Is Oak Cliff bike friendly?

photo by Danny Fulgencio
photo by Danny Fulgencio

This is national bike to work week, and it comes right on time.

Bike Friendly Oak Cliff started almost 10 years ago by a group of neighbors who suffered aggressive drivers while out on their bikes. I like to think Oak Cliff is a pretty good place to ride a bike, where most drivers are aware of bikes and most cyclists are at least somewhat experienced.

And then reality hits.

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A woman in a Chevrolet Tahoe slowed down on four-lane Zang Boulevard to yell at me to get the hell off the road last week. “You’re gonna get hit!” she insisted. “Because you’re riding a bike in the DAMN ROAD.” (emphasis hers) I didn’t know what to say, so I just said, “As long as you don’t hit me, I will be OK.” But she was really mad, so she kept yelling for a minute and then sped away. I wasn’t mad. Because I was riding a bike, and riding a bike is awesome. But I felt sorry for that angry lady and sad that so many drivers still don’t know how to share. Sad for the working man who has to white knuckle his way down Zang to the bus stop or the grocery store.

Unfortunately, some cyclists also are poor citizens of the road.

An Oak Cliff resident complained to me the other day that she “was nearly run over” by a cyclist using the sidewalk on Jefferson Boulevard. Riding a bike on the sidewalk is a bad idea most of the time, although I admit I have ridden slowly on the Jefferson sidewalks where they are wide. There are no bike lanes on Jefferson, I told her. And it can be an intimidating road depending on the time of day. “Then they need to walk or drive a car,” she said.

My heart broke a little.

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The woman told me cyclists should have to be licensed and their bikes registered and inspected just like a car.

My head exploded.

Somehow, despite all the good work of Bike Friendly Oak Cliff and I Bike Rosemont and our two neighborhood bike shops and our budding little bike culture, there are some among us who still hate bikes. I can’t begin to understand that, but it’s true.

If you ride a bike, please do your community a favor and ride your bike to work (if possible) on Friday, May 15. If you’re heading downtown, be sure to stop at Bike Friendly Oak Cliff’s energizer station on Zang at Oakenwald.

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If you’re an experienced rider, find a less experienced buddy and encourage him or her to ride to work too. If you’re a beginner and you don’t know many experienced riders, take a Cycling Savvy course. And if you’re out on the road in a car or an SUV, and you see a person riding a bike, don’t be mad. Just move over at least 3 feet and pass on the left.

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  • Jonathan Braddick

    Great article, Rachel! I’ve had very little conflicts riding in Oak Cliff in the last 9 years, and notice the changes in awareness that have been made in that time. That being said, we are still a long way from being a real bike friendly city, but we’re on our way. Keep ridin’, especially as a model women cyclist for others to emulate!