Your Complete Guide to Cycling in Dallas
Almost a decade ago, Dallas took home the unfortunate honor of being named the Worst Cycling City in the US according to Bicycling Magazine. They noted that while Dallas had a strong cycling community, riding in the city required “nerves of steel”, owing mostly to the city’s enduring legacy as an oil state that prioritizes car-centric infrastructure.
But a lot has changed since then, especially when it comes to cycling culture in the US. In 2020, cities like Houston and Los Angeles (which are similarly car-centric) saw massive cycling booms and overall, bike sales increased over 62 percent across the country.
Many US cities adjusted to the demand by closing off streets and creating bicycle-friendly districts, but not all cities were ready.
Some, like Dallas, still have work to do in becoming more accessible for cyclists - but that doesn’t mean you can’t ride in and around the city! Here are our top tips for cycling in Dallas.
Cycling for Dallas Commuters
Although Dallas boasts over 70 miles of bike lanes, only 5.3 miles of that are protected (in comparison, Houston has 22 miles and Austin has over 50). Every cyclist knows that there's a big difference between riding on a protected bike lane versus on a city street, especially in a city as car-centric as Dallas.
If you’re a commuter, here are some tips to make your commute as safe and stress-free as possible:
For help mapping your route, you can check out the detailed Dallas Bike Plan Map.
Dallas Bike Paths and Trails
If you aren’t planning on commuting to work and want to ride far from busy roads, there are loads of options in and around Dallas.
The Dallas Trail Network Plan classifies routes into four distinct categories:
Major Linear Trails
Any trail in Dallas that is over a mile is classified as a major trail. Except for nature trails, which are sometimes narrower, Major Linear Trails are developed with at least a 12-foot width to allow easy flow of cyclists and pedestrians.
These trails are usually developed to connect communities, and include multiple parks, greenbelts, schools, neighborhoods and attractions. They provide recreational benefits to the community, as well as give citizens a means of alternative, eco-friendly transportation.
Some of the Major Linear Trails you can find in Dallas include:
Major Loop Trails
These trails can be found in and around municipal parks - making them ideal for cyclists who want to steer clear of motorists. They usually have multiple access points and link attractions and amenities within the parks. Here are a few of the Major Loop Trails in Dallas:
Major Nature Trails
Major Nature Trails are unpaved, natural-surfaced trails that can be found in large greenbelt parks. Here are some of our favorites:
These trails aren’t quite attractions for those that live outside the neighborhoods they’re in because they’re made to service and connect their communities. They can be found primarily in smaller parks and linking neighborhoods to amenities.
The Future of Cycling in Dallas
Back in 2011, the Dallas City Council adopted a community-driven plan to create over 1,300 miles of bike routes by 2021. Now, a decade later, just 11 percent of the routes have been built.
The city only allocated $500,000 to the project which built little more infrastructure than shared lane markings or “sharrows” (which, by the way, research shows isn’t a particularly effective safety measure).
In the same time period, Austin adopted a similar plan but dedicated $20 million to it, skyrocketing it to the top of multiple “Best Cycling Cities” lists.
Michael Rogers, the head of transportation in Dallas, acknowledges that the city isn’t quite there yet, but says that going forward, his priority will be to ensure all infrastructure built includes protected bike lanes.
Although the process of changing how a city moves is a slow one, he’s confident that once safer infrastructure is in place more cyclists will hit the streets - something that will hopefully have the knock-on effect of creating even more infrastructure.