Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dallas Vs. Austin- Which is better?

Dallas VS Austin

I have walked around both of these city centers, as well as other bike friendly cities around Texas, the U.S and the world. With a little bit of knowledge about Austin and a little bit more about Dallas, I am ready to give an assesement of which of these two cities is better.

Why Dallas and why Austin? Because both of these cities are in Texas. Dallas is a city that I have just recently started to acquaint myself more with having grown up closer to Fort Worth. Austin is the city I have really wanted to love after hearing all the hype from friends who visit there as well as other sources about the city's easy accessibility by bicycle. Austin is also the state capital, so by default one would automatically assume that it is the best city in Texas. People are always singing Austin's praises when talking about Texas cities and Austin is always getting accolades from the cycling community.

I recently both visited Austin and took a walk around downtown Dallas during the daytime to compare which of these two cities had it going on. Let's compare a few pros and cons about my observations of both places.

Austin: Pros and Cons


Bikeability- Austin is a very bikable place. The sources got that part right. From the outskirts of the surburbs to the city center, one can go anywhere in Austin by bicycle. That is a asset that Austin has that Dallas is reluctant to capitalize on. I'm sure that if people in Austin actually had a place to be they could count on their reliable bikeway system.

Music capital of Texas and beyond:  Although in all honestly I only saw two bands performing live shows the whole day and one of them was a one man production, Austin is known for it's live music and outdoor concerts such as Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. If you are a lover of music, especially independent label rock music, you will love going to Austin. Again, that's a pro to a lot of people but music just doesn't top my priority list like it used to these days.

Natural Beauty Surrounding City Limits: As I was leaving Austin, I had to acknowledge that the natural scenery around the city is much prettier than in Dallas, Austin being in Texas hill country. I would have loved to explore the Colorado River in more detail, rather than focusing on the downtown area during my last visit. Last year I had the opportunity to go to Pace Bend national park, about 30 minutes south of downtown.  Lake Travis is an awesome place for a weekend camping trip and has some great spots for cliff diving. 


Hipsters: Hipsters are migrating south from their Northwestern spawning grounds of Portland and Seattle and their Norheastern burrows of Williamsburg, New York. They seem to be taking over every major metropolitan city and replacing the city culture with something that only they can understand. They seem to give reverence to the single speed bicycle in the same way some Chicanos revere the lowrider bike. Austin is a college town, and although I have seen some hipsters work around the city, most of these young kids in Austin are university students (or dropouts) living on their parent's dime. Most of the young bicycle commuters in Austin didn't seem like they had anywhere in particular to be, unless it was bar hopping by bicycle. I would have liked to have seen more bicycles with baskets and people actually doing real errands on them. Instead you have a bunch of hipsters parading on their single speed bikes for the sole purpose of making a statement about themselves. Maybe I am antiquated in this regard, and I would gladly admit to that if I were ever called out on it. I also feel a certain disdain with the way that hipsters treat their bicycles. They have no moral qualms about taking a classic, hand built 80's Colnago with campy super record components, spray painting it flat black, taking all the components off and adding their stupid track wheelset with a single speed flip flop hub. The way that they treat valuable things says a lot about the persons they are. In my opinion, that makes hipsters spoiled, self-entitled brats that have nothing to contribute to society. Instead, they can take the beauty of a place like Austin and turn it into something butt ugly in their quest to be ironic and original. I'm just glad San Antonio isn't going that route.

4th Street: What can I say? I got hit on at least 3 times going down 4th street, by other dudes. To me, that's a minus.

Where were the Food Trucks?:  Where were all those food trucks that I saw on the Travel Channel documentary? I was looking forward to lunch from a Food Truck while I was walking around downtown. The fabled food trucks never showed up.

Dallas: Pros and Cons


Dallas is Growing: Dallas is starting to go through another construction and cultural boom. Being one of the cities that has held up well financially since the great recession, there has been a massive amount of migration from other states. The result is more money is now being poured into the infrastructure of Dallas. As a result Dallas is becoming a prettier, more walkable city than it used to be. There are still some sections to avoid, but law enforcement has picked up dramatically since the last time I actually worked in the city center, around 2005. 

Dallas has Bike Lanes: Dallas is now started to install bike lanes and sharrows along a few roads in downtown. I have yet to see these on all roads, but there are so many stop lights in Dallas one almost doesn't need the sharrows to keep pace with traffic. It's great to see more cars acknowledging more cyclists, although there was recently a hit and run in the city when a car hit some cyclists in the Deep Ellum district.

Dallas is Stable: Dallas does not suffer from an overabundance of hipsters or the heated and volatile political climate that Austin seems to have. Dallas is like an empty canvas right now, anything can happen. What has happened so far is great and is moving in the right direction. In that sense, Dallas is stable.


Dallas has crime: Dallas has real crime. It has always had crime, and it has never been a good idea to walk around the downtown area by oneself at night. The crime rate in Dallas is going down, and with a little common sense, Dallas can be a navigable place, even in the late hours.

Dallas has stubbornness issues: Dallas has a city council that is made up of progressive thinkers as well as old timers. The old timers are desperately trying to please the fringes of the population in Dallas, who are usually made up of other stubborn, old timey people. So bike lanes as well as the Dallas Bike Plan have had a hard time taking center stage when it comes to projects approved by the city. Old timey people generally don't ride their bicycles places, although they should. Bicycling is just not a relevant issue to them. Add to that fact that bicycling is seen as a political issue rather than a community one.

If we were to have  a face off on which city is better, today's Austin would probably beat Dallas by a very narrow margin. Walking around Dallas has made me realize that Dallas isn't far from surpassing Austin as a more bikeable and walkable city. It just needs a push in the right direction. So keep pushing Dallas, keep pushing. Dallas will eventually have a greater coolness factor if it continues on the same trajectory.

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