Trying to integrate bicycling into daily life – using a bike as transportation rather than a child’s toy – here in Dallas, the worst city in the country for cycling, I have become very sensitive to the barriers that cross potential cycling routes. Barriers… that leave chokepoints. All the trails in the world are merely outside exercise paths if they don’t have a way through the barriers. Barriers like highways, or railroads, or worst of all, rivers.
The Trinity River, as rivers go, isn’t much to write home about. In dry weather it’s not much more than a muddy green strip of particularly wet swamp. However, as a barrier, it’s more than river enough. Until recently, there has been no safe way to get across this riverbottom no-man’s land.
The City constructed a trail over an old railroad trestle (next to a failed attempt at a whitewater canoe feature) but they neglected to connect it to anything and it is useless for transportation. There are grand plans for the future, but I’ll believe those when I see it.
But now, there is something… something pretty good. There has always been twin roads over the Trinity, connecting downtown with Oak Cliff – the Houston and Jefferson viaducts. Built at different times, with different designs, they have been twinned, with one going in and the other going out.
Money has been found and now, the Houston Viaduct has been closed for construction of a Streetcar Line that will run from the Convention Center in Downtown across the river and over to the edge of the Bishop Arts District. In the meantime, both in and out traffic has been routed over the Jefferson Viaduct.
And, wonder of wonders, one lane has been blocked off and marked out for bicycle traffic, one lane going each way. There is now a safe and reliable route from Oak Cliff into downtown on a bicycle.
It’s been there for a few weeks now, but I haven’t had a chance to ride it until Sunday. I took the DART train down to the Convention Center with my commuter bike hanging from a hook in the middle car. A little girl in a stroller stared at me, sitting there holding my bike’s rear tire to keep it from swaying with the train’s motion, wearing a helmet and sunglasses, the entire way. Meanwhile, a con man with a little shell game monte played with tiny red plastic cups on a newspaper folded across his knees relieved her mother and a friend of a quick ten bucks.
I left the train in the parking garage under the Convention Center and wound my way up into the daylight by the new Omni Hotel, then looping around to the viaduct. I rode across, visited a little gateway park, then came back, pausing to take a few photographs here and there.
The bike route was nice – the bridge had a bit of a hill to it, but nothing too difficult. The views in all directions are pretty spectacular – you never notice how impressive when you are in a car.
The only downside is that the approaches to the bike lanes are very awkward on both ends. Since this is a converted one-way bridge, with both bike lanes on one side – there is no good way to get cars and bikes on and off without a lot of confusing and difficult signage and odd routing.
One odd thing is that there is an old deserted parking garage in the middle of the span. It had been built to service long-gone Reunion Arena and it now sits abandoned – acres of bare concrete and sweeping ramps. Surely something useful (maybe a rooftop park?) could be done with this monstrosity.
I didn’t spend too much time – I was meeting Candy for lunch at Lee Harvey’s in Southside and then I had about twenty five miles to get home. That’s a long way on the heavy, inefficient commuter bike… but the day was nice and I was in no hurry.