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Wed, Oct 8
International Walk to School Day
On March 18 the El Paso City Council voted to recommit to using $2 million in federal funding for new bike infrastructure. On August 1 the funding was reprogrammed for FY 2019. On August 12, the El Paso City Council voted to move forward with four new projects.
It's hard being a bicycle advocate in El Paso when you're not sure if you’re winning or losing the battle.
By Scott White, Velo Paso
El Paso, TX – Just moments after the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) voted on August 1 to reprogram $2 million in federal funding that had been slated for new bike lanes, we found ourselves wondering “where can we tell people to ride, when they already think there aren't safe places to ride now?” El Paso has a long history of underfunding (or worse, defunding) bicycle infrastructure in favor of other projects, and our fear was that we had witnessed El Paso’s huge new commitment to bicycle infrastructure vanish before our eyes. In El Paso, when bike projects get delayed, they usually don't come back.
Or do they?
In March of this year, El Paso's City Council narrowly voted to move forward with new bike infrastructure, after about 50 members of Velo Paso and the local cycling community rode to City Council to ask the council to preserve that funding. One of our council members had proposed that the city should suspend future bike lane construction after receiving complaints that cyclists weren't using the bike lanes. We pointed out that the existing lanes were often substandard, poorly designed, full of debris, didn't feel safe, were not connected, and often were not where riders needed bike lanes. Despite our concerns, we were told it was in our interest to wait for a better design process to be implemented, rather than for the city to continue to build bad bike lanes. (We were later told the proposal was meant to “punish” those who designed bad bike lanes, yet the real result would have been to deny bicycle riders the safe places we have been asking for!)
We agreed that a better planning process was needed, but making us wait wasn't making us any safer, either. Fortunately, one of our friends on council agreed with us, and had already placed on the day’s agenda a motion to form a Bicycle Advisory Committee. After prolonged debate, mostly about the financial costs of the lanes (as opposed to the need for safe transportation options), the Council narrowly voted down the proposal to suspend bike lane construction. The Council also approved the new Bicycle Advisory Committee to help facilitate the creation of better bicycle infrastructure.
It was a good day for cycling in El Paso. Or so we thought: Almost five months later, the Bicycle Advisory Committee has yet to meet. Just five of nine positions have been filled, and the vote to NOT suspend bike lane construction has apparently had no real effect.
One of the challenges of building any sort of transportation infrastructure can be the deadlines. About the time we were expecting to hear about the new plans, we instead learned that the city had been unable to move the planning process along far enough to let the projects move forward. In other words, it appears as though someone sat on the bike lane projects (intentionally or unintentionally, we don't know), and now as the fiscal year was coming to an end, the money couldn't be spent because the city wasn’t ready. (Federal funds have a “use it or lose it” policy attached.)
We lost the funding, and we were fit to be tied. Until...
It turned out that someone, somewhere in the city had been working on bike/walk projects, so just a couple of weeks after we had been told the city wouldn't be ready to spend the $2 million for bike lanes, we were amazed to hear they had four hike/bike projects ready to be put forward. On August 12, the council voted unanimously in favor of all of them.
You might recall that El Paso had some similar fun last year with our back-and-forth over the bike share program (on again, off again, on again, off... well, you get the picture). We finally got it approved, and yet we're still waiting for that, too. It just seems that while the idea of bike friendly projects appeals to our local leaders, those charged with bringing them to fruition don't always seem to get it. Or get that we need better infrastructure NOW. For too long El Paso has continued to build roads for cars, not people – leading many local drivers to believe anything that isn’t a car doesn’t belong on the road, and that “well, if they're on the road in front of me, they're just asking for it, right?...”
In addition to the four new projects, we are also happy to report that city will soon be developing a new Bicycle Master Plan and has just approved a Complete Streets policy that we hope will help prioritize pedestrian and bicycle friendly infrastructure. It's hard to tell where our city leaders are headed sometimes, but we hope these new projects and policies mean the city will little by little connect the hike/bike network across our community. Additionally, we at Velo Paso have begun to gather key partners and reach out to the surrounding municipalities to promote bicycle friendly policies, and are beginning to plan our own vision for a connected Paso del Norte region.
It's funny how one day we can despair for the future of our community, and the next we can find ourselves racing to the top – just like each rider can have a bad days and good days. But each morning we get back on and get out there, knowing that the next ride might just be our best yet, or it could be a suffer fest. Either way, with a little support from our friends, we know we can make it to the end.
About Velo Paso: Velo Paso is a group of avid cyclists and engaged citizens from across the Paso del Norte region who want to improve conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians in our community. For more information, please visit www.velopaso.org, www.facebook.com/velopaso, and www.twitter.com/velopaso. Photo courtesy of Scott White: Attendees at March's City Council meeting in El Paso.
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 14:58
For over a decade, BikeTexas staff have made the six-hour trip from our home base in Austin to Wichita Falls to attend the largest cycling event in our great state: the Hotter'N Hell 100. Now in its 33rd year, the event routinely draws nearly 15,000 riders. And for nearly as long as we’ve been going there, HH100 has been a BikeTexas Event Member, making a generous donation to bike advocacy efforts in Texas, as well as providing us with booth space to talk to Texans about getting involved through our bike giveaway and membership drive.
2014 is no different! If you're going to Hotter'N Hell, be sure to stop by our booth and say hello. HH100 is a great time to join BikeTexas or renew your annual membership, because we offer specials that are only available during HH100 weekend. (If you can't make the trip to Wichita Falls, not to worry-- you can take advantage of the specials from home, too.) Plus, joining or renewing during HH100 weekend means you're entered in the 2014 BikeTexas Annual Bike Giveaway-- a 2015 Trek 7.2 FX.
We're excited! See you at HH100 2014!
Texas boasts a college and university enrollment of nearly 1.5 million students-- that's a lot of learning going on! Many students choose to walk or ride a bike to class for reasons ranging from fun to affordability-- and universities like it when you don't bring a car on campus, too, because that helps with air quality and parking. But in the midst of all that low-cost fun, it's easy to forget that while on a bike, you're still subject to the laws governing traffic. Don't ruin your day by winding up on the wrong side of the law-- know your rights and responsiblities as an active transportation user before you roll to class.
See more about Texas Bicycle Laws at biketexas.org/laws. (Numbers reference sections in the Texas Transportation Code)
Bicyclists have the same rights and duties of other vehicle operators (551.101):
You must stop at stop signs and red lights, and a bicycle has the same right to the road as a car.
Ride near the curb and go in the same direction as other traffic (551.103):
We recommend a 3-foot cushion between you and the curb to allow for road hazards like potholes or debris. A bicycle may use the full lane if the outside lane on the road is less than 14 feet wide, or if a car and bike cannot safely share the same lane. (Note: If you are on foot, you should walk in the opposite direction of traffic. Ride with traffic; walk against it.)
You may ride two abreast as long as you don't impede traffic (551.103c):
In places where you can legally take the lane, you can legally ride two abreast. If the travel lane is wide enough for one bike and one car to share, it may be illegal to ride two abreast.
Use hand and arm signals (545.107):
Make clear signs with your full arm extension for turning, stopping, or changing lanes to let other road users know your intentions.
Bicycles must have a white light on the front and a red reflector or red light on the rear at night (551.104b):
Lights must be visible from 500 feet away. Legally, you must turn your lights on at the same time you'd turn on car lights, but for safety's sake, it's a good idea to have your lights on when the sun is low in the sky to make yourself more visible to drivers. You should also use your lights in rain, fog, or other conditions that make it difficult to see.
Keep at least one hand on the handlebars (two are safer) (551.102c).
One rider per saddle (551.102a).
Bicycles must be equipped with brakes that are capable of making the braked wheel skid (551.104a).
We have a PowerPoint presentation available about bicycle and pedestrian laws in Texas, plus lots of other good stuff to know if you're using active transportation in college. Learn more at biketexas.org/cats.
Brownsville Wins Culture of Health Prize
Tuesday, 12 August 2014 14:52
The City of Brownsville was recently awarded a Culture of Health Prize from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in recognition of the city's hard work to make public health a priority.
Brownsville's work toward better health began when the city received distressing news about the high levels of overweight, obesity, and diabetes in Brownsville. City officials decided it was time to make a change for the better, both for Brownsville's present and for its future.
Today, Brownsville has a Bicycle and Trails Master Plan. It has the Belden Trail. It holds regular CycloBia events, designed to bring people out into a safe, car-free, fun environment for physical activity. And the city is committed to healthy lifestyles for all.
Congratulations on your well-deserved win, Brownsville! Read more about the Culture of Health Prize and Brownsville here.
Updated: BikeTexas Annual Membership Meeting 2014: Register Now!
Updated Sept 20: Registration to attend online is now closed; in-person registrations still available at the link below. Plan to stay after the meeting for happy hour!
Updated Sept 15: Meeting times for Sunday have been clarified-- the BikeTexas Board of Directors will meet at 3 PM, and the annual membership meeting will begin at 4:15. Both meetings are open to the public, but the fun stuff starts at 4:15! See you Sunday!
Every September, BikeTexas members come together for the Annual Membership Meeting. We hear from board members and staff about where we are and where we'd like to be in the next year. We share successes and setbacks.
2014 is no exception. We want you to join us on Sunday, September 21, from 3 to 6 PM as we celebrate the work of another year together.
If you're in Austin, we'd love to have you here at the office with us! If you can't make the trip to Austin that day, not to worry-- we'll have plenty of space on our teleconference for you to listen in from home, a coffee shop, public library, or wherever you may be. The Annual Membership Meeting is open to the public, but you must be a BikeTexas member to vote.
The Annual Membership Meeting is also when we'll have our annual drawing for a new bike! One lucky member will roll away with a 2015 Trek 7.2 FX bike in the color and size of your choice, which you'll be able to pick up from your local Trek dealer. Trek has generously donated this giveaway bike just for BikeTexas members. Not a member yet? Join here.
Register here to attend either in person or online, and we'll see (or hear!) you on September 21!
Back to School: 6 Steps to Get Ready to Ride
Friday, 08 August 2014 10:44
Stacks of notebooks, backpacks on display, and pencils waiting to be sharpened can only mean one thing: It's time to head back to school! Whether you're 5 or 25, if you're headed back to the land of learning, it's time to be sure your bike is ready to roll with you.
Biking or walking to school gives your child (or you!) tremendous health and mental benefits. Childhood obesity is on the rise across the US, and regular physical activity can help protect your child: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 60 minutes of physical activity every day for children and adolescents.
In addition to getting kids active, studies have shown a link between children being active on their way to school and their ability to concentrate once they arrive. Doss Elementary School in Austin has noticed this firsthand: after just a few months of the school's bike program, teacher Amanda Swann said, "children who walk/ride to school are much better prepared to sit and learn and have gotten those ‘wiggles’ out on that trip to school instead of during school."
So, time to get everybody ready to roll!
2. Make sure everyone in your family has a properly fitted helmet. (PDF download)
Want to plan a Bike/Walk to School Day for your school or community?
International Walk to School Day is October 8! Go to the Texas page on the Walk to School Day site to find an event near you or to register your event. Planning a bike or walk to school day event? Check out the Bike/Walk to School Day chapter in the BikeTexas Event Handbook for tips to make everything run smoothly. Start with the Team Leader Checklist (PDF download) to get you well on your way.
Biking/Walking not a feasible option for your family?
Never fear: You are not forgotten! StreetsBlog LA shared excellent advice from Jim Shanman, the executive director of Walk n Rollers: "Instead of driving all the way to school, try parking 5 blocks away and walking the rest. Spending an extra 10 minutes with your kids and avoiding the drop off crush is an excellent – and rewarding – way to start your day." Read more of Jim's suggestions here.
You might also consider joining-- or starting-- a walking school bus or a bike train in your neighborhood. Parents take turns being the leaders, reducing each person's overall time commitment-- a valuable commodity for busy parents. Learn more: info about walking school buses here and info about bike trains here.
And don't forget about the BikeTexas KidsKup!
If your kids love to ride their bikes and are ready for a new challenge, it may be time to try mountain biking! BikeTexas KidsKup events are held in conjunction with TMBRA races in the spring and fall.
Check out the KidsKup schedule here for event dates and to pre-register your child(ren) to save time on the day of the event. Be sure to join the BikeTexas mailing list so you get a reminder when KidsKup will be in your area.
Above all, have a great school year, and happy riding!
Five Bicycle Reads for Book Lovers' Day
August 9 is Book Lovers' Day! For your reading enjoyment, we’ve put together a handful of some bicycle-related books for you to kick back with after you’ve finished your weekend ride. (If we left off your favorite, that just means our resident book lover hasn’t read it yet!)
All links are to the book pages on Amazon. If you decided to purchase through Amazon, please log into smile.amazon.com and choose BikeTexas (Texas Bicycle Coalition) as your beneficiary. Get a good book and support bicycle advocacy!
Because I Could Not Stop My Bike and Other Poems, by Karen Jo Shapiro & Matt Faulkner
Definitely for the kids, but if you’re an adult who loves famous poems, it’s good for a giggle or two. Be warned that only one poem is actually about a bike.
The Bikeable Church, by Sean Benesh
Wish your church were more bike-friendly? Get ideas here.
City Cycling, by John Pucher & Ralph Buehler
More research-oriented, this book is full of key information to take to your city officials. Great reference for advocates. Dr. Pucher was the speaker at our Shifting Gears Lecture Series during the 2013 legislative session.
Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet, by Mia Burk
Ride along with Portland’s former bicycle coordinator as she recounts the journey to make Portland one of the best bicycling cities in the U.S.
A short, easy read about the role the bicycle played in the women’s suffrage movement. This book is a good one for kids, too. Update on Aug 19: August 18 was the 94th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. This book is especially appropriate this week!
This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but we hope it’s enough to get you reading and rolling through the weekend!
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