The Collins Street Bridge
The Collins Street Bridge is a popular way for cyclists to cross Central Expressway, partly because it has a relatively low amount of auto traffic compared to Spring Valley, Belt Line, Arapaho, Campbell, and Renner (Richardson Traffic Count Map). However, it is not perfect. The biggest problem is that many motorists tend to drive well above the speed limit when crossing the bridge and, as with other roads that cross Central Expressway, the sun in the morning and evening can be blinding (this is believed to be a factor in the death of Anthony Mungioloi on Arapaho Road in 2009).
For the last few months, since mid- to late-March, the outside lanes of the bridge have been closed as the City has been making some repairs. I cross this bridge on a daily basis by bike or by car (by car more often than I’d like to admit) and I haven’t noticed any negative impacts to traffic. In fact, I would wager that traffic flow has actually improved. Motorists seem to have slowed down (though are still able to travel at the speed limit) while cyclists have been able to ride in the “closed” outside lane, getting out of the flow of traffic.
There have been many discussions in the past (and quite recently) about improving the Collins Street Bridge for bicycle / pedestrian use. The Richardson Parks, Recreation, & Transportation Trail-Way Master Plan shows the Collins Street Bridge as accommodating a “Potential Bicycle Lane” and a “Future Multi-Use Trail.” Funding for the provision of sidewalks and a trail along this bridge has also been discussed by the North Central Texas Council of Governments (bottom of the last page of this table), but has not yet been funded.
I think that the current construction and subsequent closure of two lanes proves that the Collin Street Bridge does not need to have four lanes for cars. It appears to function just as well, if not better, with two vehicular lanes. In fact, I think that the City should not re-open those outside lanes when the repair work on the bridge is completed. Instead, I believe they should be striped as buffered bike lanes in order to provide a safe crossing of Central Expressway. The City has been very proactive in restriping some 4-lane roads to have two travel lanes for cars and two bike/parking lanes. However, it is very important that any bike lanes added to Collins Street (either on the bridge or off) be either buffered bike lanes or 5-6′ wide traditional bike lanes. The reason for this is that simply redesignating the outside lane for bikes will not preclude motorists from driving in that lane.
With construction nearing an end, the Collins Street Bridge will once again have four lanes for cars and none specifically for bikes. As the recent construction has shown us, this bridge can operate effectively with only two vehicular lanes. Let’s take this opportunity now that motorists have become used to having only two lanes and make this bridge a safe crossing for cyclists.