The problem with rental bikes is bigger than mere proliferation

Sorry, wheelchair users and parents pushing strollers, this corner is occupied.

One of those rental bikes threatened to call the police on me the other day.

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Two of them were blocking the sidewalk near my house, right at the corner, similar to the situation pictured above. Not only does that inconvenience pedestrians, it makes the sidewalk impassable for wheelchair users and people pushing strollers.

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So I moved one a few feet over into the grass. Then I picked up its twin and moved it to the opposite side of the street to where it would be out of the way. About halfway across, the little robot inside told me that I needed to pay $1 or she would call the police. The nerve!

This wasn’t my first time moving those dang heavy rental bikes that are everywhere now. I also recently moved one out of the Trinity Forest Trail, where it was blocking bicycle traffic. The irony.

Dallas City Council is expected to consider ways to regulate bike-rental companies next year. It’s great to see people from all walks of life pedaling around on those things, and it’s nice to have a service that fills some of our city’s woeful public transportation gaps. But, dude, they have to stop blocking pedestrian pathways.

The ubiquity of rental bikes, however, isn’t even the worst part. Dallas roads are.

The city of Dallas is so far behind in bicycle infrastructure, it’s embarrassing. Yes, there are millions in road projects that include bike lanes coming down the pike. That’s great, but there are dangerous problems with the city’s current bike facilities.

We have bike lanes that dead end suddenly, “sharrows” that lead to dangerous roads and a car culture that’s hostile to cyclists.

From those, I’ll choose my rant: The dangerous “sharrows” on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

First of all, “sharrow,” from “share” and “arrow,” is a street marking like the one at left. They’re somewhat prevalent in Dallas, and they can be dangerous because they say to a cyclist, “go this way,” while saying to a motorist basically nothing.

Imagine you are from Minneapolis, here on a business trip, staying at the Omni Hotel in Downtown Dallas. It’s 70 degrees in December, and you want to enjoy the sunshine, so you spend $1 to ride a rental bike for one hour. You don’t know your way around, but luckily for you, Dallas has a designated bike route. Yes, really, it does. So you follow the green signs along this designated route, and you wind up on MLK Boulevard near Fair Park, two or three easy miles from your hotel.

It’s a lovely wide boulevard with plenty of room for cars and bikes, and there are sharrows to let you know you’re on the right path. After about a mile, you come to a bridge, and these sharrows, they continue onto the bridge. You’re curious to see what’s on the other side, so you pedal on.

Anyone unlucky enough to have been lured by those sharrows over the MLK bridge knows: It is legitimately harrowing for a bicyclist. No one should ever ride a bike on that bridge, where cars come flying and visibility is diminished by a curve right at the bridge’s midpoint where, appropriately, the sharrows stop. At best, it feels like some kind of sadistic joke. At worst, your helmet-less head is smashed onto the narrow roadway.

If you do make it across, immediately order a car-share service and never come back to Dallas.

Rental bikes need to be regulated, sure, but the city of Dallas also needs to make our roads safer for people to ride them. At the very least, stop contributing to the danger with sharrows.

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6 Comments

  • Better to just drive yer ‘Burban & stay off those dangerous 2 wheelers. They’re slow & can get ya killed.

  • “It’s great to see people from all walks of life pedaling around on those things”
    i’ve seen exactly one person ride of these bikes, and he was coming out of an apartment complex on Ledbetter. The lock had been removed from the rear wheal

  • Bikes in the way on Dallas sidewalks are the least of Dallas’ problems. Most sidewalks in Dallas are blocked by utility poles, construction signs, underground infrastructure that was never leveled with the sidewalk, and barely exist in residential neighborhoods around E Dallas that are close to downtown.

  • Sharrows are really for cars. You know “hey bicycle activity in this area” kind of like deer crossing signs. Trails are for people that need a tour guide…and we have those too. My two cents.

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