Believe it. It really happened.
On June 13 at 7 pm, THE PHAST TIMES NEWS attended the Anna City Council meeting to “discuss” the idea of banning bicycles from Anna. However, there was no discussing.
While one city council lady dosed off, apparently too bored to care, approximately 60 people from the immediate area (after word spread, people throughout Texas were willing to be bussed in) attended a meeting that had to be moved because of the anticipated interest in one of the agenda items.
The local newspaper reported that “almost 100 cyclists gathered for the hearing”.
Speaking on behalf of the cycling community were representatives from BikeDFW, Carrollton Cycling Club, Dallas Area Off Road Bicycle Association Greater Dallas Bicyclists, Mirage Cycling Team, Plano Athletic Cycling Club, Plano Bicycling Association, Plano Cycling & Fitness store, The Red River Velo Club, The Ride Of Silence, and The Texas Bicycle Association, and two citizens from Anna who opposed the bike ban.
The cyclists and speakers were polite and respectful throughout the meeting. Many, dressed in business attire, stood up to a podium and gave earnest pleas and sound judgment why the town more known for its prized cows and corn, should not stop bicycles from traveling on its roads.
“The speakers offered to work with the City of Anna to plan safe accommodations to all road users. Recommendations from the cycling community to improve the safety of the existing roadway included road markings and signage. Speakers talked about the importance of bicycling as a physical activity and the need for our communities to help prevent the alarming rise of obesity. Cyclists also spoke of the importance of respecting the freedom for Texans to choose for themselves whether it is safe enough to ride on a road.”
A traffic engineer stood up to give his assessment of one of the roads in question (FM 455), but admitted he did his study during the week (a Tuesday) because “the numbers drop on the weekends.” The weekends, particularly Saturday mornings, are when cyclists generally ride because of the reduced traffic.
The meeting was a sham. Council members did not have an open mind (the City Secretary was falling asleep on the stage, in front of the audience, during the meeting) as was evident after the last speaker from the audience spoke. The council lowered their voices in the public meeting to the point where several audience members shouted out for them to speak up. Their vote took all of two minutes and it was done. Anyone caught biking would be fined $200 and their bike confiscated, which was added at the meeting by council members. Done. “The pleas of cyclists fell on deaf ears. With no discussion and no questions asked of the speakers”, as if not a word of the previous 90 minutes was heard, let alone discussed. One lone member, KEVIN ANDERSON voted against the ban. He is newly elected and a pro-cycling advocate.
Executive Director of the Texas Bicycle Coalition (TBC) Robin Stallings said outside after the meeting this outcome was not uncommon. Though stating that he did not encourage anyone to break Anna’s new law, he hoped that a person would call him before riding in Anna so he could notify the Anna police, the press, and the over 100 lawyers working for TBC. “I believe Anna has bitten off more than they can chew,” believing this to be a test case for Texas and the rest of the country.
Bored and contemptuous as the city council was against the cyclists, their minds may have been on a new deal struck with the Ritz-Carlton Hotels for a new golf course and luxury spa to be located there. Clients will be flown by helicopter from the downtown Dallas hotel to Anna for relaxation. The business that is expected to be completed by the years end will no doubt increase traffic. A grant was also received to put in new water lines and fire hydrants, supposedly for the local population.
Cyclists have long enjoyed safe riding to or through Anna because of the rural roads that had little traffic. Many passing riders usually added to Anna’s coffers when biking. An old law was recently re-interpreted by Governor RICK PERRY to allow Texas cities to ban cycling.
“Not ALL the council [members] were against us,” said GAIL SPANN, former chair of Texas Bicycle Coalition and a member of numerous bicycle organizations who has been asked to put together and chair a committee against the ban.
“The situation on the bike ban in Anna has become much more serious,” said BIKE DFW head MICHELLE HOLCOMB, “because Tx Dot [Texas Department of Transportation] has essentially refused to take a stand and has re-interpreted the Attorney General’s opinion which had been used to PROTECT against bike bans. This could threaten the ability to bike anywhere and everywhere because if Anna succeeds, other towns will follow suit.”
According to the Texas Bicycle Coalition’s web site, “In a disappointing and major reversal, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) lawyers have re-interpreted the Texas Attorney General’s 1989 opinion (Opinion No. JM-1109) to say it could imply that municipalities may ban bicycles on any roadway. The re-interpretation by TxDOT and the ambiguous wording of the Attorney General’s opinion make this particular bike ban a much more serious threat to Texas cycling. It is very important to Texas Bicycle Coalition’s board of directors, staff and members that bike bans such as the one in Anna are removed. Texas Bicycle Coalition, in cooperation with local cycling leaders from the Plano Bicycle Association and BikeDFW, has consulted with private attorneys and is considering legal action on behalf of Texas cyclists if Anna officials continue to refuse to repeal the bike ban.
“After the Council’s action, cyclists expressed a clear resolve to continue the campaign to overturn the Anna bike ban. ‘We’ve received generous offers of support from a number of law firms,’ said Robin Stallings, executive director of Texas Bicycle Coalition. ‘Law clerks have been assigned to research the common law related to bicycle bans in preparation for any potential future legal actions. Considering what the Anna City Council did tonight, we can no longer rule out legal action.’ Several cyclists said they intend to ride FM 455 until cited to provide the basis for a legal test of the ordinance. A cyclist spoke up and said that if they are ticketed while riding their bike on FM 455 that they will be respectful of the police officer and accept the ticket calmly to avoid any potential complications. Texas Bicycle Coalition does not condone, nor does it encourage, breaking the law.”
The bike groups are also strongly urging cyclists to write respectful letters addressed to Anna Mayor KENNETH PELHAM requesting the City of Anna repeal the bike ban ordinance. [ADDRESS: The Honorable Kenneth L. Pelham, City of Anna
P.O. Box 776, Anna, Texas 75409]. They also urged even recreation cyclists to join bike groups such as Bike Texas, Bike DFW, and a local bike club.
One letter sent by the Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists, ANDY CLARK, says, “As you are aware, FM455 is a critical East-West connection through the community and there are no viable alternatives – so banning bicyclists from this street essentially makes it impossible or impractical to ride in town for all intents and purposes. It would seem counter-productive for the City of Anna, which sits in one of the fastest growing Counties in Texas, to pursue a course that would prohibit cyclists from using certain roads. There are so many more constructive ways to deal with this issue that a ban seems inappropriate, disproportionate, inequitable and unnecessary.” While also making himself available for further discussion, Clark strongly asks the mayor and the council to reconsider. No reply was given.
Local cyclists wrote in their comments and concerns.
MICHELLE BOYER gave this comment which sums up the battle: “I’m a little confused. How can you deny transportation when bikes have the same rules of the road to follow as cars do?”
“The strategic issue with all of this,” EDDIE JONES wrote, “is that other communities are watching this. If Anna pulls this off and it sticks, we should expect Sachse (et. al.) to follow their lead. If that happens we won’t be able to ride anywhere…..YIKES!!!! I assume that all bets are off if a bike gets impounded. I wouldn’t expect to get the bike back in working order if the police department gets to hold it for a while.”
“Sachse would have a valid reason for banning cyclist,” OLEN PENN countered. “I’ve ridden through there with [local bike stores] a couple of times and they DON’T deserve to be on the streets.”
ERIC KOENIGS chimed in with a smarter approach to riding. “Yes, I am a cyclist and want equal rights on the road. I’ll defend that right to no end, and have no problem protecting my right to the road to inconsiderate drivers when I encounter them. With that being said, we as cyclists have the most to lose (our life) when either side doesn’t respect the rights of the other to the road. As long as our fellow cyclists continue to disrespect the rules of the road, we will continually be confronted with this issue. I beg you to not partake in peletons that stretch across the yellow line, blow through traffic lights or deviate from common courtesy in any fashion. I also ask you to express your displeasure when you encounter riders doing such things. The challenge we all face is that many times it is the novice and weaker ‘wannabe’ riders that partake in these behaviors. We need to do a better job at educating newbies to the finer points of road etiquette. Additionally, we need to be smart about the routes we choose. If this is in fact a winding road with poor visibility, then we need to ask the hard question of whether or not it should be used at all for a weekly ride. The better and best option for us is to use our strength to leverage our local governments for better shoulders and routes that accommodate both cyclist and motor vehicles. With seven years of hometown boy Lance being in the news, and today’s gas prices, we have the best opportunity to get our legislators to embrace alternatives such as cycling. Let’s be proactive instead of reactive.”