FORT WORTH -- For Doug Black, the 3-mile bicycle ride to work is relatively safe and easy. He sticks mostly to streets such as Magnolia and Jennings avenues, where bike lanes are striped on the pavement.
But for most area residents, pedaling to work isn't a realistic option.
While the city streets and Trinity Trails system are conducive for cycling in central Fort Worth, many parts of the city are -- like much of North Texas -- inaccessible by bicycle. The region continues to miss opportunities to give residents alternatives to driving to work alone, although Black and other cycling enthusiasts who gathered Friday for a National Bike to Work Day celebration in downtown Fort Worth are starting to see signs of progress.
"We have to break down the car-is-king mind-set," said Black, a city attorney who often takes his 5-year-old son, Wynton, to day care on a Trail-A-Bike contraption attached to the back of his bike. "I'm taking one car off the road. I'm small. I'm not polluting the environment."
A smaller-than-normal group of 50 or so people took part in the annual bike to work event, many apparently kept away by the threat of morning thunderstorms. For those who did attend, police offered an escort through downtown, and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority provided refreshments at the Intermodal Transportation Center.
Bicycles Inc. offered free bicycle inspections for participants, many of whom were quick to point out some things Fort Worth leaders could do to make the city more bike-friendly.
Bike lanes, signal sensors
Avid riders nearly universally agree that striping city streets for bike lanes is the best way to make bicycle commuting a safe and attractive option for the casual user. Also, the city needs to install traffic signals that recognize when a bike is present and waiting for a light to change. Many loop detector sensors embedded in the street pavement don't detect bike riders because they don't weigh enough to trigger the signal.
But such plans often encounter resistance. In Arlington, a proposal to create more than 200 miles of bike lanes had to be dramatically scaled back after opposition emerged form residents who thought the changes would hamper car traffic, although a compromise plan is in the works.
Start 'em young
Schools and cities should step up their safe routes to schools programs, said Rodney Bailey, director of marketing and training for Bicycles Inc. in Fort Worth. Children who ride bikes to school are more likely to become adults who ride bikes to work, he said.
"We should teach kids how to ride safely," he said. "It should be part of their program in school."
A public education media campaign would remind motorists that cyclists have a legal right to share the road and also could promote the social benefits of riding a bike.
"That 11 minutes buys me the ability to see what's going on in my neighborhoods," said Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, who rode his bike downtown Friday. "I see things I don't see while driving a car."
The Fort Worth Transportation Authority is exploring whether to buy about 200 three-speed bikes and install locking bike racks across town, so people could rent bikes for short trips. A Fort Worth-based company, Bodhi Bicycles, is marketing an electric bicycle that uses a lithium ion battery to give riders a boost. "You don't have to put torque into the bike," co-founder Paul Jung said.
T President Dick Ruddell on Friday repeated his assertion that "with a combination of a bike and the buses, all of which have bike racks, you can go anywhere in Fort Worth."
But many parts of the city are served only by express bus service, with only one to three trips per morning to the downtown areas.
That's not frequent enough to make buses accessible -- and bicycle commuting practical -- for most city residents living outside Loop 820.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796