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.

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