The bicycling frontier…
There has been a lot of chatter and gasps of surprise when Bicycling Magazine released their list of top bicycling cities and Portland was dethroned as bike Mecca and was replaced with Minneapolis (but doesn’t it snow there?). The top 10 cities don’t change too often and the battles in those cities are usually nuances over different shades of infrastructure (bike boxes, sharrows, cycle paths, bike corrals, etc.,). These cities already have pretty well established bike routes, bike/ped coordinators working in the city and strong cycling cultures so the battle sounds a lot like a Coke and Pepsi debate.
Throughout our journey, we’ve been trying to visit the big cycling cities that Jeff Mapes talks about in Pedaling Revolution but have also stumbled upon lots of cities and communities that are way below the radar. These cities aren’t going to pop up in any Bicycling Magazine lists any time soon, nor will you see their names mentioned in the bicycle diaries of anyone famous. However, there’s a lot of exciting things going on in what I’d like to call the bicycling frontier and I’d like to mention some of those towns and people.
The Dallas – Fort Worth sprawl and surrounding cities is so large and well…sprawly, that a special word was coined to try to encompass it all – metroplex. Austin is usually known as the bicycling city in Texas and rightfully so with their vibrant bike culture and easily navigable streets. But let’s keep in mind, Texas is a BIG state and there’s a lot of bike advocates spread throughout the state.
We had the pleasure of meeting Bernie and Bryan of Trinity Bicycles while in Fort Worth. Bernie worked on trying to pass a state safe passing law for bicycles that made it to the governor’s desk and was struck down. While a bit heartbroken, he continues the good fight in Fort Worth with his latest endeavor – Trinity Bicycles. The shop is a few blocks from a train station, they are open at 7am and have showers for commuters. Together with his business partner Bryan, they hope to encourage transportation cycling and even bike touring. The bikes they carry are practical city bikes for around town and on weekend adventures. We just got word from them that after our presentation, there was a lot of interest in bike touring so they are organizing a bike tour for Memorial Weekend for Fort Worth cyclists!
Nearby to Fort Worth is Oak Cliff where a group fo complete street and bicycling advocates are taking back their streets. Through their website Bike Friendly Oak Cliff they are organizing local rides to events and are keep the excitement of bikeable and walkable cities alive.
After our presentation in Fort Worth, we met a contingent of cyclists from Denton, a small college town about 40 miles north of the DFW area. They told us we should come up north and see what they’re up to – so we did. The second we mentioned that we were going to Denton, we heard all sorts of wonderful things about the city, that it was a “mini-Austin”, it had a great music scene and cycling was gaining momentum.
In Denton, we stayed with some students that bicycled around town and they found it a great city to ride in. There were some issues of course, there was still some tension between some residents and the new and growing cycling community.
We had a meetup there at a local bar and had a great turnout and got to talk to readers and Facebook fans about touring and cycling in the city. There we met with Howard Draper, a former student at University of North Texas who decided to stay and slowly got involved in cycling and cycling advocacy.
He tells us that 10 years ago cycling wasn’t even on his radar. He loved cars and working on cars. However, as a student, he started riding a bike and rediscovered its joys and advantages for a student. Unlike most that went to UNT and moved on, he stayed and worked for the university. He told us one day a student came in who was bloody and shell shocked because she had just been in a hit and run accident while on a bike. This became the impetus for Bike Friendly Denton. The first post reads:
A Denton bike commuter named Jasmine was hit by a car last night. She says she was riding down Mingo road around midnight, when a sporty, dark car passed her and immediately turned right. She hit the side of the car and bounced back onto the ground. She says she had both front/rear lights on when this happened. The car fled, and hopefully a police report will be made.
He told us that he kept the blog updated and for the first year wrote to no-one in particular. Soon he found other people interested in bicycling and things started to take shape. He became more active and started attending various city meetings and developer meetings making sure that the interests of bicyclists were vocalized. He got to know various council members, business owners and even the mayor.
To ride in Denton at the moment, you wouldn’t think there was a lot going on in terms of cycling, but the wheels have been set in motion by Howard and the handful of other interested cyclsits. There is a bike co-op, a sprinkling of bike racks and businesses that were once anti-bike are beginning to realize the economic possibilities of catering to cyclists. Howard and I talked a little about moving to Portland, but he has mixed feelings about it. There is the easy lure of moving to someplace that is already a great bicycling city where you can kind of find your peace within the fold, but there is also the desire to create and shape your community for the better. For now, he plans to stay and fight for Denton.
While in North Texas we also got to meet a long time reader, Iris from Mineral Wells. An avid cyclist, she has navigated the bureaucracy of local government and Texas DOT to put bike signage on a hill climb in her area where a cyclists has been killed. She has also led a boycott against a business where cyclists weren’t allowed to use the restroom or sit in the front and eat and drink the things they purchased from the business. She is involved with cycling politics on a local as well as a state level, participating in various advocacy organizations and attending bike summits in Austin.
These people are working for bicycling in North Texas independently and we’ve had the great pleasure of connecting the dots between them. Slowly, they’re beginning to realize that they’re not alone and they have allies in neighboring cities. These are advocates on the frontier, working in areas which aren’t historically bike friendly. It has been a pleasant surprise running into these communities and meeting these people and it fills us with hope. No, they’re not in Bicycling’s Top 50 this year, nor will they be in the list next year but they are doing good work and we want their stories to inspire other cycling advocates in other cities which aren’t in The List to keep on the fight.
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