FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Thursday, Dallas/Fort Worth found itself on a national list it would rather not be on. The list posted by federal environmental agencies on www.airnow.gov showed the Metroplex had the second worst air quality in the U.S.
Ironically, it was ‘Clean Air Action Day’ in North Texas — an annual event encouraging people to find more environmentally friendly ways to work.
Even as agencies like Fort Worth’s The T public transit system were encouraging people to ride buses, bikes or carpools to work, Dallas/Fort Worth was put under an Orange Air Quality Alert. That’s when the air is dangerous for anyone suffering respiratory problems.
But one group of cyclists were still riding early Thursday morning. They are proponents for clean commuting every day and the group has a very powerful member.
“When we ride we’re not throwing hydro-carbons in the air, we’re not hurting the environment any,” said cyclist Steve Black.
The group of cyclists was starting the last leg of what they call the Tour de Fort Worth on the trails along the bank of the Trinity River near downton.
Mirroring the Tour de France, they want to raise awareness about cycling, and just how far it can take you. “I rode twenty miles to work and twenty miles home every day,” said cyclist Jim Beckman. He says he began riding during the gas shortages in the 70’s. “Most people don’t think they can ride twenty miles. For non-bike riders that sounds like a long distance, but its really not that far.”
And these cyclists have an influential rider to help spread their message. “We all need to get out and do our part to clean up the air,” said Mayor-Elect Betsy Price as she sat astride her bicycle dressed in bikers shorts and shirt, helmet and sunglasses.
The incoming mayor, an avid cyclist, says there are 42-miles of bike lanes and trails leading to downtown. But, the city needs more alternatives to driving to work. “I think its crucial that strong, vibrant, growing cities offer several forms of transportation,” Price said. “And while Texas is hot and sometimes windy, not everybody’s going to ride and not everybody’s going to walk. But we want to offer that option to those who can.”
Fort Worth has long-term plans to add more pedestrian and cyclist friendly streets like this one. Riders in this group hope fort worth will become the model for other North Texas cities to follow. “Having some extra commuter lanes, having a little more safety, letting the cyclists feel a little more comfortable knowing that the guys in the cars are paying a little more attention,” Black said. “We just want to share the roads.”
Planners at The T are considering a bike sharing program. It would place bike racks around the city and rent the bikes out to people as needed. A similar program was recently started in San Antonio and Austin is considering starting a bike share program as well.