“Is it too hot to ride a bike in Dallas?”

June 15th, 2009

The Transportation ‘blog at the Dallas Morning News posted an open query this morning, seeking input on whether it is too hot to ride a bike in Dallas. Though this question frames the context of the ‘blog post, much of the article promotes marginally relevant content at two other sites – DC Streetsblog and BFOC. Let me first add my response to the inquiry, then offer a couple of comments about the tangential subject.

Is it too hot to ride a bike in Dallas?

No, not really. When one considers the average bicycle commute is five to seven miles, the relatively short duration of a trip at these distances – even at the height of summer heat – is not a terribly uncomfortable prospect. The key to success is proper dress and hydration. I do it on a daily basis during an average one-way trip distance of 30km. For most, this would be a potentially daunting prospect. Nevertheless, commitment and experience make it mostly pleasant and uneventful.

Many novice transportation cyclists disparage the use of cycling attire as being elitist. Assigning such derogatory terms as “lycra” and “spandex” to modern performance fabrics, some criticize the donning of clothing intended to shield skin, wick perspiration and prevent chafing as being uninviting. Of course, the use of these synthetics is not required. Smart wool is another good choice. If the detractors stick with bicycle commuting, in a few years they too will come to realize the benefits of wearing appropriate clothing – especially for long distance commutes.

Hydration is of paramount importance. The average person can lose up to two liters of water per hour during intense exercise. Whether one cycles vigorously or not, simply being out in the summer sun in Texas can be analogous to an intense workout. The consumption of at least 250mL/15 minutes of riding is a minimum maintenance volume requirement. A supplemental containing electrolytes is advisable, but can be replenished at the end of the trip as well.


As one might imagine, the responses posted to the Transportation ‘blog run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous. Most of the respondents ranged far afield from the question at hand and whined about the lack of bike lanes as being an impediment toward serious consideration of bicycle commuting. As experienced vehicular cyclists know, this is specious and little more than a convenient excuse. Every lane is a bike lane when occupied by a competent, experienced cyclist.

Of course, there were the ever present trolls as well. Those who are more that willing to share their thinly veiled, paternalistic derision of cyclists on the roadway. They feign altruistic concern by employing such platitudes as concern for the cyclist’s safety. In reality, their only care is removal from their path of any potential impediment to progress at (or above) the posted speed limit.

Spurious emissions

In addition to the community query, the author adding some unrelated commentary concerning the recently highlighted “Bike Fort Worth” plan. He began by citing Streetsblog Capitol Hill and its profile of today’s BFOC interview with Don Koski, a senior planner with Fort Worth. The Streetsblog piece focused primarily on the proposed “[h]undreds of miles of new bike lanes, ‘road diets’ and a proposed streetcar system.” Even BFOC was pushing the bike lane meme by lauding the “400+ miles of bike lanes, bus only lanes, streetcars, and ‘road diets’ … being planned throughout the city.” What Koski actually says, or rather doesn’t, is of more interest.

In response to the question, “Since the majority of residents are in cars, is there a concern that implementing bicycle infrastructure at the cost of losing lanes and/or parking will diminish the ability for people to gain access to these areas?”; he responds:

There often are trade-offs when right-of-way space is limited. We are addressing the decision-making process dealing with these concerns in the Bike Fort Worth plan. With new construction, it is relatively easy to make the provisions for all of the likely users of the street as long as it is planned for from the beginning. The most difficulty is when trying to retrofit bicycle facilities into existing streets. On streets in downtown and in other areas where traffic speeds and volumes are relatively low, dedicated cycling space isn’t a high priority as most cyclists feel comfortable sharing the travel lanes in that environment. Elsewhere, in some cases, we may need to identify a parallel street as the preferred cycling route, or we may need to just sign the street as a bike route and install shared lane marking symbols. However, there are a number of streets that are oversized for the level of vehicular traffic that they experience today or are likely to have in the future. In some of those cases, a “road diet” may be possible that could provide dedicated space for cyclists. We look at these on a case-by-case basis to determine how best to accommodate cyclists, based on the criteria established in the plan. Another related challenge is the trade-off between space for cyclists and space for pedestrians, especially along some of the busy arterial streets that pass through Fort Worth’s urban villages.

Note the phrase bike lane does not appear even once. It could be argued that reference to potential segregated facilities is implied in the phrase, “a ‘road diet’ may be possible that could provide dedicated space for cyclists.” That is not necessarily the case, however. This “dedicated space” could also take the form of wide outside lanes to allow for sharing or various traffic calming measures to slow the motorists to a more comfortable speed for novice cyclists.

It is obvious that Koski is approaching the Bike Fort Worth plan with more pragmatism and reason than the shrill voices of the facilities hounds are promoting. Of course, all of this is smoke and mirrors until the funding is acquired and the proposals begin to see the light of day. Many have been the bicycle transportation projects which have met with approval by city councils only to be scaled back or endlessly delayed due to funding issues and public outcry at the required sacrifices.

Only time will tell, but I am hopeful reason and common sense will prevail. Koski’s comments provide some solace in that regard. We shall see.

2 Responses to ““Is it too hot to ride a bike in Dallas?””

  1. Steve A says:

    It definitely is too hot to ride a bicycle in Dallas, but it’s just fine riding one in Fort Worth and the rest of Tarrant County. Urban heat island or some odd global warming thing.

    Seriously, however, I’ve not seen any evidence that Koski is a crazy painter. Tomorrow afternoon will be interesting…

  2. pmsummer says:

    It’s too hot for the mode-share the Dreamers talk about, and that Alta has promised. The existing Land-Use is against it too (combined high heat, humidity and distance is a deal breaker for for the kind of casual commute they dream of), and the sort of cottage industry many envision around mixed-use developments won’t sustain the infrastructure demands.

    And yes, inquiring minds want to know… how was today?

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