulnerable Road User ordinance, aka Safe Passing. In addition to requiring safe passing distance, the ordinance also criminalizes harassment or intimidation of a vulnerable road user. The ordinance seeks to protect cyclists, pedestrians, disabled persons, utility workers, and even stranded motorists. Violators may face fines up to $200.

For the full text, we’ve excerpted the applicable section from the 720 page agenda.

Councilman Dalton Gregory has championed the cause since February 2010, and the ordinance stands to pass with a single sweeping vote, along with the other Consent Agenda items. Anyone wishing to provide comment on the proposed ordinance may speak at the beginning of the work session meeting, 3PM, in the city council work-session room, 215 E. Mckinney.

The ordinance text includes a section that touts the city’s recent push towards biking and walking:

a safe passing ordinance provides the foundation for an education campaign of tolerance and acceptance for “active” forms of alternative transportation, which furthers the City’s goals of promoting Denton as a bicycle friendly community, as well as for the enhancement of walkable streets and neighborhoods.
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Bike Plan update

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Last November, we learned that Denton hired a bike consultant for $69,564 to research and propose bike-friendly changes to Denton’s Mobility Plan. We hadn’t heard much since then, so we asked for an update last week.

City engineer Frank Payne says that during December and January, consultant Kevin St. Jacques identified bicycling destinations, residential routes, the Trails Master Plan (absent from city website), and Kevin prepared reports and street concept designs for the Bicycle Plan Task Force. Once the task force is assembled, it will interface between the city and the public, possibly to include the city council Mobility Committee.

The task force will review Bicycle Plan goals, theology of on-street accommodations, public input, plan framework, and facility financing.

In addition to the ongoing Bicycle Plan, the soon-to-be-reformed Traffic Safety Commission will explicitly include bicycle and pedestrian safety in the commission’s charge. Although we don’t see paint on the ground yet, these two developments indicate a much needed level of conversation about bicycling and pedestrian facilities in Denton. Progress seems slow, but the public will very soon be able to provide input and participate in the discussion.

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Comic book chain owner fights Arlington Bike Plan

Arlington, TX is the largest American city without public transit.  Yet, Arlington has a bold hike and bike plan to add 272 miles of bike network to the existing 20.  City planners and Greenways Inc. have been working on the plan since November 2009.  The final draft is done, and after some committee approvals through February, the plan looks like a slam-dunk.  Almost.

Lone Star Comics franchise owner Buddy Saunders has launched a one-man campaign he calls “Save Our Streets Arlington.”  His hyperbolic rhetoric has been precededpredicted, and it employs shallow politicization that Tea Party conservatives ought to oppose bike infrastructure.  We’ve seen this before, when misguided critics draw dubious links between politics and transportation funding, to no party’s advantage.  Buddy calls the plan a “traffic congestion-creating, job-killing, tax-raising disaster for Arlington.”  His approach ignores that roads don’t pay for themselves, and the $600 billion debt continue to increase if only car traffic is prioritized.  A Star-Telegram article hypes up the debate, but they don’t quote anyone who actually rides a bike, or even anyone from Bike Friendly Arlington.  This late in the game, all that stands between city council and their adoption of the ambitious hike and plan is an angry guy with a protest sign.

As Elly Blue advises, our job is “to keep speaking reason while the madness runs its course.”

If you want to show support for the Arlington plan, you can sign the petition, or better yet, come to the February 8 city council meeting.

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City hires consultant for Master Bike Plan

This Thanksgiving weekend brought some exciting news from the Denton Record Chronicle that the city has hired a consulting firm to develop a Bicycle Master Plan.  We’ve requested the contract details from the city and should have more information to share this week.

City Manager George Campbell approved a $69,564 contract last month with consulting firm Freese and Nichols Inc. to help develop plans for improving pedestrian and bicycle mobility. A draft report is expected by next summer.

Kevin St Jacques, the consultant, will moderate public meetings with citizens, staff, and the Traffic Safety Commission, we’ll have more announcements about public meetings as the contract moves forward.  Kevin St Jacques recently worked in Denton on the Safe-Routes-To-School contract to improve cycling and pedestrian conditions near Denton’s elementary schools.  We’ve asked the city for any results or findings from the study.

A well executed Master Bike Plan with realistic and implemented results could transform Denton’s streets into a safer, more livable place.   But as we learned from the Downtown Implementation Plan, unrealistic results (like the Sycamore bike route proposed by Jacobs) breed mistrust and skepticism.  This is a huge opportunity to improve Denton; and the plan’s success is contingent on public involvement and willing implementation.  Stay tuned for future announcements and chances for public input, and we’ll share any information we hear.

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Votes for Beers

People are willing to do a lot for free beer.  Especially free, local, quality beer.  If voting in this local election this Saturday would get you free, local, quality beer, would you vote?  BikeDenton and  ThinkDenton think so.

Anyone who has voted in the Denton election for city council and school board can come out to Dan’s Silverleaf between 5-7pm on Saturday night for a free pint of semi-local Franconia beer (after that, pints are half-off at $2).  Bring your “I Voted” sticker.  If you early voted, we can check the roster.  If you lie, you pay $6 per pint.

So you don’t know anything about the candidates?  We have you covered.  ThinkDenton saves you the trouble of googling “city council election” and navigating through the county/city website merry-go-rounds.  No offense, city/county website folks, but if you want more people to vote, it’s got to be easy to figure out who/how/when/where.

ThinkDenton made this awesome, succinct guide.  It’s got polling dates, locations, candidates (and their respective districts), and video interviews conducted in an attic.  ThinkDenton has bacon-wrapped the spectre of local politics for you and made it simple and appealing.  Our last post included a BikeDenton candidate questionnaire which contains answers from the most contested race: District 6 between James King and Hatice Salih.  Want more bike infrastructure?  Then elect the candidates who you think will best work towards that.

We’ll see you on the Dan’s Silverleaf back porch.

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