Cycling in Dallas: A Comprehensive Guide to Trails, Safety, and Commuting

Navigate Dallas' bike paths, understand the city's cycling future, and ensure a safe ride with this detailed guide.

Mia Trailsmith
Nov 11, 2021
Male cyclist on a road bike passing a lake with treesMale cyclist on a road bike passing a lake with trees

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:

  • If you live more than 5 miles from your workspace and feel it’s too far to cycle, consider carpooling or taking public transport and cycling the rest of the way.
  • Plan your route to ride on quiet streets, and avoid streets with buses and trucks.
  • Try to select routes with fewer stop streets and intersections so you can keep momentum, but always stop when a traffic signal instructs you to.
  • Look for routes where the pavement or bike lanes are in good condition, and if you come across ones that aren’t, notify your city officials.

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:

  • AT&T Trail and Trinity Forest Trail (8.1 miles)
  • Cottonwood Creek Trail (3.6 miles)
  • Katy Trail (3.5 miles)
  • Coombs Creek Trail (2.5 miles)

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:

  • White Rock Lake Park Trail (9.4 miles)
  • Bachman Lake Park Trail (3.5 miles)
  • Crawford Memorial Trail (2 miles)
  • Glendale Park Trail (2 miles)

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:

  • L.B. Houston Trail (10 miles)
  • Cedar Ridge Preserve Trail (6 miles)
  • Harry S Moss Trail (5 miles)
  • Trinity Forest Trail (4.5 miles)

Neighborhood Trails 

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. 

You can find a full list of the Dallas Neighborhood Trails here.

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.

How to Stay Safe While Cycling in Dallas

  • While only cyclists under 18 are legally required to wear a helmet, you should wear one anyway for your own protection.
  • Cyclists can ride on sidewalks, but only outside of the central business district. In the CBD, you’ll need to ride in the street.
  • Cycling in the streets is permitted throughout the city, even where there is no designated bike route. If the road is too narrow for you to ride safely alongside a car, you have the right to ride in the middle of the road.
  • Some motorists still have an “us vs. them” mindset when they have to share the roads with cyclists. Look out for your own safety above everything else, and don’t engage with drivers who are aggressive.
  • Riding alongside cars means you need to stay focused - don’t wear headphones or try to use your phone while cycling.
  • Never weave in and out of traffic. Riding in a straight line means you’re more predictable to other road-users, and being predictable makes the roads safer for everyone.
  • If you’re not a confident road cyclist, don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone too quickly. Riding in traffic can be scary, even for experienced cyclists, so stick to routes that match your skill and confidence level.
  • Insure your bicycle with Sundays Insurance. Despite your best efforts, accidents can happen. Get insurance for your bike for theft from and away from home, accidental damage, malicious damage, and more.

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