Monday, March 29, 2010

I Got the Boot

Went out to take pictures for a travelling fellowship submission on Transit Oriented Developments, gathered images from several notable sites here in Dallas: Downtown Plano, Galatyn Park, Park Lane, Mockingbird Station, West End, Victory Park, Cedars and Baylor Station.

Park Lane doesn't like people taking pictures of their buildings. I guess it does make sense to discourage free publicity and academic study of your facility. I was told by a security guard that I needed permission from the facility manager before I could take pictures.

Fair enough, I wouldn't want to upset patrons to Dicks sporting goods or Nordstrom Rack.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Green For Thee But Not For Me

I learned all my tough lessons about riding in the street in Baton Rouge, a college town where people were notoriously rude and disrespectful to cyclists. I had concerns about riding in a big town like Dallas, but I have to say that riding here is far superior.

My office has facilities for cyclists and alternative commuters including bike racks, changing rooms, lockers and showers. However, in an office of 300 people and in a firm that is dedicated to being green, only about 5 people regularly commute by bike. This is regretful because most of the young interns and architects live within 3 miles of the building. There is a DART rail station and bus transfer station three blocks away, and several bus lines that pass within one block past the community college.

I think at the last count our firm had over 70 LEED AP's, and since I am not one of them, that means that at best, only 4 of those LEED AP's actually makes use of alternative or public transportation.

I say it's time to put up or shut up. If you want to claim to be green, and become green employee of the month, why not try to leave the car parked in the garage for a month. Try walking or riding a bike or taking public transportation. I hate having to listen to designers bitch and moan about Dallas and how it doesn't compare to other urban experiences. I especially hate how they worship rails and eschew buses, and then make use of neither. Want to get around without a car? THEN DO IT! Haircut? Rail to Cityplace. Movie? Rail to Park Lane or Mockingbird Station. Groceries? Rail, bike, or walk! There are convenient bus lines everywhere! Or if you have a bike, it's pretty easy to get to a destination or a rail station.

Please, no more lectures on public transportation, cycling or bike lanes in Dallas until you have tried them out.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Trouble in Ennis

I'm not from Texas, and I had to ask a coworker from Tyler where Ennis was. A cyclist who uses bicycles for his daily commute has been arrested and issued citations for riding a bicycle in the street (in this case, HWY 287). If you conduct a google search, you will arrive at several cycling advocacy sites that are offering aid and support to this gentlemen.

The reason that this case interests me is two-fold. First, I ride my bike to work on the street just about every day, and dread the thought of being pulled over by the police and possibly arrested. Especially for something that isn't a crime. The second overlaps my professional life somewhat. The architecture firm that I work for cares a great deal about sustainability and the environment, and has made a strong commitment to LEED building standards, encouraging clients to pursue certification for new construction whenever possible. One of the many areas for certification is the procurement of locally sourced materials to reduce transit and carbon footprints.

Ennis has a steel mill that is a favorite of both designers and contractors in the North Texas area. I guess it's ironic in a sense that the city that has proven to be a linchpin for sustainable buildings in Texas would have such a backwards policy on perhaps one of the most sustainable alternatives for transportation. The politician in me wants to make lemonade out of this. Perhaps the mayor could mimic Tom Leppert and bring a commitment to green to the town of Ennis! Start with alternative transportation: education and encouragement of cyclists and motorists to share the road.

As an outsider looking in, the competition between towns and cities in Texas is fierce, and this could prove to be an incredible opportunity to bring a new level of interest and commerce into the town. But every good designer knows that before you build, you dig and remove obstacles.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Took the Long Way Home

After having a great day at work, I decided on a change of scenery for the bike ride home. Instead of going up (up as in up hill) San Jacinto and over to Ross or Live Oak, I decided to take Commerce Street! It was during rush hour traffic, but never have I felt so calm and in control on the road. I only got one honk today, and I could care less! I had the right of way and the right to be in the lane.

So I rode from the West End near Old Red down Commerce, under I-45 and through Deep Ellum, then clipped the corner to reach the park. All in all, a stress free ride with some interesting scenery and people. I look forward to doing it again soon.