Long Route to a ShortcutLong Route to a Shortcut
Six years ago, some Fort Worth city staffers helped cobble together the Fort Worth Bicycle Blueprint, a plan to build 300 miles of bike routes on Funkytown’s streets.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments found $160,000 in federal bucks to pay for 45 miles of the routes, with the agreement that Fort Worth would pony up $40,000 in matching local money. The funding came through from both sides in 1999, but the routes (or any actual plans to finish the routes) never materialized.
City hall, it seems, had fallen asleep at the wheel(s). And it took a bunch of pissed-off folks in latex shorts and funny helmets to wake ‘em up.
In May, a group of impatient area cyclists, led by Jim Wilson and Kyle Carr of the Lockheed Martin Recreational Association’s Bicycle Club, rode to city hall to remind council members of the dusty old plan and get some answers. The cyclists got a pat on the proverbial helmet and the admonition to wait until next year. All kinds of things had gone wrong betwixt blueprint and actual bike route, it seems – like the city’s seeming inability to get complete construction documents to the state transportation agency to allow the plan to go forward. Oops!
Now, we’re not talking super-highways here – not so much as a square foot of concrete has to be laid. Each route consists of two street signs and two pavement markings per mile on existing streets. (How hard can this be?) The signs and markings boil down to safety measures for cyclists: If vehicle drivers realize the cyclists are around, the bikers’ chances of getting run over slim down considerably.
Cyclists were eventually told the routes would be installed early next year. But on Monday, two council members and a couple of government planners met with Wilson and other LMRA bike club members to peddle (ouch) some good news: The bike routes are coming! Council members Carter Burdette and Jungus Jordan, NCTCOG’s bicycle and pedestrian planner Helen Chaney, and Cowtown city planner Rick Vasquez helped deliver the information.
Burdette told Static that the plan now is for 60 miles of routes to be completed by December. Route signs are being stamped out and will be put into place soon, Vasquez told the crowd.
The routes are showing up early (well, really late, but earlier than the last prediction) city officials said, because TXDOT and the federal funding deal were tossed aside and Fort Worth scrounged up $100,000 in local funds to do the project on its own. This clears up red tape and reduces costs, Vasquez said, because TXDOT holds bike routes to more expensive highway standards.
Getting the signs and pavement markings installed for the remaining 240 miles of Bicycle Blueprint routes will depend on cyclist participation and more squeaky-wheel-gets-the-grease attitude, Burdette said.
“When we get these [routes] up, the cyclists have to go out and use them,” he said.