By Naïma Hill
I have been avoiding the subject. Many have asked me, but I have skated around answers. I was waiting for it to play itself out before I had more to say. This weekend, I hit the breaking point. Let’s talk about bike shares.
Yes, there are a ridiculous amount of bike share bicycles littered across the city. My gal, Katy Perry, even mentioned the bike rubble on her recent tour stop in Dallas. The scattered tattered bikes are not a good look for the city and everyone is noticing.
This weekend we hiked the Trinity River trails under the Continental Avenue bridge. I didn’t even want to count the number of bikes deserted along the paths. It was obvious some had been tossed over the pedestrian walking bridge. What person decides to throw a bike over a bridge?! To those people … you need hobbies and some good volunteer service in your life — STAT.
I was avoiding the topic because I still believe in the bike shares. I admire the pops of color around the city and smile every time I see someone riding one, because more often than not, they’re smiling, too. They offer a fun way to commute but are used more so as outdoor entertainment. Getting people moving their bodies is never a bad thing. In a report put out by LimeBike in December 2017, 105,000 cumulative miles have been ridden on LimeBikes in Dallas and 57,000 pounds of CO2 have been saved in Dallas. We can’t directly correlate to CO2 reduction because we’d have to focus on only the miles biked in place of a car. But, the bike shares are definitely encouraging people to spend longer periods of time outside. Which leads to benefits that are hard to measure.
Their presence isn’t so much about the CO2 reduction, it’s more about a shift in culture. Studies have shown our residents want more walkable areas. We want to feel safe and have the ability to walk to a grocery store, restaurants and parks. Our city doesn’t currently offer too many of these areas and the ones we have (Katy Trail, lower Greenville, Uptown, etc.) are known for high real estate. You need cash to live the walkable life right now in Dallas. But, the bike shares begin to shift the culture. With bikes littered around Dallas, what I see is beyond the litter. I see potential walkable grids. We begin to envision a new paradigm in Dallas. There were many haters lined up attacking the building of Klyde Warren Park, but now, there is not a nice weekend that the area isn’t packed. If we build it, they will come.
Yes, the bike shares need to clean up their services, and yes, people need to take care of the bikes better. But let’s not throw this entire idea away without giving ourselves a chance to change culture. It sounds like our mayor and new city manager are on board. They’ve given the bike shares a warning to clean up and, that, they must. We can handle a few bumps in the road but we have to keep moving forward.
No more going backwards, like we did with plastic bags. One step forward with the five-cent plastic bag fee was made and then, a few short months later, 10 steps backwards by the city reversing the decision. Now we have to work three times as hard to make sustainable changes stick. I still have faith in Dallas culture. We can change. We can take more steps towards a walkable city. Give the bike shares a solid chance and let’s grow with them, not against them.