Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sightseeing along the "Bike Route"-Duck Creek Greenbelt to Apollo Road

Following Garland's one and only "official" Bike Route
The neighborhood bike route  where it intersects with Kingsley Road
As we were studying maps we came across this unadvertised route and found that it runs through the city of Garland. There was no information on the City of Garland's website, so we decided to explore it for ourselves. What we found was a route that was best suited for faster paced group rides than it would be for a mom pulling her kid behind her on a bicycle trailer. Although there were some low traffic areas that wound through neighborhoods and underdeveloped parts of the city, there were also some areas where cars were going in excess of 40 miles an hour. We would like to point out some interesting things that we saw that day and would also like recommend some improvements to make this route more commuter friendly. 

Here's a map of the route we covered that day.

Some recommendations we would make right off hand to make the bike route more bike friendly:

-  "Share the Road" signs to complement the existing bike route markers.
-  More traffic enforcement along the bike route for the protection of cyclists.
-  Bicycle lanes along Glenbrook, Kingsley and First Street where they meet the bike route.
-  Increased promotion of bicycle route to Garland residents. Community awareness of it's existence.

Our journey first started on Duck Creek Greenbelt park on the southeast corner of Garland. We took the trail to First street and then followed the Bike Route signs through some neighborhoods until we reached Kingsley. We rode for less than a quarter mile on Kingsley alongside some fast paced traffic then veered back into the neighborhoods following the bike route. We continued on the route until reaching Glenbrook Road. Glenbrook road then proceeded to take us all the way into downtown Garland.  Here's a few more pictures of downtown Garland along with some observations we made. 

There seems to be too much emphasis on trying to park so many cars in such a small space.

Vetoni's Italian Restaurant
The old diner sign for Main Street Cafe.

Fountains line the downtown plaza and theater.

An empty plaza that could be used as a community social center. Where are all the musicians and chess players?
An art mural on State Street

We continued on Glenbrook Road, passing Buckingham Road and eventually reaching Apollo. On the way back we stopped at a classic car show in a parking lot of a small Mexican restaurant. This would be something I would normally pass up if I were driving my car. But since I was on my bike, I took the time to check out this small gathering of classic car aficionados. It's just a small example of happenings within the community that many disregard due to being socially disconnected by their vehicles.

Just like a small community that is proud of their history and shares their love of classic cars, so can Garland become a community that comes together over cycling by giving it social importance. Garland has a rich history and a lively culture that would express itself if given the chance. In order for a community to come together it has to first become visible to one another. Cycling removes that social bubble and forces us to interact with one another face to face. As we continue to cover the subject of Garland's bike friendless, we will also strive to reveal things about Garland many may not even know. We want to stay as informative as possible on all existing and future developments for bicycles in this city, as well as to help to define and promote it's cultural and social identity. Stay tuned for more related bicycle documentaries about Garland as we find new routes to explore.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Existing Infrastructure - Garland's Only Bike Route

This post will probably wrap up our look at Garland's existing bike infrastructure.  Two posts.  That was easy!  You may have seen some green "Bike Route" signs while riding or driving around, but weren't really sure where they went.  I couldn't find a map, but I made one that you can find on our Maps page.

There's a full MapMyRIDE interactive map on our Maps page
As far as I know, this is Garland's only designated bike route.  Let us know if there's another one out there somewhere.  I asked the city of Garland if there were other routes in the city and if there were any maps.  Their response really didn't answer my question specifically, but the gist was that this is old, and will be superseded by the new Mesquite-Garland-Richardson Bikeway.  It's only a guess at this point, but my bet is that once the bikeway is completed, these on street signs will come down.  I'll update as I learn more about this.

So, how is the riding on this route today?  Not bad, actually!  It's right at about 10 miles from the southern end at Duck Creek Dr. and Broadway to the northern end on Apollo.  There are some long stretches of road that you can really get up to speed on.  Make no mistake, there is some fast moving traffic on parts of this route.  This goes without saying to the more experienced cyclists out there, but you absolutely, positively, must take and control your lane.  The drivers we encountered were courteous and respectful along this route.  Maybe it was the occasional green "Bike Route" sign that made us more welcome by drivers, or maybe it was the occasional sign that just made me feel more welcome.  Who knows, but we encountered no bad behavior on the route.  

Is it "Bike Friendly"?  It depends on what you mean by that.  It's friendly enough for me, and I'm certainly no hard-core roadie.  Would I send "Aunt Tillie" out on a comfort bike with grocery panniers to the store on this route?  Absolutely not.  At least, not for the northern 2/3rd's of it.  In my opinion, the speed differential is just too great.  We need all types of riders needs represented here.  "Aunt Tillie" should have as much freedom and confidence to ride as the spandex-clad road warriors.  I think that is Bike Friendly.  -Jared

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Riding to Downtown-First Impressions

Riding into Downtown Garland from Windsurf Bay Park
Traffic along the bike route on First Street. Garland Texas

Last week I had the opportunity to ride with fellow BFG contributor Jared from Windsurf Bay Park in the southeast corner of Garland into the downtown area. About 10 miles each direction, it was a little over 23 miles round trip when we were all said and done. We were able to ride most of this route at a leisurely pace, given that it was a Wednesday evening and there was more traffic coming the way back. We first crossed highway 30 using Bobtown Road which then turned into Roan Road. We then followed some of the smaller roads to Rowlett Road, which intersects with Broadway Boulevard. Upon crossing Broadway, the road changes names to Duck Creek Boulevard. Here we saw the trail running to the left of us, on the opposing traffic side. We rode our bikes for a little bit trying to find a ramp onto the trail. After going parallel to the trail for a bit, we finally crossed a median and bunny hopped onto Duck Creek Greenbelt Trail (At least I did, Jared was on his carbon frame).  This is one major improvement that can be made to give cyclists from the road easy access to the trail and visa-versa. Here's a picture showing the curb where we got onto the trail from.

The existing Bike Route marker in Garland

We were able to stay on Duck creek Trail heading north for almost three miles. We then got off the trail as we approached First street. First street is not the scariest crossing that I have ever done. The difference is that there are bike route markings posted on this street and the drivers still aren't looking out for you. Drivers are generally speeding past the speed limit and don't want to be slowed down. With good timing Jared and I got onto first street and rode the right lane for less than a quarter of a mile until we followed the bike route into a residential area.  We wound through the neighborhood and took an alleyway northbound until we reached Fifth street. Upon coming to Fifth street, a classic sign caught my eye. It was the sign for the Ridgewood theater, a venue now hidden behind a strip mall and a neighborhood. We only found it because the building was taller than the other buildings surrounding it. 

I think that part of our goals as a group is to mention projects that are worthy of revitalization. Who knows, maybe we can have another Angelika movie theater in Garland? Here's a few photos of the old movie theater, which has "For Lease" signs on the windows.

Fifth street took us through quiet neighborhoods with unmaintained roads. We had to dodge a lot of potholes as we rode on Fifth street. Finally, fifth street led us past Main street into downtown. We arrived that the downtown Garland station from there.

Downtown Garland Station

Riding around downtown, I quickly realized the potential that Garland has to become one of the most bike friendly cities in North Texas. The mom and pop breakfast and coffee shops, the town square, the old Plaza theater. Along some buildings there were hand painted murals, similar to what I seen done in cities like Asheville. There are already signs that developers are starting to take an interest in downtown Garland. A small loft community exists right next to the rail station. There are also many buildings for lease in this area. It's a great opportunity to add more bike friendly and hometown businesses into downtown. 

The Plaza Theater, Downtown Garland

Fifth Street Crossing apartment lofts
 Some improvements that we recommend to make the downtown area even more bike friendly:

- Standard or retractable awnings and more outdoor seating in businesses.
- More bike racks. Eventually at least one bike rack in every business establishment.
- Bike lanes on Main Street and Fifth street.
- More businesses open and more community activities after work hours.
- More development and commerce in the downtown area.

Overall it was easy to ride our bikes into downtown and had no run ins with motorists on the way there.  As we headed back the evening dwindled and the daylight faded. Some motorists would honk their horns at us and tell us that we belonged on the sidewalk. Some would simply ride close to us and rev up their engines to see if we flinched. We made sure to ride away from the curb and hold our position on the road. Some "Share the road" markings throughout Garland, especially on roads surrounding Duck Creek Trail, would go along way to informing the public that bikes do belong on the roads. Better lighting on Garland streets is crucial for cyclists riding their bicycles at night. We had our bike lights with us but that may not be enough to deter some motorists. Eventually bike lanes on main thoroughfares, as well as a city wide 3 feet passing law, would solve these problems altogether, and would give cyclists the respect that they deserve on the roads.

I will have to do at least one more article on downtown Garland. This is an area of the city which deserves special attention since it is at the heart of Garland. If inroads that were accessible by bicycle could be made into downtown Garland, all of Garland could become bike friendly. We look forward to the City of Garland making additional improvements to make this part of the city more bike friendly.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Existing Infrastructure - Duck Creek Greenbelt Trail

Garland doesn't have much in the way of bicycle infrastructure at the moment, but there are a few things worth pointing out.  One of those is the Duck Creek Greenbelt Trail.

Click Here for a PDF map with enlarged sections.

This paved trail is a major component of what will become the Mesquite-Garland-Richardson Bikeway.  In June, the city of Garland approved funds to pay for the design.  From the minutes of the City Council meeting of 6-5-2012:

The 2012 approved Capital Improvement  
Program includes funding to design and construct a 
bikeway from the north city limits to the south city limits.  
A contract has been negotiated with a local firm, BW2 
Engineers, Inc., to design the off-road portions of the 
bikeway for an estimated amount of $181,400. The 
improvements will include a  concrete bikeway complete 
with two bridge crossings over Duck Creek.

Interactive map of the existing trail.  Note that the mileage is inaccurate.  It's not 8.15 miles of concrete.  I had to double back a few sections to get the whole thing in MapMyRIDE.  You will need a free MapMyRIDE account to use it fully.

I made this map today because I couldn't find any maps of this trail from end to end online. What it shows is how much ground you can cover in South Garland without having to contend with cars, stop signs, and traffic lights. It can be difficult to get up to speed because of heavy pedestrian traffic at times, however. I marked the water fountains that I saw along the way. Knowing where these are across the city will be very useful and would allow for carrying less water if you can refill a bottle.

 This one actually has a fountain for dogs at the bottom.

There are entrances/exits to the trail from La Prada, Oates, Greenbelt Pkwy, and several from Duck Creek Dr. It also connects through an alley to the neighborhood behind the big softball complex. The end furthest north just almost goes to Centerville, and the point furthest south ends up at the 1-30 service road. At the southern end, the trail passes by the Lake Ray Hubbard Transit Center. With express buses running from this location to Downtown Dallas, the combination of this trail and the transit center could easily allow even the most timid riders to go car free if they were so inclined (and worked Downtown).

It's not enough today as is, but as the Mesquite-Garland-Richardson bikeway becomes a reality, this will be a large part in opening up the city for much easier travel by bicycle.  -Jared

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Annoucing the Bike Friendly Garland Inaugural Ride

Click here to review,  sign and present waiver forms on date of the event

"Join us for a fun morning group ride to kick off Bike Friendly Garland."

Please note: that we will be riding through some roads as we ride through Garland. Rider assumes full responsibility for their actions, safety, injury and personal property. Please evaluate your own physical or health limitations before deciding to participate. We will ride as a group in a "no-drop" style ride at a leisurely pace. We may cover distances of over ten miles. Leave the spandex at home! Thanks.

Make sure to follow us on our Facebook page where our event will be listed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Proposed Route- Lake Ray Hubbard to Downtown Garland Station

Here is a proposed route where there are few areas with speeds above 40mph. The purpose of this route is to link by bicycle those who live on the Lake Ray Hubbard side of Garland to the downtown Garland station. This would be a good target area to place bike lanes or share the road signs.

Here is a map of the proposed route starting at Windsurf Bay Park and finishing on Main Street in Garland.

Find more Bike Ride in Garland, TX

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Envision Garland- The 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

 Upon doing a little  research, we found that the City of Garland has taken some steps towards revitalization and promoting alternative forms of transportation. The Envision Garland plan was just passed this year by City Council and is expected to run through 2030. Sections 6-5 to 6-9 of the plan describe a goal of having complete streets and wider sidewalks for pedestrian use as well as bike lanes.

The section of redevelopment of certain buildings describe that these buildings will have to be brought up to code to accommodate mixed use for office and retail space. It doesn't clarify whether they will use single use zoning practices if the buildings cannot be brought up to code.

To learn more about the Envision Garland Plan, please visit their webpage.

Let's make it clear that we need these sections of the plan to be implemented sooner than 2030. We can best represent the demand by letting our bicycles do the talking.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

BFG needs Your Input

We are looking for contributors that can write discussion topics from different parts of Garland. Garland is a big city, and we need those living in different parts of the city to add their input on their cycling experience. If you have links to bicycle routes please feel free to share them.

Bike Friendly Garland will start it's focus on the Southeast corner of Garland. Home to Don Jolhe's Bike World and Lake Ray Hubbard. From here there will be rides scheduled and events planned initially. As we increase our knowledge of the city, more events throughout Garland and even along the DART rail line will be included. See our Maps section for more information about the different areas in Garland.

There are also maps on the City of Garland's website and there is even a map of the "green" projects currently being undertaken.

There are many highway development projects along the lake in this part of Garland. One proposed development project even has some of it's residents furious as a major toll road is being expected to pass between highway 30 and 80, potentially wiping out an entire community of people. 

Here's what we can do. Let's map out this area to include bicycles routes and link all the places that are accessible by bike. As we venture north we can include Main Street to the west and the Firewheel Mall area to the east. Let's plan the routes and use them. 


Bike Friendly Garland

Welcome To Bike Friendly Garland!

This is the new Bike Friendly Garland website, the only one in it's kind for the city of Garland. Anyone local to cycling in Garland? Let's hear from you.