On Tour: Fort Worth’s bikeyest neighborhood

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Texas has been treating us well. We drove down to Fort Worth a day early, fleeing the tornadoes that were threatening Kansas and Oklahoma — which gave us the luxury a long, thunderstormy morning the next day for Joe and I to catch up on work email and for Joshua to get started cooking up an Indian-Mexican feast for the 100 people who had bought tickets in advance for our event that night.

The skies cleared and the streets dried up by noon and there was plenty of time to explore the neighborhood with my camera. Our organizer here is Kevin Buchanan, who keeps the excellent Fort Worthology blog and is a mover and shaker for all things bike-related here in the city’s Near Southside neighborhood. This part of town reminds me of my own neighborhood in Portland — bungalow architecture, a third wave coffee shop across the street from a vegan diner, and someone biking past every few minutes, often toting a yoga mat.

I love hanging out with other transportation bloggers. They’re the ones who understand — and share — my need to photograph every bike staple, freeway pass, and interesting pothole, and moreover they are enthused to supply, in quotable form, the level of nerdy detail about each of these features that I crave.

So in Fort Worth, I got to visit all the important tourist sites on Magnolia Street, the bike hub of it all: The bike corral next to the coffeeshop, marked by the bike stencil made by Stephanie, Kevin’s wife; the 60+ recently installed bike parking staples and a detailed explanation of their funding mechanism (there’s a property tax limit and anything above that is invested back into neighborhood infrastructure); the parking garage funded by the same mechanism, which I wrote about last year; where the streetcar would have gone if not for its surprising 11th hour defeat; and many more. You can check out some of them in the slideshow above — for more detailed notes, see the photo captions.

This corridor’s bike-friendliness is the result of a concerted effort on multiple levels, from political lobbying to business relationship building, to guerilla midnight bike lane painting. It’s paid off, transforming the neighborhood in a relatively short period of time. The same treatment, Kevin told us, is planned for nearby Main St next. Slowly but surely, citizen activists are building a bike city to rival any of the better-known ones.

That night at our event, the room was packed, the free beer flowed freely, and it was a treat to watch people both arrive and leave with big smiles. I got to put a couple of faces to names — Tammy Gomez, an artist who does bike-related multimedia performances, and who has a piece in my next zine, and Howard Draper, who started the blog BikeDenton in 2007 when a colleague’s bike crash wasn’t reported in the local mainstream media of that small town north of here, and hasn’t looked back.

We were told that turnout tends to be huge at anything bike-related in Fort Worth — and this was as we began by the sound of shouting and bells ringing as a crowd of bicyclists rode past. It was the weekly Night Ride, with, we later found out, 51 participants that night. They rode around the block a couple of times serenading us and then pedaled off on their merry way. It’s pretty impressive, Kevin commented, that in a Texas city at least 150 people are out participating in a bike-transportation related fun event on a given night; apparently tonight isn’t unusual in that regard.

Cross-blogging alert! Check out Kevin’s write-up (and photos) of the event on Fort Worthology

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