Political Spin

In two weeks, Dallas will elect a new mayor. As always, this is a time of great hope and great optimism. Both candidates – David Kunkle and Mike Rawlings – are proven and capable leaders and both appear to have the city’s best interests at heart. So what sets them apart? It depends who you ask.

Dallas’ city elections are a non-partisan affair, so voters have no choice but to judge candidates on the issues. Not surprisingly, an issue that matters a lot to us is bike-friendliness, which we consider a key measure of quality of life.

Recently, both candidates stopped by the newly opened Katy Trail Icehouse for some good old-fashioned American campaigning. Old-fashioned, because in truth, there just aren’t that many places in modern-day Dallas for a political candidate to talk to the “man on the street” without asking him to roll down his window first. But, that’s not how it has to be.

David Kunkle talks to voters at Katy Trail Ice House

Without a doubt, Dallas is changing. The Katy Trail Icehouse is proof of that. Judging by the number of bikes strewn about its perimeter, nearly as many people arrive at the Icehouse by their own propulsion as they do by car. Why? Because they can!

The Katy Trail has resurrected a way of life that was all but extinct in Dallas – a way of life that allows regular people to travel freely without being tethered to 3000 pounds of steel, topped off with highly flammable liquid. But perhaps most striking, is how good the Katy Trail has been for business. This is clear by the ever-growing number of businesses that are either gravitating toward the trail or clambering to add Katy Trail to their names – Katy Trail Ice House, Katy Trail Dental, Katy Trail Animal Hospital, The Travis at Katy Trail, etc, etc, etc.

Unfortunately, land along the trail is limited and only so many businesses will ever be able to benefit directly from its proximity. Luckily though, the ingredients of its success are simple – a safe, pleasant, and direct cycling and pedestrian environment – and can easily be replicated all over the city. It’s not even necessary to build separated trails. Well-kept sidewalks and bike lanes work just fine, as anyone who has visited Portland, Oregon or New York City in the last five years can attest to. So, what are we waiting for? Our leaders, for one.

As far as we can tell, neither of the two mayoral candidates quite grasps the full potential that Dallas has to be a really great bicycling city.  Mike Rawlings appears to be stuck in the paradigm of treating cycling as a strictly recreational activity.  David Kunkle seems to acknowledge that bicycling is a legitimate form of transportation, but has been hesitant to support on-steet  bicycle facilities, which have proven themselves to be highly effective in main-streaming cycling in cities all over the country.

Maybe we are wrong about the candidates’ positions. In fact, hopefully we are. There really isn’t that much information to go by. What we are certain of, however, is that both candidates need to understand that cycling and pedestrian issues are just that – ISSUES. They are important to a large and growing segment of the electorate, but the only way to make that clear is to bring it up at every possible opportunity. So, if you happen to run into Mike Rawlings or David Kunkle in the next two weeks (both are expected at BFOC’s “Hellhound on My Trail” group ride on June 12th), let them know how you feel, and may the best man win (whoever that is).

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