By Brian Bearden, TSB Contributor
More bikes will soon be on neighborhood streets in McKinney after the city council approved the on-street bicycle master plan Tuesday night.
McKinney, home of “Bike the Bricks” races, will start by spending what’s left of grant money to add signs to mark bike lanes and “retrofit” existing streets.
Most of the seats in the council chambers on Tennessee Street were taken as cyclists and tea party activists traded passionate arguments during a public hearing about how the city will spend $1.6 million to retrofit existing roads.
City staff said down the road that when complete the on-street bike program would cost between $16 million and $17 million. City councilman David Brooks asked city staff about that, and was informed that will mean adding about 3 percent on top of the cost to build new streets in McKinney. http://www.mckinneytexas.org/bikeplan/
In addition to the money, the issue came down to those who wanted wide bike trails and those who want bikes on the streets.
‘RECIPE FOR DISASTER?’
Opponents argued that cost will be higher and warned that the true cost will be in how many lives are lost when bikes and autos compete for traffic lanes.
Opponents, including a few tea party conservatives and some avid cyclists, favored using trails for bikes, but not if it meant a tax increase or having the city go into debt. None of the opponents want bikes on busy streets, and they argued that McKinney already has plenty of places to safely ride bikes.
Mike Giles said, “Bike trails are great. We are all for the voluntary use of bike trails, but we do not want bike lanes that impede traffic. You need to separate the cars from the bikes.”
Giles said that putting bikes on a street where cars are going 30 to 40 miles an hour is a “recipe for disaster.”
Giles suggested the city scale the plan back and create more trails for leisure and health.
“I don’t want this to be like Washington and Congress,” Giles said. “If you are going to approve this, I want to see you guys riding your bikes to work and to the store.”
Charlotte Giles took in the city staff remarks and listened to the council before saying, “It appears a decision has already been made before our public comments. I am concerned about that.”
One woman at the hearing said she lived many years in Europe. She said the bike lanes should be with the sidewalks and not with the cars and trucks. She also saw the bike lanes as a plan that’s being used to get people out of cars. She wondered aloud if the eventual goal is to get everyone back on horses to get around.
‘BEHIND THE CURVE?’
Several of the proponents were less polite and made a point of saying anyone against the plan is “behind the curve.”
One interesting aside to the hearing was that some of the strongest pro bike lane voices at the public hearing said they grew up in the North. Some of the strongest voices against indicated they were raised more conservatively in Texas.
Based on staff and council comments, the plan is not without flaws and can be changed for individual lanes and situations.
Councilman Roger Harris questioned if the master plan includes enough east-west routes. He asked about a natural trail on the southwest side and was informed the neighborhood didn’t want a bike route.
Mayor and cyclist Brian Loughmiller said that as recently as last weekend a cyclist was injured in a collision with a truck. He favors the bike plan because it can increase safety through a heightened awareness that cyclists also use streets. Another local cyclist was killed riding a bike recently.
“In my view, it is a safety issue,” Loughmiller said.
McKinney’s transportation plan was a highlight of the March 2012 TexITE (Texas District of the Institute of Engineers) in San Marcos, Texas.
Julie Smith and Gary Graham presented McKinney’s transportation plan during the Sustainability and Complete Street, Designing for all users program. http://www.texite.org/spring2012/technical_prog.php
Cyclist Scott Rainey rides to work and urged the council to approve the bike plan. Rainey said designated lanes are needed because east-west streets are congested. He wants to ride from Hardin Road to downtown McKinney but says the route would be “treacherous” because of traffic.
Sean Cotter told an inspiring story about how his daughters loved riding behind him on a bike trailer to school.
“They tell me to go faster,” Cotter said. “I tell them to get out and push.”
Cotter, however, said he no longer feels safe riding a bike while pulling his daughters. Cotter said people in cars have told him to get off the road, offered up hand gestures, and yelled “That’s not what the roads are for.”
Cotter said he knows one of the best parts of his life has been being on a bike with his girls.
“It is a shame for me to lose that,” Cotter said. “I would like for that feeling to come back.”
Lisa West lives in the historic district and would ride a bike around town if it was safe. On her way across town to research the topic, she said, “I hardly saw any bicyclists, joggers or baby strollers until I was in Stonebridge, and then suddenly they were everywhere because the sidewalks are so big there.”
She urged the council to create safe street lanes so that more residents could be fit and active.
David West collected 270 signatures to inspire the council to approve the plan. He said his research shows that more people would ride bikes if they could do it safely.
He said new developments would pay for the lanes as the city grows.
“Concerns over future costs are moot,” West said. “It is not a significant amount of money.” He cited Plano’s new signage and said “educating” the public will help.
Michelle Lenox said on-street bike lanes will mean more of her dollars will be spent in McKinney.
“To me this is about community and meeting the neighbors,” Lenox said. “I am actually someone who rides my bike to go shopping. I would like to spend my dollars locally and get some exercise at the same time.”
Deborah Kilgore joined a few pro-lane voices in noting that McKinney was behind the curve and needed to catch up with Plano in building bike lanes. Mayor Loughmiller read the notes of record for those who didn’t want to speak at the microphone.
ALREADY PLACES TO RIDE
Avid cyclist Kathy Hebert disagreed that the city needs to spend money on designated bike lanes.
“At my home, we still have a budget,” Hebert said. “When I think of transportion, I think of planes, trains and automobiles. I love cycling, and when I want to ride, I go out to the lakes, and I ride.
“This is not a responsible way to manage our tax dollars,” Hebert said.
Polly McKinney said that those on fixed incomes don’t want to see their taxes raised. Instead of on-street bike lanes, she suggested an indoor walking track that would help more people stay healthy during summer months.
Rick Kieffer said the city council should have put the bike plan up for a citywide vote. He cited the arts and the old courthouse as an example of costs not matching staff projections. He said Stonebridge already has enough wide trails.
Kieffer quoted Thomas Jefferson’s warning: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.”
“I don’t agree with what staff has said here,” Kieffer said. “You want to give something to everybody, but pretty soon you will be taking it all back in taxes.
Kieffer issued a wake-up call, asking those in attendance to find out what Agenda 21 is and how the on-street bike plan plays a role.
“This is not what it seems,” Kieffer said. “This is a far-left leaning program. If you are serious about this plan, put it to a vote and live by the vote.”
Kieffer also pointed out that in a city that’s “unique by nature” that the project encourages “sign clutter.”
A few seniors in attendance said that based on their experience that they didn’t believe many would ride on the streets to go shopping or to work because of the Texas heat.
At-Large city councilman David Brooks said the on-street bike plan will improve the overall quality of life in the city. He said that everyone in the city does not use every park or play every sport, but having a wide range of opportunities improves lives.
Cyclist Brent Bell said, “This plan is really not for a few. It is for the average Joe in McKinney. This will take McKinney from being good to great.”
Cyclist Curtis Rath, who rides about 150 miles a week, thanked the city for including so many opinions as the plan came together. Rath urged the city to pass the bike plan.
“McKinney roads are quite frankly unsafe for cyclists,” Rath said. “This plan was created through citizen’s input. I applaud you [on the city council]. I like this plan.”
Staff told the council that education and grass roots community outreach will lead to safety. The staff comments about people needing more “education” sounded like code words to the tea party members, who warned the on-street bike lanes are part of a United Nations’ Agenda 21 plan to take cars off the roads as a way of controlling people. When challenged, staff said, “The plan is not set in stone.” Staff added that although not set, “We didn’t want to bog you down on the council with every roadway.”
Brooks said he would prefer the bike plan be even bigger.
BIKE LANES AND SCHOOLS
Councilman Ray Ricchi urged caution, asking if the plan adds additional liability to the city and if the bike plan means the city is putting in safety features by approving the plan.
Ricchi said, “We have created a very nice environment for riding bikes with our current trails and event such as Bike the Bricks, but I don’t know if I would let my child ride on the street in a bike lane. We are inviting more people to get out on the street.”
Ricchi said by encouraging more riders, the city will be saying it is safe to be on the street.
Ricchi said he remains concerned that designated bike lanes will give cars less room on the road. He said that a bike lane in a school zone would create congestion and safety problems for students. One of the planned bike lanes will be on the two lanes of Glen Oaks. With parents dropping off and picking up children, Ricchi said, “There is no way to get through.
“People just don’t pay attention,” Ricchi said, citing problems with drivers distracted by text messages.
Ricchi asked again if a physical barrier would separate the lanes from cars, and was told “No.”
One woman said privately after the council vote that approving more bikes on the road means more accidents. She told her friends, “People are going to die. They will get killed in the streets. That’s what is going to happen.”
The council voted to approve the master plan.
Council member Geralyn Keever was not at the public hearing. Ricchi said, “I can not support a bike lane on Glen Oaks” or on streets where the lanes cause congestion and dangers in school zones.
The council had been researching and working on the plan for more than a year, and it didn’t take long to vote once a motion was made by Brooks.
The quick vote Tuesday to approve the on-street bike plan stunned some of the opponents. After the meeting a few brainstormed and decided to call for licenses for all cyclists and anyone using the roads.
A few opponents said they have time between now and the next election and would work to replace the current council at the ballot box. Complaints afterward included:
“There are too many cyclists on the city council.”
“They didn’t care what we had to say.”
“They already had their minds made up.”
The Renaissance Planning Group was mentioned several times during the meeting. Ray Ricchi questioned staff and was told Renaissance was not consulted in McKinney on the bike master plan.
Strangely that contradicts what is on the McKinney 2012 bike master plan cover page (shown below) and the Citiesthatwork.com website, which shows pictures of McKinney at http://www.citiesthatwork.com/projects-detail.aspx?id=43
This is what is on citiesthatwork.com:
CITY OF MCKINNEY, TX –
ON-STREET BICYCLE MASTER PLAN
Renaissance Planning Group is under contract with the rapidly growing City of McKinney, Texas, to lead the preparation of a comprehensive on-street Bicycle Master Plan. An1870s-era railroad town located in the northeastern part of the Dallas Metroplex, McKinney has grown from about 50,000 people in 2000 to 130,000 in 2010, with a diverse development pattern that includes an historic downtown square, suburban sprawl, new Traditional Neighborhood Developments, and future plans for transit villages along a DART-owned rail corridor. More than 1/3 of the City remains undeveloped.
The On-Street Bicycle Master Plan is one of eight separate projects funded through a $1 million federal Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), and is a key component of the City’s overall Sustainability Plan, which is also funded by the grant.
In partnership with Hall Planning & Engineering and Gateway Planning Group, Renaissance is developing a comprehensive plan for roadway bicycle facility treatments and program elements to improve mobility and accessibility, reduce energy demand and improve safety throughout the City. The goal is to establish McKinney as a Bicycle Friendly Community through a “6E” process of engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, equity and evaluation.
Renaissance is linking the roadway design elements to the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, including “modules” of different place types, or character districts, to ensure a proper context for the types of treatments to be employed on various roadways. The plan is also linked to the continuing development of the City’s Hike & Bike network of pathways, and the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ regional Veloweb project of regional trails.