Dallas launches Trail Safety Advisory Committee

Fatal collision prompts a serious look at multi-use paths

The death of a jogger in a crash with a bicyclist has prompted the formation of a new Trail Safety Advisory Committee in Dallas, Texas.

According to reports, Lauren Huddleston, 28, was wearing headphones and turned into the path of the cyclist. “It was a very, very unfortunate accident and it could have happened anywhere,” said Dallas's assistant parks and recreation director, Willis Winters. “The good news that's coming out of this accident is extremely heightened awareness on safety and trail etiquette.”

The new committee met for the first time on 14 December, with the goal of making the trails around Dallas friendlier for cyclists and pedestrians alike. Winters says the city is working to raise awareness as well as improve facilities for runners and bikers. “There needs to be personal responsibility, and we’re going to cram it down their throats,” he said

Among the new initiatives is a safety advertising campaign that is being developed by a local ad agency. This will roll out in the spring as part of a fairly comprehensive program that will include the use of social media, internet-based videos and even traditional on-air spots. It will feature local celebrities who will be on hand to promote trail safety and awareness.

This is just one effort underway in Dallas, which has not been seen previously as a particularly friendly place to ride. However, that should change, as the city is working alongside various local cycling groups to turn the corner. Winters says there are 104 miles of trails in the Dallas area, and a new master plan that is being developed will bring it up to 200 miles. This includes 10 projects that are now underway to improve and repair existing trails as well as to create entirely new ones.

More importantly, the city is looking to create up 700 miles of on-street cycling paths. “Dallas has never had anything like this,” said Winters. “While there has been a cycling guide, in reality it was a figment of the imagination. What we had wasn’t safe and it simply didn’t work. We’re going to change that.”

The new plan that is being developed calls for wide shoulders, bike lanes and buffer lanes. The city hopes to move into the new phase and begin to make it a reality in the next three months. To help spearhead these efforts, City Hall has formed a bicycle safety committee, and will be working closely with cycling as well as running groups.

“The bottom line is that we’re looking at a comprehensive plan that will make the trails safer for bikers and joggers alike,” says Willis. This includes the guide standards and how they might be improved. “The current lanes are 12ft wide and we need to see whether those should be wider. But at the end of the day, we need to look at the rules and the safety etiquette.”

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