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On October 25, transportation advocates from around the area gathered at Texas State University for the "Great Streets in Small Towns" symposium.
Dr. Billy Fields, a professor of political science at Texas State, served as moderator for the evening. San Marcos City Councilmember John Thomaides spoke about the inititatives to make San Marcos more bicycle-friendly, including adding bike lanes on many city roads. San Marcos also has a bicycle map available for cyclists.
BikeTexas' Robin Stallings took the podium to talk about the things BikeTexas is working on for all Texans, including the BikeTexas CATS program, our educational materials, and the push for a Complete Streets bill in the legislature.
Tracy Hadden Loh of the Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC) spoke about the need for trails in small towns and rural areas. She talked about the push back that the Conservancy occasionally hears, and "nobody bikes here" reasoning that comes from many in more isolated areas. Tracy demonstrated the "Beyond Urban Centers" tool on the RTC site that holds valuable information about cycling and walking in areas outside of major cities (scroll down on the page to reach the interactive map). The map includes tools for finding fatalities, health data, infrastructure, and stories about great rural transportation across the U.S.
Finally, Dr. Jennifer Duthie of UT Austin's Center for Transportation Research spoke about her research on cyclist and pedestrian behaviors. She shared the results of a cyclist study conducted via smartphone app in 2011, which showed many desire paths where cyclists are choosing the path that seems easiest, rather than an officially designated path.
Attendees at the symposium were also entered into a door prize drawing for a new BikeTexas jersey.
My heart is heavy today. In the past two months, we've seen one cyclist death after another in Texas. Cyclists like Iris Stagner, who was a BikeTexas board member, a commuter, a racer, and a personal friend. Iris lobbied for Share the Road signs in Palo Pinto County and made a trip to the Texas legislature during the 2009 session to ask her representatives to support the Safe Passing Bill. Iris was a safe rider who obeyed traffic laws, but her life was tragically cut short in September when an inattentive driver struck her from behind. To date, the driver has faced no charges.
We all have stories like this one of a friend or loved one who did everything right but was still killed while cycling. Many Texas roads were not built with bicycles in mind, and worse, drivers are not being held accountable for killing cyclists. Like you and other cyclists across Texas, I am tired of the pain of losing friends. This fall, I’ve attended a series of grief-stricken memorial rides for fallen cyclists, but I dream of a day with no more memorial rides and no more white bikes. I want Texas to be safe for cyclists of all ages and abilities.
BikeTexas has the largest bicycle safety education program in the country, but it has become clear that we can’t educate our way out of this. We need strong, bipartisan action at the Texas legislature. We need our elected officials to join us in declaring that every cyclist or pedestrian life matters. We need to decide that allowing 400 pedestrian and 50 cyclist deaths in Texas every year is a nightmare, and it’s time to wake up.
Out-of-state highway interests don’t care about Texans’ health. They don’t care if your commute takes too long and you arrive at work already stressed. They don’t even care about reducing congestion: more congestion means they can make a case to build even more mega-highways and trap more Texans into driving everywhere they have to go. When many of our roads were built, these same highway interests insisted that there was no money for sidewalks or separated bicycle facilities. They insisted that car-only was the only way to build and they took away our mobility freedom.
My friend Iris fought for her mobility freedom and the mobility freedom of all Texans. She commuted by bicycle from Mineral Wells to Palo Pinto and back every day. Iris exercised her right to get to work as she chose, instead of letting poor infrastructure force her into a car-dependent commute. The car-centered infrastructure that is so beloved of highway interests is partly to blame for a driver knocking Iris off a highway that she had the legal right to ride on.
Now is the time for Texas to stand up and say, “No more!” It’s time to reclaim our freedom of movement and freedom of choice. It is time to demand that our legislature pass laws that will subject careless drivers to prosecution when they take cyclist or pedestrian lives.
Let’s do this for ourselves, our families, and our friends—especially for those who, like Iris, would have dearly loved to see Texans finally take our roads back.
1. Make an extra contribution towards BikeTexas' legislative efforts. Join BikeTexas if you aren't a member. Your membership supports BikeTexas’ efforts financially, but just as important, you become another voice demanding improved roadways in Texas. Legislators act for their constituents, and they need to know that you want them to support bicycling and Complete Streets in your district and across Texas.
2. Join our email list to receive our Action Alerts during the legislative session. Visit www.biketexas.org/email to sign up. In the heat of the session, a call or email from YOU could make a difference. Iris’ visit to the legislature in 2009 turned her senator’s “No” to a “Yes!” Never underestimate the power that constituents have in swaying elected officials. Don’t let the 2013 session go by without making sure your legislators represent you, your family, and your community.
3. Tell your family and friends about BikeTexas. Share the word about sharing the road, safety for cyclists, and saving Texas’ future. Tell others about the great work you support through your BikeTexas membership. Link to our website (www.biketexas.org), visit our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/biketexas), and follow us on Twitter (@biketexas).
Let's take on the 2013 Legislative Session together!
Bike Friendly Oak Cliff's Cyclesomatic 2012 has come and gone with group rides for the whole family, a school riding event called iBike Rosemont, a bike build workshop, and a Halloween Bicycle Festival to cap everything off.
However, one Cyclesomatic event is still ongoing: The Bike Rack Design/Build Competition. The description on the website states:
The design requirements for the project simply consist of designing an easy-to-build bike rack. It can be as simple as taking a common bike rack design and proposing an easy way to build it or it can be a design that involves more than what is asked for in the design criteria, for example incorporating a bike repair station into the rack, or it may include helmet storage.
Entries to the competition are due December 1. For more information, see the description on the contest post.
The last U.S. Congress was openly hostile to biking and walking, and the new Federal Transportation Bill, called MAP-21, shows that hostility through elimination of Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements programs. These have been rolled into a new program, Transportation Alternatives, with non-bike programs such as highway beautification added to eligible uses of funds, and much of the funding made optional.
However, there’s a silver lining, especially for the eleven areas covered under a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in Texas. A mechanism that U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison fought to preserve in the final bill, under much pressure from BikeTexas and Texas cyclists like you, allows for half of the Transportation Alternatives dollars in Texas to go directly to the eleven MPOs, with funding apportioned by population.
On October 24, 2012, Tracy Hadden Loh, Research Manager at Rails-To-Trails Conservancy and Director of the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse, spoke in San Antonio with encouraging news about how local areas can maximize the use of Transportation Alternatives funding, and what advocates can do to support that.
This year, the Texas Department of Transportation has decided to hold Transportation Alternatives (TA) money, and instead has issued a call for projects with the old Transportation Enhancements funds. As Ms. Loh explained, this means that there should be twice the normal amount of money under Transportation Alternatives available next year: at least $600,000 for smaller MPOs like Killeen, Brownsville, and Lubbock, and over $14 million for each of the two largest, Houston-Galveston and North Central Texas. In addition, projects in areas in or out of MPOs would be eligible for funding directly through TxDOT, from a pot estimated at $77 million. See a full list of estimated funding levels for TA here.
Imagine what a major investment in biking and walking could do in your area. A network of protected cycle tracks, or a new major trail for transportation and recreation would mean everyone from schoolchildren to commuters to the elderly would have the chance to take advantage of safe biking and walking.
BikeTexas KidsKup races are finished for 2012! Over 100 kids and their bikes came out for the five fall races across the state; 276 kids participated through the whole year.
KidsKup helps address childrens' decreasing amount of physical activity. Children and adolescents should get 60 minutes of physical activity a day, but many Texas children are falling short of this target. When children participate in KidsKup, they learn how much fun physical activity can be, and start to look forward to being active instead of seeing activity as a chore.
Additionally, children gain confidence as they learn to ride the course, as well as lessons in good sportsmanship. Both of these benefits paid off for one young rider at last year's Coldspring ride: she was holding back and sitting with her parents until one of the more experienced young riders offered to take her out and show her the course. Once the timid rider went through the course a couple of times, she lost her timidity and rode the course over and over. Two weeks later at Pace Bend, she hit the course again, this time with the confidence of a seasoned rider.
Pictures from the KidsKup races tell the story of children out in the fresh air, socializing and riding. Their experiences will stay with them and influence their choices over time: they learn that physical activities are fun, and that they can participate even if they aren’t “athletes.” Exercise is hidden in the package!
Come join us at the spring KidsKup races, beginning on February 9 in Smithville. KidsKup is always free and open to anyone age 12 and younger who can ride a bike! Strider bikes and training wheels are allowed. All children must wear helmets and participate in the safety clinic before the race. For more information, check out the BikeTexas KidsKup site. Stay tuned as we announce more spring events on our event schedule!
BikeTexas' own Executive Director, Robin Stallings, was one of the distinguished guest judges for Austin's Weirdest Commute Contest on October 26. Contestants had to create a creative, functional, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could go one lap around the parking lot.
Jeremy Rosen of Austin Bike Zoo took home the first prize for a bat-headed bicycle.
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