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Bikes, trains and automobiles: Commuting continues to change

Photo: Irving residents like Jon Fontenot (right) test out the electric boost bicycles around Dallas and White Rock Lake. /Photo by Jessica Sluys

If you are tired of sitting in DFW traffic, getting honked at, and being in a rush to get from point A to point B, then it might be high time to invest in a bicycle and start enjoying your commute rather than tolerating it.

Elena Studier, an intern with the National Association of Railroad Passengers, helped organize a 40-day-20-city-stop tour to further the general public’s understanding of railway transportation and infrastructure around the country. Studier and her team made four stops while in the Lone Star State, saving the best for last by biking around Dallas on June 12.

“I want to spread awareness for how important transportation resources are in the communities that I’m in,” Studier said.

Many big cities like Dallas are very bicycle friendly. Beth Nobles, the deputy director of Bike Texas, thinks more people should take advantage of specially marked streets and bike-friendly DART policies.

“Bicycling is a great adventure. To take off from the train on your bike and be free—it’s a great way to explore our country,” Nobles said.

Chairman of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, Peter LeCody, agrees.

“I’m not a professional bike rider, but I enjoy getting outdoors. You can have more fun [bicycling] and actually go a little bit slower—get to see the scenery, get some exercise—it’s really a plus,” LeCody said.

The tour not only helped demonstrate how easy and fun it could be to travel solely by bike and train, but it helped people see some possibilities that have been right in front of their faces for so long.

“The new part about this is that Amtrak is strengthening their bike policies, so it’s becoming easier to load your bike onto a train and then load it off once you reach your destination. That’s a great step in the right direction,” Nobles said.

In most places, the policy used to require passengers to place their bikes in boxes, treating them as baggage. With the new policy, Amtrak is thinking quite literally “out of the box.”

Amtrak is not the only organization getting with the times. Bike Texas provided Studier and her team with electric boost bicycles for their Texas travels. These bikes make cycling easier and more enjoyable than ever before.

Because the he workout is not as intense since it only requires a fraction of normal bike-riding-effort to power an e-bike, it is a great option for bicycle enthusiasts with bad knees. And maybe even for the business commuters who would rather burn fat than gasoline, but also do not want to get too sweaty before a day at the office.

“Bike Texas has supported us with their fleet of e-bikes through San Antonio, Austin, and now Dallas,” Studier said. “They’ve been really, really amazing and super instrumental in making this state happen. Everything’s bigger! They had to do it bigger here.”

Studier and her team rode for 14 miles, starting at Union Station in downtown Dallas, winding their way up through Katy Trail, taking a nice break on the Mockingbird Station DART, and then riding around White Rock Lake before rolling through the streets of Deep Ellum, back to Union Station.

Local celebrity, Zachary Ford, also known as the Pondering Cyclist, led them. Even with a broken turning signal—or rather a broken arm—Ford successfully headed the team.

There are so many ways to see Dallas, but people often do not get to experience them. Take a bike, take a train, and take a moment to really enjoy the city you are in. It might just be the time of your life.