Cycling enthusiast Mayor Betsy Price has signed Fort Worth up for a national challenge to create safer environments for pedestrians and cyclists — a project that will include collecting usable data on cyclists.
The Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets, announced in February by the U.S. Department of Transportation, calls for the 85-plus participating cities across the nation to tackle seven challenge activities, including improving local cycling and pedestrian laws, educating and enforcing proper road use, collecting data and building complete streets.
Price said part of the appeal of the challenge is that Fort Worth has already advanced in many of the areas. The challenge does not come with funding.
“There is so much we have already done,” Price said, referring to the city’s recent push for building “complete streets,” or streets that include elements for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, as well as healthy-city initiatives that promote walking and cycling.
New to the city is the installation of counters — which will record data on the number of cyclists and also the times of day the routes are used — on Bellaire Drive and Magnolia Avenue in the coming months, said Julia Ryan, a senior planner in the city’s transportation and public works department.
The data will give city planners a better idea of how often, when and where bike lanes are being used, and will help inform city planning.
Advocating for safety
The city is also creating a new commission on pedestrian and cycling safety, which should be up and running in about a month, Price said.
That group, which will include one appointee from each of the council members and Price, will examine Fort Worth’s current pedestrian and cycling plans, make recommendations on how to improve safety and promote an educational campaign to teach everyone to share the road.
“Probably the hardest [challenge] activity is going to be educating enforcing proper road use by all,” Price said. “That is always the biggest challenge, to get people to understand that cyclists have a right to be on the road.”
By state law, cyclists have the same rights and rules on the roadway as cars, which means that they travel in the same direction, do not have to use the sidewalk and are required to have a white headlight at night. They must also have working brakes, cannot make passage of traffic unreasonably inconvenient, must signal turns and cannot ride three abreast.
Fort Worth also has a safe passing ordinance, which requires motor vehicles to give 3 feet of passing space for cyclists and pedestrians, and it requires 6 feet of space for commercial trucks passing cyclists and pedestrians. Children under 18 are required to wear a helmet.
From 2005 to 2010, even though only 1.3 percent of roadway crashes in Fort Worth involved a pedestrian, those crashes represented about 25 percent of the total roadway fatalities, according to the Walk! Fort Worth plan approved by the City Council in October.
In addition, the study found that if 2 percent of residents chose to commute to work by walking, using transit or cycling — compared to the 1.2 percent recorded in 2012 Census data — 15,000 cars would be removed from the roadway network.
Focusing on ‘complete streets’
But the city has a long way to go in building the necessary infrastructure. Over 60 percent of arterials and street collectors are without sidewalks, according to the walk plan.
The Bike Fort Worth plan, approved by the council in 2010, calls for about 1,000 miles of both off-street and on-street bike trails, but it will probably take 20-30 years to meet that goal.
The city’s 2014 $292 million bond program has several million dollars dedicated to new parks and trails, including $1.26 million committed to building bicycle routes in Fort Worth and $10 million for new sidewalks or sidewalk improvements.
The city is also trying to add and improve sidewalks and bike lanes as part of their regular maintenance program, Price said.
“To encourage healthy communities, healthy living and engaged communities and citizens, we need to make certain we are going to make it the easiest option,” Price said.
Price’s Rolling Town Halls start at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Museum District.
“It gives people a chance to see what we are doing in the Museum District, and we will take them by the site of the new arena to get a feel for where the arena is going to be,” Price said. “It is a great time to get people out in their community.”
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984