Fort Worth mayor hosts rolling town hall meeting

Consider this fair warning: If Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price invites you to go riding, bring your A game.

On Wednesday, about 30 cyclists joined the mayor for the first Tour de Fort Worth of 2012, a 14-mile hop around the Trinity Trails, starting at the recently opened Trinity Bicycles, 343 Throckmorton St.

The weekly series will continue through Oct. 24 at various sites around the city.

Price, 62, likes to use cycling as a way to promote a healthy city and give residents a chance to talk with her about issues in a relaxed atmosphere.

"It's really interesting what people will tell you on a bike," said Price, who rides five days a week and logs as many as 150 miles a week during the summer.

"They get warmed up and they get loose, and you feel friendly and accessible. That's what we want. This is all about being real open and free with the citizens."

Wednesday's ride started a little after 5:30 p.m. under cloudy skies and 60-degree temperatures. The cyclists were escorted down to the trail by two Fort Worth bicycle officers, who hung at the end of the group all evening to keep an eye on everyone.

The machines ranged from mountain bikes, like the police issue Trek hard-tails ridden by Fort Worth bike patrol officer Sean Blaydes, to the mayor's red and black Kuota road bike.

The crowd was diverse, too. Several people said they had run across the ride on the mayor's Facebook page and decided to join the group because, well, a ride's a ride.

Diane Laughlin, 59, of Saginaw, a train dispatcher for BNSF Railroad, found out about the weekly rides from the Fort Worth Bicycling Association. She said that she's gotten a little out of shape over the winter and that Wednesday's ride was a good workout.

Mike Emery, 42, of Fort Worth said he enjoyed the chance to ride.

"I saw it on Facebook and decided that any opportunity to ride is a good opportunity," said Emery, a manager at National Tire and Battery.

Janet Patterson, 49, of Fort Worth, who owns a women's consignment shop, said she just enjoys riding.

"I'm about to turn 50," she said. "So, biking's for all ages."

About 20 minutes into the ride, as the group headed toward Gateway Park, a brief rain shower made things a little more interesting. But 10 minutes later, a sun broke through and the rest of the evening was pleasant.

Price yo-yo'd back and forth in the group as it stretched out along the trail, chatting with riders. She said the weekly rides, which began last year, give residents a chance to discuss everything from street lights to potholes to water rates to taxes.

"We haven't had anybody in the last year who was really angry," she said. "You know, we have some who say, 'Why can't we get our streets fixed?' And I understand that. It's frustrating."

Heavy rains earlier in the week flooded several low-water crossings, forcing several impromptu route changes and even a little cyclocross along the route from downtown to Gateway Park.

The pace was steady, and a 8-10 mph wind that changed direction from southwest to west to northwest during the ride made it just tough enough for a good workout.

Price, who said she has been cycling seriously for about 25 years, said she enjoys the outings with residents.

"I love people, and I love hearing what they're interested in," she said, "even if they're not talking about the city, if they're just telling me about their families or their pets or their children, I love that kind of stuff."

The weekly Wednesday rides are from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Next week's ride starts at the Tarrant County College-Trinity Trails Trailhead. You can get the latest information about the rides at Mayor Price's Facebook page.

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