Reality Check

A couple years ago I asked some friends for advice on a good route from my home to downtown.  One of them suggested Preston Road.  I thought he was nuts!  It’s SIX lanes!  Do you know how many cars there are on Preston at rush hour?  Do you know how fast those angry, impatient idiots drive?!  Yeah, right!  Another suggested a route that used Douglas and similar two-lane residential feeder streets.  Needless to say that’s the route I used.

Well, these days I’m a much more savvy cyclist and more and more I’ve started taking Preston Road instead of using residential feeder streets like Douglas.  The funny thing is that despite all the rush hour traffic, Preston is a much easier and more pleasant road to ride!  Because Douglas is only two lanes, cyclists have to be very aware of oncoming and overtaking traffic and often negotiate (via “control and release”) with motorists to ensure safe passing distances.  It’s a hassle for me and a hassle for motorists. I haven’t counted, but I think that are about four million stop signs on Douglas too (and yes, I do stop at stop signs!).  Preston on the other hand, is a six-lane arterial that provides plenty of opportunities for overtaking without delay.  I simply take the lane and it’s hassle free.  All in all, it’s much easier for me, and much more convenient for drivers who want to go faster than me.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s a video of part of my rush hour afternoon commute on Preston Road (HWY 289) from Lovers Lane to Northwest Highway.

As you can see, I follow the rules of the road and occupy the right lane in a position left of center. This puts me in approximately the same spot I would be if I were driving a car. It is where motorcyclists are taught to drive. Not only does it give me the best sight lines, it ensures me maximum visibility. It also communicates to drivers behind me that there is not room to “share” the lane (which in fact there is not in these narrow, substandard lanes) and encourages early and complete lane changes when passing. Put simply, drivers behind me see me sooner and are able to change lanes to pass well before they are upon me. Not a single time in this video—or in the 36 minutes I spent on Preston—did a driver make a close pass or come up close behind me and have to wait to change lanes. I did not delay any drivers more than a few seconds, and most experienced no delay when overtaking me.

The real delay was caused by traffic lights and the overall level of congestion. At a couple of traffic signals, we had to wait through multiple cycles because there were so many vehicles lined up. In the 36 minutes and 36 seconds I spent on Preston going from Armstrong to Forest Lane, 15 minutes and 13 seconds were spent stopped, waiting with everyone else at traffic signals.

 
 
 

About the author

I’ve been riding bikes since I could reach the pedals. These days, I’m the guy on the three-speed with the little girl on back. You might see me taking my 5-year-old to school, the park, the pool, the grocery store, or just out having fun. I ride to my office downtown when I can, which lately has been almost every day. (Yes, we do have a showers at work!) I grew up in Dallas but have also spent many years living and working in NYC and other points around the globe. I currently live in the Preston Hollow neighborhood with my wonderful wife and daughter.

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7 Comments

  • Gary Cziko

    Waco,
    Thanks for an informative post and video.
    I particularly like the way you summed up your ride with the three zeros and one 100%!

     
  • tim_lebsack

    My experiences have not been this pleasant. I’m doing something wrong.

     
  • Randall

    When there is a bike lane I ride with my handlebar to the left edge of the lane as possible. By doing this you are making it clear to the drivers that the bike lane is your space and they will be less tempted to cut you off. The other factor is that you are making yourself visible to the drivers.

     
  • Les Connally

    I’ve ridden this road since the 70′s when I rode my bike to school every day. Preston Road north of NW Highway is even *more* bike friendly because the right hand lane is SO narrow and sub-standard, motorists don’t even want to drive in it because if the deep sewer dips. It is an ersatz bike lane! Dallas’ only real bike lane because of that!