Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and bicycling initiatives
Dr. Randy B. Machemehl, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, and VeloTexas organizer Gonzalo Camacho.
Photos, article by Clair LaVaye
Forth Worth Mayor Betsy Price says that Texans need to get aggressive and creative about solving congestion issues. She gave an update on Fort Worth’s efforts to develop bicycling facilities to encourage transportation alternatives on Friday at the VeloTexas 2012 bicycle facilities and safety conference. The event was held in Austin, Texas, at the downtown Hilton hotel.
Bike! Fort Worth was passed in February 2010; a bike parking ordinance was passed in November 2010; and in March 2011, a safe passing ordinance was passed in Forth Worth. When construction projects are developed, bus-bike lanes are added when possible to the roadway. Price said that planners realized that bikes could utilize the bus lanes, which provide a buffer zone between bikes and cars. “We’ve done a lot of on-street improvements and we have about 20 dedicated bike officers,” Price added, emphasizing that safety is a priority as bicycling grows as a means of transit.
The city has also offered bike racks to businesses who wanted them, to encourage bicyclists to stop and shop. Another indicator of bike interest in the city is that hotels are starting to buy bicycles to offer as loaners to hotel guests.
Forth Worth has utilized painted marking on roadways to indicate bicyclists right of way. “We have raised the profile [for bicyclists],” Price said. “Clear signage is one of the ways we’ve made that happen.”
Price became interested in bicycling as a healthy exercise that could be enjoyed by the entire family. “Getting out and getting engaged builds a healthy and strong community” she said. “I’m not taking anyone out of their cars unless they want to. We just want everyone to share the road safely.”
Fort Worth’s bike plan is trifold: increase bicycle usage, decrease bike-related crashes and accidents, and attain an official designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community through the League of American Bicyclists.
“Cowtown gets Physical” is a slogan city staff have been using in Forth Worth to promote bicycling and a healthy lifestyle. “An active city is a healthy city,” Price said. She added that businesses interested in moving to Fort Worth want to know if the citizens are healthy. Having an active bike community is a positive indicator.
To encourage cycling, the city and the Forth Worth ISD started FIT Worth, a “healthy city” initiative. The program had an initial enrollment of 26,000 school-age children and their families in the first few weeks it began. Particpants log their activity hours and schools compete for prizes.
Price encourages and participates in something she calls a “rolling town hall” where Forth Worth residents ride with the Mayor’s and her staff, sometimes handing them written requests to consider neighborhood concerns and projects. The city also hosted a Tour de Fort Worth, challenging people to ride 20 miles a day for 21 days, which culminated in a party at HEB Central Market.
Forth Worth also has Critical Mass rides and the participants numbers are growing: 300-350 this year. This summer, Fort Worth did a series of children’s rides, including a bike rodeo. There’s also the Bike! Forth Worth club.
Starting in November, Price’s next healthy city initiative will be “walking town halls” on Wednesday afternoons, where she and her staff will walk and talk with participants about issues in their neighborhood.
Fall 2012 bicycling events include a spooky Halloween bike ride with a visit to Pioneer’s Rest cemetery and a downtown parade. These kind of initiatives have have raised awareness, increased participation in biking activities, and raised funding for improvements, including bike lane road striping.
Price said that Fort Worth has gotten creative about funding and cost sharing, obtaining numerous sponsors and grants for bike initiatives. And it’s good for business. The increased greenways and bike paths are attracting people into town to ride recreationally.
The Fort Worth mayor said she is proud of the city’s successes with alternative transit and recreation initiatives “We have Bike! Forth Worth. We have great trail systems. We have a town lake project coming on, with water taxis, where you can ride and go. canoes, kayaks, roller bladers, cyclists, all sorts of alternatives.”
As cities face downturns in their budgets, she said, city planners have to make a case for funding, showing that these programs provide for a healthier community. Price says, “It’s about getting out, meeting your fellow citizens, about getting involved. Cities tend to work in silos. We are working very hard to break that down.”
Price said that studies are needed to gather more data about the need for striping the roads for bikes. But, according to Price, the more biking facilities that a city provides, the more likely the city is to qualify for grants to help fund such initiatives. Soon, Fort Worth will bring a bike share program online, based on a grant received by the city for 300 bikes and 35 lockers. The bikes will be accessed using a credit card. She suggests that residents might choose to take transit to the office and then use one of the bikes while in town.
Price gave some advice on how to encourage and fund bike facilities, amenities, and initiatives: “Compared to pouring asphalt, your cost in providing this kind of transportation is minimal. Find out what’s best for your community. Be creative with funding sources. Go to the local events; most have associated bike facilities. Host free bike rides. You will find great allies with the health community, in health organizations. Engage others.”
For a video of Betsy Price speaking about cycling and health:
Links for more information about Bike! Forth Worth:
Links for more information about Velotexas: