The phrase “Everything is bigger in Texas” can certainly be applied to the new bicycle ‘superhighway’ planned to connect the northern Texas cities of Fort Worth and Dallas. The 64-mile bicycle ‘superhighway’ improves bicycling access to the urban centers of one of Texas’s most populated regions. In addition to improving bicycling access and safety, the path will accommodate pedestrians and provides benches, bathrooms, and shaded areas. The $7 million plan will improve infrastructure for non-motorized transportation, something that is severely lacking in the sprawling, car-dominated area.
Officials are calling the new trail a “superhighway of bicycles” that runs along the Trinity River, and includes existing bicycling infrastructure in the area. The recently approved $7 million project will be used to build 10 miles of trails to connect existing cycling infrastructure between Dallas and Fort Worth. According to officials, 30 of the 64 miles of the connection already exist, and are accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists today. The remaining 34 miles will connect the trails in already in place in Fort Worth, Arlington, Irving, Grand Prairie, and Dallas. Once complete, close to a million people will live within a two-mile radius of the 64-mile bicycle highway. The project is slated to be completed in four years. The addition of new paths that connect existing infrastructure will build on the surging interest in bicycling for recreation, sport, and commuting purposes.
Although there is strong interest in the area for increased transportation options, existing bicycling infrastructure is limited. One survey rated the North Texas region at or near the bottom in the United States for bicycle commuting, with Forth Worth at number 60, Dallas in 65th, and Plano last. While the survey might have been the impetus for the new superhighway, another document, the United States Bicycling and Walking Benchmarking Report, highlighted some of the deficiencies in statewide bicycle infrastructure, as Dallas was ranked near last in the United States for bicycle commuting. However, constructing bicycle path extensions and connections is likely to improve rankings in future reports.
New trails that enhance this bicycle highway often run through or are adjacent to neighborhoods and job centers. The emphasis on connecting the multi-modal path to centers of activity will improve ridership on the trail, as well as benefit the local economy. Additional connections will include spurs to public transit facilities like the Trinity Railway Express, which will further improve the accessibility and convenience of alternative transportation modes. The new additions are a response to an increasing interest in bicycling; as a citywide survey found that close to 80 percent of Dallas residents would bike more if there were more off street trails. This interest, along with the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ willingness to invest public funds, allows for this breakthrough development.
The new trails are part of a larger, regional bicycle plan the North Central Texas Council of Governments calls the “Regional Veloweb.” The Veloweb aims to connect numerous trails and cities in the region, including Arlington, Grand Prairie, Fort Worth, Irving, and Dallas. The Council hopes to add 1,400 additional miles to the trail in the upcoming years, but for now, the new superhighway is on center stage.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation is commissioning similar studies to the Bicycle Benchmarking Reports created by numerous biking advocacy agencies around the country, including Texas. The department looks to produce a complete and comprehensive report concerning the bicycling infrastructure in New Jersey, encapsulating major cities and bike-friendly municipalities. The hope is for the report to have a similar effect as the previous reports had on Texas, which provided many reasons for bicycling investments. Perhaps the results of the report can have bicycling advocates claiming, “Everything is bigger in New Jersey.”
A detailed map of existing and planned multi-modal pathways connecting Dallas and Fort Worth can be seen below.
Source: North Central Texas Council of Governments