Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

He’s not the Dallas Morning News’ “Texan of the Year,” although he was a finalist. Mr. Oak Cliff Jason Roberts lost that honor to Christopher Scott and Michael Morton, who spent 13 and 25 years in prison, respectively, for crimes they did not commit. The men now are committed to reforming our state’s criminal justice system. Read their stories here.

If not for outrageous flaws in the Texas criminal justice system, Roberts might’ve won.

Says the News:

Roberts has blossomed into more than a passionate local voice. With an evangelist’s vigor, he is on the road two weeks a month teaching communities how to reverse blight and decay. Roberts-inspired “Better Block” projects, a concept begun in Dallas, are now in about 40 cities around the country and soon will be in Australia, Canada and France.

The 38-year-old musician turned tech consultant turned community activist says that although he never anticipated this career path, “if you are passionate about something, you’re probably going to be a leader.”

Roberts started the Better Block with pals in Oak Cliff to highlight the value of underutilized retail spaces and to show city officials what complete streets and walkable communities should look like. Many, including City Council member Delia Jasso, were convinced that Dallas needs bike lanes following that 2010 event on Tyler Street. And guess what? Now we’re getting bike lanes all over the city.

Roberts also is a founder of Bike Friendly Oak Cliff. He started the annual Bastille on Bishop celebration to impress his francophile wife. And he started Art Conspiracy with neighborhood resident Sarah Jane Semrad, as a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005.

Roberts has been battling testicular cancer since last spring and recently underwent major abdominal surgery related to that. The annual BFOC Tweed Ride was postponed until February because Roberts was sick in November, when the ride usually takes place. And the ride just wouldn’t be the same without him, friends say.

Roberts summed his year up nicely in a recent Facebook post:

Reflecting over 2012 and realizing it’s been the craziest year of highs and lows for me. I was able to have dinner with the First Lady, run for U.S. Congress, diagnosed with cancer, won an award from the White House, underwent 3 months of major chemotherapy, featured at the Venice Biennale in Italy, and just when it seemed like everything had settled, I had massive abdominal surgery within days of getting nominated as Texan of the Year by the DMN. I wish I could say that 2013 looked normal, but so far it appears to be anything but that. Thank God for my amazing friends and community. I couldn’t have pulled off or gotten through any of this without you. I truly am grateful for having such a great village of crazy, inspiring, driven and incredible people surrounding me.