Biking to Northpark Mall

Today’s car-free day involves the challenge of going to the mall by cycle. I’d heard from my coworker that the path from the Park Lane DART station to the mall is the most treacherous 3 blocks she’d ever walked.

Apparently DART has a Northpark shuttle bus departing every 20 minutes 7 days a week to drive people those 3 blocks. Seriously? It’s maybe a quarter of a mile.  Okay, it’s exactly half a mile.

Given that the mall has been open for decades, the station opened in it’s current above-grade form in 2002, and the new Park Lane development adjacent to the station opened March 2009, I can only conclude that either minimal effort was made to connect these or whoever did the engineering plans for DART and Park Lane has never actually walked or biked anywhere.

Just as my coworker described, the sidewalk abuts the road with some spiny plant along the side. And the sidewalk straddles electricity poles. (At least there’s some grass to ride around the poles.)  So I crossed the road but it wasn’t much better.  There were pretty textured ramps at the corners of the sidewalks though!

The Park Lane development seems to be designed with the pedestrian in mind, though still very much oriented as though all pedestrians just got out of their cars (note, however, how in the photo below the Park Lane development has a half-circle of sidewalk around the pole!)

Then I crossed the freeway – just a bit unnerving but generally safe, though not aesthetically interesting other than some fancy pink paver stones paving the median instead of concrete.

My first glimpse of the mall property reveled little cut-throughs in the bushes where people who walk to the mall clearly were given no concessions.

But I did have a paver-stone sidewalk along the road!  And the sidewalk to the mall through the parking lot was actually kinda nice with all the big trees.  Just as I had suspected though, there wasn’t a good place to lock up the bike – all the entrances were pretty stark and devoid of sign poles, fences, or anything else to hook my U-lock around (much less, an actual bike rack).

At the Valet, I asked the guys if they’d valet a bike and commented how there was nowhere to lock-up.  They directed me to the little decorative gate around the restaurant’s patio.  I had to get in the bushes to lock-up but it worked.  I can’t imagine that more than 4 bikes could lock-up there though, and that would hideously detract from the posh feel of the valet area.

As I left the mall, I forgot I was on a bike and took the regular car exit and realized I’d have to be biking in the busy road because there wasn’t a sidewalk at that exit.  That threw me off a bit (even though I’m accustomed to riding in the road I hadn’t been prepared for the lack of sidewalk here.)

So I made it back to the freeway crossing and the safety of the median crossing and sidewalk, only to realize how frustrating it is to have to share a sidewalk with people – who walk slowly….  It’s dangerous enough riding on a sidewalk with inches between me and cars speeding past at 50mph, pedestrians added a frustrating element of navigating around moving obstacles.

And then there’s no cross through the median over to the station.  I should have crossed at the light.  Thanks for the warning.  Now I’m jumping curbs over the median through traffic even though it appears there’s an official entrance to the station on the other side of the road.

(looking back from the station’s pedestrian entrance after having jumped the median to cross the street)

But look!  There’s a bike rack, even a bike box! There was at least a thought that cyclists would be present at the station….

I feel like this became a negative rant assessing my little jaunt to the mall.  I mean…it wasn’t a completely awful experience, but definitely not for the meek at cycling.  It was by far not a bike-friendly experience.  A bike lane would be awesome for that little half-mile stretch of Park Lane.  At the very least some painted pedestrian crossing stripes at the intersections, and some signage.  Oh, and bike racks at the mall.  I bet some local artist could put together some sweet little bike racks that would add to Northpark’s carefully crafted minimalist exterior….

Not sure if I’ll try this treck again.  It may be easier next time now that I know what to expect, but the point is to facilitate ease of use of our transit system and multi-modal integration.   If it’s too treacherous for a novice cyclist or pedestrian to navigate, it defeats the purpose of having a transit station there.

View of the Park Lane development from the station… finally headed home.

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About UrbanPedal

A urban planner by degree, bicycling enthusiast by birth, this is a forum to share the crazy biking and urban design inspiration that crosses my path.
This entry was posted in Car-Free Challenge, DART, Economics. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Biking to Northpark Mall

  1. eric says:

    hey, ran across your blog while trying to find out if northpark had bike racks. thanks for posting up. i made the same trip this morning by way of the park lane sidewalk. however on the way back to the station i did some exploring. if you cross 75 on northpark blvd and go into the parking garage in front of you, then make the right/left chicane to go around the ramp to the upper levels, you will come to a driveway that goes out to park lane almost right across the street from the station. you can see the driveway on the right side of the 3rd to last photo you have there. not particularly pleasant, but it replaces the super sketchy sidewalk with the only somewhat sketchy parking garages.
    keep pedaling

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