“That’s what people do when they find a special place that wild and full of life, they trample it to death.” ― Carl Hiaasen, Flush
I have taken to riding my Cannondale vintage touring bike at sunset. The killer Texas sun is down, the heat is bearable, the wind dies, and it is in general – a nice time to be outside. I ride about an hour, about ten miles. I’m trying to do this every evening. I have a new, nice bike light I bought with a gift certificate I won in a local contest – so I don’t have a problem if I stay out a little longer in the dark.
Yesterday I had just crossed Plano and Arapaho roads and was angling down into the creek bottom on the new Duck Creek Trail extension. I try to ride this little bit as much as I can with my Strava on to help make the new trail (which I really like) show up brighter on the Strava heatmap. One of the cool things about riding at this time of day is I get to see some urban wildlife – mostly bunnies – but a few coyotes, a beaver or two, snakes…. Bobcats are out there, though I haven’t seen one yet.
I looked across the creek and saw a red fox looking at me. As I approached he turned and ran into a copse of trees farther back from the creek. It was so cool to see a fox in the middle of the city like that.
My son bought a GoPro Hero 7 Black and didn’t like it so he loaned it to me. I had it on my handlebars and hoped that the fox would show up in the footage. Unfortunately, he was off to the side on the wide-angle lens and only visible as a little dot. Shame.
“She didn’t need to understand the meaning of life; it was enough to find someone who did, and then fall asleep in his arms and sleep as a child sleeps, knowing that someone stronger than you is protecting you from all evil and all danger” ― Paulo Coelho, Brida
To make a long story short, to save a little money, the city skipped some engineering testing on some elements of the bridge – which had been greatly modified to save money already. Once the thing was finished, several cable anchors cracked in the high winds that are common in Texas. There was an orgy of blame and recrimination and I really thought that the bike part of the bridge would never open.
Finally, the city decided to pony up seven million dollars or so for repairs and try to claw that money back later.
So when I crossed that bridge for the first time I took a look at the cable anchors to see what was done. There wasn’t much that was all that obvious.
Here’s a photo of the original cable anchors:
So it looks like the rod connecting the cable to the bridge is a bit thicker. The big difference seems to be the addition of cable dampers – which are (I guess) the funny looking barbell-looking things mounted to the cables right above the anchors.
They look kind of cool – but it’s hard to believe that these little things are keeping a two hundred million dollar bridge from falling down.
“If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.” ― Charles Dickens
I was starting off on my drive to work, having made one turn… my drive crossed the walking path that runs along the creek behind my house. This trail is crowded at dawn, mostly dog-walkers but quite a few exercisers, some wanderers, skateboards, unicycles, cyclists, and stray coyotes returning to their lairs. All are out trying to get in some perambulation in the relative cool of the morning before the killer Texas sun rises too high in the sky.
A little bit past the trail crossing I slowed to let a man cross in front of me. He had a leash in one hand and a plastic poop bag in the other – the bag swung to and fro, indicating its possession of a cargo of (presumably canine) shit.
But he had no dog. A leash and a bag of poop, but no pet. What the hell?
Maybe his long term pet had passed away and he still went out every morning for a walk, carrying a leash and a precious, saved crappy souvenir to remind him of his dear departed pooch. Maybe not.
“Ever bike? Now that’s something that makes life worth living!…Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and go ripping and tearing through streets and road, over railroad tracks and bridges, threading crowds, avoiding collisions, at twenty miles or more an hour, and wondering all the time when you’re going to smash up. Well, now, that’s something! And then go home again after three hours of it…and then to think that tomorrow I can do it all over again!” ― Jack London
So, May was bike month and in honor of the times the City of Richardson, where I live, sponsored a bicycle parking scavenger hunt. The idea was to track down bike parking (bicycle racks) throughout the city and report them on an interactive digital online map. Despite the possibilities of actual prizes, I sort of ignored the thing.
Until our quarterly meeting with the city on transportation alternatives – where we were reminded of the event and encouraged to participate. There was only a week or so left in the month, but that included a three-day weekend and I decided to give it a whirl.
I became sort of obsessed. I planned out bike routes through the city – guided by searches I made on Google Maps. My eyes became accustomed to the tell-tale shapes of the various types of bike racks. I’d stop and take a photo with my phone, then post them on the web site.
Here’s the final map (I’m not sure how long it will stay up, hopefully, it will be a permanent reference and we can add useful bike parking outside the city). The various participants logged 250 or so bike racks during the month.
It was fun and a good excuse to explore the city on my bike.
“Likewise—now don’t laugh—cars and trucks should view the bike lanes as if they are sacrosanct. A driver would never think of riding up on a sidewalk. Most drivers, anyway. Hell, there are strollers and little old ladies up there! It would be unthinkable, except in action movies. A driver would get a serious fine or maybe even get locked up. Everyone around would wonder who that asshole was. Well, bike lanes should be treated the same way. You wouldn’t park your car or pull over for a stop on the sidewalk, would you? Well then, don’t park in the bike lanes either—that forces cyclists into traffic where poor little meat puppets don’t stand a chance.” ― David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries
I have not been out riding my bike nearly enough – not enough miles and not enough riding with people. So when I read that some folks were riding from the Forrest Lane DART station over to the end of the Northaven Trail for the groundbreaking of the planned bridge over Highway 75 I thought I’d go. I did cheat and drive down to the station with my bike in the back of my car – so it was going to be a short ride.
A city like Dallas has a lot of bike trails and dedicated lanes – but a lot of them were put in as recreational opportunities – for the neighborhood to walk their dogs or get in a few miles of exercise – not as transportation corridors. That lead to what I call “choke points” – barriers to car-less transportation. The most common are highways, which can be impossible to cross without a car.
And the worst of these highways is 75, which slashes Dallas in half north to south.
The Northaven trail is a fairly new trail that runs through north Dallas all the way from 75 in the east almost to Love Field in the west. On the other side of 75 is the White Rock creek trail, which connects through miles of East Dallas trails – but it isolated by the highway.
For the last few years, work has been going on to connect these two with a bridge over the highway. Finally, funding has been established, a design has been finished and approved, and work is about to start. Two years from now, we should have our bridge.
And today was the groundbreaking ceremony. The mayor of Dallas was there, Dallas county officials, City Council Members, Park Board Members and more – they all wanted their turn to pontificate about how hard they have been working and how much credit they deserve. It went on for way too long for anyone in the audience – but that’s fine – if their egos and political careers need some service, so be it, as long as we get our bridge.
I had a good time. I was able to meet a good number of friends that I had not talked to since before COVID. That was nice.
And best of all, I learned a new route back under Highway 75 that joins up with the White Rock Creek Trail, Cottonwood Trail, and Forest Lane DART station where I parked my car. There is a little known footpath through a tunnel under the highway. You have to ride on a sidewalk along the frontage road for a few hundred feet, but it’s a good way to get across. Not the best looking path, but it works.
So why do we need the bridge? A path like this doesn’t give any opportunities for politicians to shovel sand.
“He takes a kitchen chair and sits in the yard and all the ducks come around. He holds up the cheese curls in one hand and caramel popcorn in the other and his audience looks up and he tells them a joke. He says: So one day a duck come into this bar and ordered a whiskey and a bump and the bartender was pretty surprised, he says, “You know we don’t get many of you ducks in here.” The duck says, “At these prices I’m not surprised.* And he tosses out the popcorn and they laugh. ‘Wak wak wak wak wak. I was shot in the leg in the war.’ Have a scar? ‘No thanks, I don’t smoke.”
― Garrison Keillor, Truckstop and Other Lake Wobegon Stories
There’s a park at the end of my block with a couple of flood-control ponds (the drainage from the ponds runs in a creek/ditch behind my house). Despite their utility in times of rain and excessive urban runoff they are quite attractive.
My neighborhood is called Duck Creek, because of the eponymous body of water that runs diagonally through the place, but there are also plenty of ducks. This is the time of year that the baby ducks are hatched and groups of them are herded around by their parents.
The problem is that there is a little, low dam at the end of the ponds. The water flows over it – during the summer it’s not much more than a trickle. Unfortunately, often a baby duck gets swept over this dam and separated from their loving duck family. They can’t get back over the dam, even though it isn’t more than a couple feet high.
The rest of the ducks then have to go over the dam to rescue their sibling. Then they have to waddle up the bank and cross a fairly busy street to get back into the pond.
People in my neighborhood have been complaining to the city about this and today, I discovered that there is a new construction project going. The city is making a concrete duckling ramp so that they can get up and over that low dam.
Excuse all the trash in the photo – it tends to collect there – a crew comes by periodically to pick it up.
I’ll go back in a few days, once the wooden forms are removed and see if the little ducks are actually using their ramp – I’m sure they will. Maybe the turtles will too. I’m sure the snakes will.